Hi folks at Hagerty,
Here is a story about the first car I bought with my hard earned money. I had 2 cars before this but both of them were very inexpensive and paid for immediately. My 3rd vehicle was a different story. Back in the late 50’s, I was in high school and as most every high school boy dreamed about, I dreamed of owning my favorite car, a 57 Chevy Bel Air some day. Didn’t realize the opportunity would come so quick.
In May of 1960, I was driving my 54 Ford convertible at the time. Driving in a place about 15 miles from my home town, I went by a Chevrolet dealership in Medina NY and spotted a 3 year old black 57 Chevy Bel Air convertible in the used car area. I couldn’t believe my eyes and turned around to pull into the parking lot. The Bel Air had a 283 ci, power pack motor with a 3 speed on the column [no overdrive], red and silver interior and a white convertible top. If I recall it had about 18K+ miles on it but it was in absolutely beautiful shape. The car was previously owned by a couple who hated to part with it but needed something other than a convertible as they had one child and were expecting a second very shortly. They needed a sedan rather that a convertible ! I remember discussing the particulars with the salesmen and we agreed on a price, somewhere in the vicinity of $1150 for the car. I had to have it. The car was gorgeous and one vehicle I had always wanted. If I recall I had about $400 and financed the rest. I was working full time (TJ Lipton’s in Albion NY) and taking a couple math courses at Albion High School in the morning. I had graduated from high school the year before but I needed these courses to obtain a regents diploma to go to college. I drove the Chevy convertible for the rest of 1960. How I loved that car ! And I had a lot of good times with this super sweet convertible. And the car was no slouch; even in stock form it was pretty quick ! But I was easy with the car cause I didn’t want to abuse or hurt it !
I decided in mid 1960 to go into the military service (US Navy) and postpone going to college till I got my head screwed on straight and got a better idea what I wanted to do with my life. I went into the US Navy on February 2, 1961. I disconnected the car battery, covered it up with extra large white sheets, and stored the 57 in my Aunts garage till I came home first from boot camp after 3 months and then 4 ½ months later from Naval electrician service school [both at Great Lakes Ill.]. I requested duty on the East Coast after service school but the Navy in their infinite wisdom thought my efforts would best be served out on the West Coast. I really didn’t want to drive the '57 across the US and besides, where would I keep it when I was aboard ship. I’m sure I could have found some storage area but then the car would be unattended for an extended period of time and I didn’t like that idea either. I had a chance to sell the car for $35 less than what I paid for it 16 months earlier so I let it go ‘down the road’. Big mistake ! I should have held on to it and kept it in my Aunts garage [like she wanted me to do]! In fact I remember my Aunt’s words very well. She said ‘you are going to be sorry you sold that car’. Indeed ! How right she was ! How I missed that car after I sold it ! Although I have owed many Chevy’s since then [my 71 Chevelle Malibu 400 convertible has been insured through you folks for almost 20 years. I’m original owner], I will never forget my first Chevy Bel Air [convertible]. And how I missed it afterwards !