Gut Rumbles

February 18, 2005

my dad's '57 chevy

I suppose the reason I love the 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air so much is because my father had one when I was a boy. That was the first new car he ever owned and when he drove it off the dealer's lot, unmodified from the factory, it was the fastest car in Harlan County, Kentucky, and that's saying something--- a lot of moonshiners and bootleggers were very proud of how their road-rockets would run. My dad was still young back then (27 years old) and he handed a few people their bloody asses when they wanted to race him.

That car would nuke anything else around.

Even the cops were interested in that car. My dad got pulled over a couple of times just because the trooper wanted to look under the hood and drool over the vehicle.

Once, he had a cop stop him coming back with a load of beer from Cumberland. My dad wasn't doing anything wrong, but the cop liked the car. He wanted to see how fast it would go. So, he gave my father a blue-light escort back into Harlan at speeds in excess of 100 MPH on those twisting mountain roads. At the end of the ride, the cop said, in admiration, "Not many people can keep up with my cruiser."

My father told the cop, "I coulda passed you any time I wanted to."

I don't care what anybody else has to say about other muscle cars. The '57 Chevy was the first of its kind and it would HAUL ASS!!! My father was young enough to enjoy such a car back then.

When my brother was diagnosed with diabetes and placed in the hospital for a month or so, mama pretty much stayed with my brother and dad and I went to visit every weekend when he didn't have to work. Once we went in a bad snowstorm. The roads got really bad while we were there and on the way back home we saw something ugly.

The road took a big climb up a hill just past Ova Lawson's Texico gas station and cars were in the ditch and halfway down the hill all over the place from sliding off the road. My father asked what was going on and somebody told him, "Robert, nobody can make it up the hill. The road is iced over and everybody who tries ends up in the ditch or down the mountain."

Here is where I became a victim of child abuse. My dad said, "I can make it. Get everybody out of the way."

He told me to get in the back and lay down in the floor. Then, he backed that car up about 100 yards, floored the pedal and went roaring up that hill. I don't know how fast we were going when we hit the ice, but we had enough momentum that dad just kept his foot solid on the accelerator, negotiated the fish-tails we performed and made it to the top of the hill.

When we were on top with a clear road home, he stopped, honked his horn and waved to the amazed people down below. He told me that I could sit in the front seat again. He had the only car in the county that made it over that hill that day.

Yeah, he coulda killed us both. But I enjoyed the ride, I was proud of my father and I felt like a Tall Dog riding in the front seat of that car.

I think that's one of the reasons I LOVE '57 Chevys so much.


It's funny how your appreciation for older cars grows with age. I used to be all about the jap and euro rockets when I was younger, but these days my List of Cars to Build One Day includes a number of older classics.

Won't be trading my own rocket in on one any time soon, but still.

Posted by: Mr. Lion on February 18, 2005 11:22 AM

A very nice post that brought back memorys from my own mis -spent youth. My father bought his first new car in that awesome automotive year also it was a 57 ford fairlane. My next door neighbor stole his thunder when he too brought home his new car a 57 chevy belaire. I never told my dad but I was soooooooo jealous of my neighbors son whose dad had a lot nicer car than my dads . thanks for the trip into my past

Posted by: arathorn on February 18, 2005 11:33 AM

"I think that's one of the reasons I LOVE '57 Chevys so much."
I never had a car in high school.
In a town of 800, I walked downtown to the only cafe.

The "Wolfend__" boys were rancher kids. With 14 yr. old "school permits".
They had a '57 2dr. post 3 spd, two-tone black and white. In 1957.
God damn, I loved the sound of squealing tires in low gear,
the shift to 2nd, and the whine of indirect 2nd gears.
Those show-off bastards. {:^)

One of the reasons I got an engr. degree to work for an auto company.
I bought a '57 Bel Air in 1968, kept it a year.
Just so I could say I had one.

Posted by: Dan Pursel on February 18, 2005 01:06 PM

You guys are hysterical, I thought I was the only softy in the bunch, and almost old fart too. talk about memories/ My dad had a two door '55 Belair, I was so ready to be rid of that old car , coulda shit when he replaced it in 1962 with a '56 four door . WTF I was so humbled and embarassed ... at least it had a radio... not much consolation for a kid. and as for cop stops "just to look", my first car was a '70 Road Runner, never got a ticket with it, but was constantly getting stopped "just to look". I'll never forget the sound of those old Mopar double wound starter motors grindin' over. Thanx for the memories.

Posted by: david on February 18, 2005 02:28 PM
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