My dad is from Detroit. My grandfather worked for General Motors. For as long as I can remember I’ve been going to car shows with my Dad. The Grays Lake antique auto show, the Chicago Auto Show, Volo, The Chicago Antique Car Museum etc…. In our family it has always been one truck of some sort and one super sport fast car. So basically what I’m trying to say is I’m a car girl. But not just any kind of car girl, a classic General Motors car girl. I know with the state of the American auto industry how can I still love General Motors? Because it’s in my blood. And I have hopes that some day soon the car industry will enter into a new golden era of design like the 1950s.
This is one of my dream cars. A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. It’s a classic and it’s a popular classic. I would love some day to have a collection of classic cars, fingers crossed.
1988 I was turning six years old. And what did I want more than anything for my birthday? Why the turquoise 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible for Barbie! I didn’t want the pink one either I wanted the turquoise one with the pink interior.
It truly was the coolest car in town. And I did end up getting it for my birthday. After what according to my Dad seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. He was at Toys R Us, knowing him either the day of my birthday or the day before. He was searching for the 57 Chevy but all they seemed to have was the white Mustang. No way was my Dad going to get me a “pony car” ever. Unless it was Mustang Cobra. He was going looking through all the Mustangs, when in the back on, the shelf behind about 10 Mustangs, there it was the 1957 Chevy Bel Air in Turquoise. I still have that toy car. My Barbies took many a joy ride in it, not to mention my pet mouse Ralph was also a constant passenger.
It was always a bit different being a car girl. When I was 14 and in eighth grade we had to write a 20th Century Report. What did I choose to do mine on? Why the American Muscle Car of course. I wanted to stick to General Motors but my social studies teacher Mrs. Mckenna insisted that I do it on the big three. Which of course included my nemesis Ford. Chrysler, which I never had a problem with because they were always beautifully designed cars but Ford was just blah. To do this day you could not get me to buy a Ford. Through this paper I learned about the genius of Harley Earl. Harley Earl was the VP of design at General Motors. He was also the guy that created the fin on all those beautiful 1950s cars.
He also created the concept car. That’s him in the picture of above with a 1938 Y-Job. Gorgeous look at those lines! But through my report I learned even more about the beauty and the innovativness that was GM. Which kind made me think what the hell happened!? I know the 70s wasn’t great but come on bounce back. Bring the steal beasts with beauty back. I know, I know gas guzzlers but really with technology today couldn’t there be some sort of middle ground!
That’s a 1940 Buick. Again another kind of classic car I’ve always wanted. But my Dad said War cars were not a good idea. No power steering. But still I would look so cute in one those! Especially if it had a rumble seat. What a fantastically horrible idea the rumble seat. But my love of the rumble seat will have to be an other blog.
Anywho when I was 17 I had gotten my license. And I needed/wanted a car to drive back and forth to high school. I had been saving money since I was nine years old. I had $2,500 in my savings account. I knew when I was nine that I was going to buy my own car. I planned ahead. I also knew it was going to be a a classic car. So my Dad gave me a couple trade magazines so I could check some late 80s and early 90s Trans Ams and Fire Birds. I was looking through the magazine, when I flipped the page, and smack in the middle there she was! A 1958 Chevy Biscayne. It was located close to my house over on Touhy and Ridge. A definite plus. I picked up the phone and called. A craannnnky old man picked up the phone and barked at me “Hello” I inquired about the amount of rust. “Typical rust for a Chicago car!” again he barked. I said okay and politely said goodbye. Then immediately called my Dad. Who of course did not want to go see the car. It wasn’t worth it blah blah blah. My Dad has a habit of always saying no first to almost anything you ask him. But the second I told him I spoke to an old man about the car my Dad said “Old Man!? We’re there!”
So the next night, we went and met Betsy. The 1958 Chevy Biscayne that would hopefully be my first car ever. It was cold. It was February. My Dad and I pull up in front of this beautiful mansion. It was like something out of a movie. We go around back, Dad almost wiped out on chunk of black ice, and this tiny old man with glasses comes to the door. Now looking back he definitely reminds me of the old man from the movie Up. He grabbed his coat and the keys. We went out back and there she was sitting in the back drive way. Just waiting for me. He started her up, she purred like a kitten. She wasn’t perfect. Like how I write on so many of my tags at the store, she definitely has been loved. But that was okay by me! She belonged to the old mans sister who had recently passed and her sons were selling off most of her stuff. She had named her Betsy. And that woman was the only owner. If I was to get her I would be the second. How cool was that a 41 year old car and I was about to be only the second owner!
Daddy-O and I took her for a test drive. I was totally nervous about not only the ice but drum breaks? Ya they took a minute to get used to. As we drove back to the house, I was full on in love. I told my Dad I wanted her more than anything on the planet. And my Dad being the smart guy that he is said that the mechanic had to come check her out to make sure everything was solid. We got back to the house and went into the kitchen. We sat down to create a contract. Because apparently there was a guy from down state interested in her as well. I was terrified! No! She was to be mine. So my Dad again being the smart guy that he always has been. He found two pieces of scrap paper and $52 bucks in his wallet. He proceeded to write out two contracts that stated with this $52 the car could not be sold until we had our mechanic look at it. Two days later he did. That Saturday I cleaned out my savings account and drove over with my Dad to pick up my very first car. My 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne with 4 doors in robins egg blue and turquoise interior named Betsy.
I still have Betsy. The dream is to ship her off this car restoration place in Wisconsin where they come pick her take her for 3 months then bring her back shiny, new, and restored. Betsy is the dream for me. She’s the beginning of the car collection. She’s an icon of a time when cars were not just transportation but art. And an art that anyone could have, you didn’t need to be loaded to be driving a stylin auto. That’s what the car industry is missing these days the art in it.
I could go on and on about Betsy because she’s got some great memories and hilarious stories that ultimately come with being a 17 year old car with a 1958 Chevy. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some actual pix of her. And even more hopefully this summer I’ll be cruising around town in her. Because on a hot summer day there is nothing like driving with the vent windows open, music blasting, and a big black lab laying next to you on bench seats.
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