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Big Daddy

My `59 Story

Miss Ruby

So, why am I so interested in these cars?  Well, I really like cars....period....and I always have.  But when it comes to `59s it's really a family thing, and the influences are many:

First is my Wife. Sherry identifies the `59 Chevy and its eyebrows as her first recollection of a car.  Her family was living in Marin County CA during the late sixties and apparently there was one in the neighborhood. She was always fascinated, or perhaps even frightened, by the cat eye taillights and fins.

I can't blame her for remembering such a car; once you've seen one it's pretty hard to get it out of your mind! Once she was old enough to drive, she bought a `64 Ford Falcon Futura as her daily driver. She didn't know it then, but that purchase would lead her down the "old car road" and into a wonderful hobby. Thankfully, her heart sways heavy towards classic cars even to this day, so it wasn't difficult to convince her that we should buy one. Of course, her first request was that we find "an eyebrow car."

The second influence is my Dad: He has always been a gear head. I have some old high school text books of his that have automotive doodling in the margins and on empty pages. In the 1940s he participated in clandestine street racing, utilizing my Grandfather's `47 Hudson. I seem to recall that he blew out low gear more than once in a power pass. In any case he entered college in 1951 to become an engineer, but graduated seminary a Baptist minister in 1958. In that line of work, there isn't any extra cash to indulge in a car hobby--especially when there's three kids. Regardless of this, my father always kept up on the automotive industry and always tinkered with our family cars to extract more power, more gas mileage, and even more speed. At least twice I rode shotgun with him as he hammered our `68 Impala SW to 100+ mph on a back road in Minnesota (not tellin' where, man!). His reason: "I gotta test out this wheel balance job." I rode along as he test flogged a `70 El Camino with a LT1 and a 4-speed in 1981. His reaction: "Wow, this thing's got some pick up." Um, yeah... He had the occasion to drive a `59 Chev 6-cylinder wagon to California in the mid-60s and said that it got close to 18mpg hauling a travel trailer.

The third influence is the State Of Washington: Up until the year 2000 Washington charged a 2% excise tax on yearly registration, based on the vehicle's "market value" (which was often disputed). In the case of a vehicle valued at $40,000, this excise tax would add over $800 (that's right--eight hundred dollars) to the yearly registration of a car. How stupid is that? In my case I could not afford a new car, because the license tabs would usually be more than I could muster. This always made old cars attractive, because that tabs were usually around $40 a year, instead of the inflated amounts required to keep a new car legal. The tax was finally defeated by voters in Initiative 695.  Now I can afford to drive a new car.  But I still like driving old stuff because I've been doing it so long!  I even drove a `60 El Camino each day for some time. So, in retrospect, the state forced me into a classic car hobby by charging ludicrous fees on their registrations while I was growing up. Yay, Washington!

Finally, my fourth influence is my first car: I bought a 1960 Buick LeSabre in 1978 for the princely sum of $50. I was 14 and ecstatic about fixing something up. I quickly discovered that, even in 1978, the parts for these cars were scarce and often non-existent. Its 364 did run very well, and the car cruised nicely. If anything, I got hooked on its highway abilities. I just couldn't find parts to fix it. I kept this car through 1981 and bought a Chevy with the proceeds. To this day I miss that car, even in its marginal condition. I saw one at the 2000 Pacific Northwest Nationals and started thinking about it all over again.

As you can see, there is a very solid groundwork for my interest in `59 Chevys. My wife wanted one, and I didn't mind the idea myself, since it was a Chevy and a very basic car under the skin. It would cruise and drive like my old Buick, and the parts were a lot easier to find. Like Sherry, I did have some memories of them; I remember seeing tons of them on America's roads when I was little.  I grew up in North Seattle and recall many four doors, and a couple of El Caminos.  As I did research, I discovered that there were over a million of these built in plants across the U.S.  Of course, most were four door sedans, followed by two door sedan. 
So, where are the `59s now?  It's anyone's guess.  I see some driving around, but not often. I have two in my driveway, but when I go to car shows ours are usually the only ones there.  Unlike the `55 to `57 Chevy, they did not survive.  Speculation on this issue will be addressed in the Chevy59 Blog.