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Fred's 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air 4-door
It was July, 2011 and I was driving down Terry Lane in the PRP area when I spotted a faded, full size Chevy in a front yard. An orange for sale sign in an old car’s window can cause a car addict to slam on the brakes and do a bat turn to get a closer look. It was a 1966 Chevrolet 4-door Bel Air, 283 V8, 2bbl, Powerglide transmission, factory air, power steering, manual brakes and dry rotted bias ply tires. One of the really neat dealer installed accessories is a chrome swing out GM tissue holder under the dash. The paint was faded, some dings and scratches, and some surface rust but it was all original. The original interior was in great condition.
The car was originally owned by a lady that lived and worked in PRP as an elementary school teacher, hence the low mileage. She drove it to school, church, the grocery, and other errands until she stopped driving in 1982 due to her age. The car sat in her carport for 15 years until she passed away. In her will, she left the car to the man that had cut her grass for many years. This gentleman took title to the car but due to his age and health he didn’t drive it so it sat in his carport for another 14 years. He passed away in 2010 and his family sold it to the man on Terry Ln. who bought it just to flip it and make some money.
The car started and ran, but not very well. As I would soon find out, the brakes needed attention but I thought it’s not that far of a drive to my house and if I go slow I can make it home. A deal was made to purchase the car for $3000. After transferring the car, I got my friend and fellow KYANA member Charlie Burney to give me a ride one evening to get the car. The brake pedal was mushy and it pulled to the right when I would hit the brakes but that shouldn’t be a problem. With Charlie behind me, I’ll drive about 20 – 25 mph. What could possibly happen? At the corner of Greenwood and Terry a car pulled out of the convenience store to turn left in front of me. I hit the brake, and I do mean singular as in only one wheel, and that car did everything it could to jump into the ditch. I missed the car by inches and somehow kept it mostly on the road. What saved me was fact that the only brake that was working was the front right so when it went onto the grass it locked up and slid straight instead of pulling to the right. Fortunately, the rest of the 20 mph trip home was uneventful.
Once I got the car home and in my shop the first thing I did was replace all the brakes, hardware, brake lines, hoses, master cylinder, shocks, and tires. The engine required a complete tune up, a carburetor rebuild, fuel pump, water pump and new belts. I replaced the metal fuel line and installed a new stainless steel fuel tank. Next, I installed a new radiator, hoses, heater hoses, replaced the a/c compressor, and upgraded it to 134a refrigerant. And finally a new exhaust system and a new speedometer cable.
Now it was time to do some body preservation. There is a difference between preservation and restoration. Pulling the seats and carpet out revealed some surface rust and a couple of small rust through holes in the floorboards. Using a 4” grinder with a cut off wheel, I squared the small rust holes and welded in little patch panels. A wire wheel on a grinder took care of the surface rust. Apply some rust eating acid to get down in any small crevices, prime, paint, and put the carpet and seats back in. Done.
There was some discoloration to the package shelf and having past experience with mid 60’s Chevys meant that there was rust under the stainless trim around the back window. I pulled the back glass to reveal lots of rust and pin holes. A wire brush and some acid took care of the rust. Fixing all those little pin holes was easy. JB Weld is great for areas that will not be seen. Primer, feather in some paint, and re-install the back glass and trim. Cleaning the entire car, some buffing and wax and it’s finished. Reading this article, you might think that I did all this work in a matter of days or weeks. Not so. Working a couple of hours in the shop at night plus delays in shipping parts turned into several months but it was worth it.
People ask me all the time if I’m going to paint the entire car and I say no. A car is only original one time and I’m going to keep it that way as long as I can. I have shown the car several times in the AACA’s original class, Historical Preservation Original Features (HPOF) and achieved the highest award of HPOF Original. I just put a sign on it that says, “DO NOT TOUCH, YOU MIGHT GET RUST ON YOUR HANDS.”
The car is a pleasure to drive. It’s smooth, quiet, and reliable. I drove it on the week long AACA Founders Tour in Nebraska in 2019. Lucky to still be alive but that steering adventure is a story for another day. Like I said before, I don’t own any trailer queens. I like to drive my cars and the HPOF class is a great way to show an original car and still drive it regularly.
Model: Bel Air 4 door
Engine: 283 V8 2 bbl
Transmission: Powerglide 2 speed automatic
Features: Factory air conditioning, power steering, manual brakes
Color: White exterior, red interior
Owner: Fred Trusty
KYANA Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America
3821 Hunsinger Lane, Louisville, Kentucky 40220