Steve's 1951 Chevy and 1993 Ford
Being the dominant victor of World War II and many countries deeply damaged, the United States became the world’s most powerful nation. People were being more employed, better paid, and educated. That brought more confidence, stability, and set the stage for this story. Car production had ceased during WWII, thus, many late 1940 automobiles were largely 1942 issues; yet, Studebaker and Tucker were early at new designs. By the early 1950s, vehicle manufacturers were in competition and offering new, better cars. Along with that emerged a growing trend for women increasingly to become drivers and to own automobiles.
That is when my mother got her own new 1951 Chevrolet. At age eight, I was on the Austin, Texas show-room floor under the car, looking beneath it, as my parents negotiated the purchase. Memories go with this car. I learned to drive it out on country roads at age 13 (one could get a Texas driver’s license on your 14th birthday). When I started dating, a radio was “needed” for music, so I installed one from a junkyard (only AM back then). My dad was a medical traffic safety advisor, so seat belts (lap-type only) were installed back about 1959 (?). Near my high school graduation, my mom bought a 1961 Corvair, and I got ownership of the ’51 for a legal-transaction $1 price, with under 40,000 odometer miles.
My Chevrolet was my college transporter. Then, on to medical school in Galveston, Texas, an island in the Gulf of Mexico, where because of the salt-air, rust-risk, it was protectively grease-under-coated, into the rocker panels, the hood, doors, and “everywhere”. By the time I graduated, the Chevy had less rust than my friends’ somewhat newer automobiles, despite it being 19 years old and four years in ocean air. During that time, I met a great gal (Judy), we married, and did our belated honeymoon to Mexico in 1969. Down there my car fitted in age-wise better there than it did in Texas. That Mexico trip makes my now seven decades old Chevy, one of few internationally-driven cars around Kentucky.
The service first took me to Baltimore in 1970 for a year, where scavenged auto parts provided a heater, since in Maryland it was illegal to drive expressways without a defroster on snow-days. Once, while parked during my wife’s University of Maryland classes, someone dented-in the rear wheel fender. Later, I was transferred to Lexington, KY for two more service years. There, a massive tree fell on to the roof, and it was further damaged in a motor vehicle accident caused by a someone skidding into my car’s rear on an icy road. I was waiting behind somebody at a red light, and the wreck jammed the trunk and the hood shut by shoving it into the other car. A body shop fixed it up nicely.
Thereafter, my wife and I moved to North Carolina where I did specialty medical training. Soon thereafter, we had our first baby, and we took her home from the hospital in the Chevy. While in Chapel Hill, we enjoyed membership in the Central Carolina (old) Car Cub.
In 1976, Louisville was our next stop for work at the University of Louisville. Here we are - over four decades later. Yes, two more babies were brought home from the hospital by the Chevy, but because of upholstery deterioration, my wife mandated seat cover renewal in 1980 before the last one was taken home. Our kids learned to drive its stick shift before allowed an automatic. They named it “The Green Bomb”. My son, who tragically died in a car wreck, rebuilt the carburetor in 1996 and did wiring and cooling system repairs. The Chevy did ceremonial transportation at one daughter’s engagement party.
Both of our girls moved away, but each has come home just to practice stick shifting in the Chevy before starting a job requiring manual transmission skills. One needed training as she was a nanny with access only to the employer’s car and the other daughter required skills to drive tractors and trucks working as a farmer.
The Chevy serves as a “sled” during Santa Claus gigs around Louisville. After retiring from the University of Louisville, I joined KYANA, in 2016. Three decades after the 1980 seat covers had been replaced the front seat covers wore through again (during early COVID-19 times). Our own great, Kenny Mitsch, did a good job replacing spiffy new seat covers - they are perfect and feel good (you can check them out!). As a “driver”, the Chevy still evidences an old dent from when parked at my Texas high school, another one from near Louisville General Hospital, and many door-dings from Louisville shopping center lots. I own my dad’s original car key, now so smoothly worn that brand identity number stamping is no longer visible.
Back to Texas, in 1993, my folks bought a Ford Taurus, with dual, front airbags, that was their car into their old ages. My mom died in 2009, but before that, she got me to sign for ownership of the Ford. It was the typical “little old lady’s car,” with less than 40,000 actual miles over 16 years. It came back to Kentucky with me. Since then, now for over a decade, I am the proud owner of two of my mother’s automobiles, with sentimental value, memories, and reliability. Nice! Oh, the Chevy now “sleeps” in our garage and skips rain-or-snow-day outings, while the Ford stays outside and drives in all Kentucky’s weather.
Owner: Steve Lippmann
KYANA Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America
3821 Hunsinger Lane, Louisville, Kentucky 40220