Classic car nostalgia draws me in

By Karl Terry: CNJ columnist

I love to look at classic and antique cars and street rods. I’ve never made the commitment to love one, however.

For the last few nights I’ve been watching Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction on SPEED and the cars and the prices they command boggle my mind.

Yeah, it’s the same auction that pulled the Buddy Holly 1958 Chevy Impala that toured through Clovis earlier this month. While Buddy’s Impala, which I saw while it was in Clovis, wasn’t part of the sale there were a lot of fantastic vehicles sold. Muscle cars from the 1960s and ‘70s command the most consistently high prices and I’ve heard more than one person verbally kicking themselves over selling the car they had back then.

For instance, a 1967 Chevy Nova was listed as one of the auction’s top sales at a price of $150,700. What the heck? The Chevy Nova was a muscle car on a budget back then. The price of a new one was about $2,500. The Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger which have both recently been reintroduced were a little more new but nicely restored ones easily bring six figures. Even a few special “charity cars” sold at the auction including the new versions of Camaro and Challenger have brought close to $100,000 this year, more than twice the sticker price of an uncustomized car.

People are crazy about the nostalgia of old cars. Everyone wants a car like they drove in their youth or they want the car they didn’t get the chance to drive in their glory days.

I’ve had my opportunities to be bitten by the classic car bug. Both my father and my father-in-law owned and restored antique and classic vehicles. I rode in some nice cars and trucks on Sunday afternoons and in parades but all that shining and fussing seemed like a lot of trouble. Some of my best memories of my father and father-in-law centered around those old cars.

I thought my dad had gone plumb crazy when he started collecting cars. It wasn’t long before he had a couple of barns full of them. I was amazed at how much he knew about all the different models and what was correct and not correct about a restoration. He didn’t always get it right himself — sometimes it wasn’t even possible, and sometimes doing it right just made the car too expensive to resell, which he regularly did. He liked restoring cars and selling them to people who would enjoy them.

My father-in-law, on the other hand, only had a few collector vehicles, but they were his pride and joy. His 1931 Chevy flatbed farm truck was special to him and I loved taking a ride with him on Sunday afternoon along the canals near Tucumcari. With the windshield tilted to ventilate the cab, we didn’t talk much on those rides, just enjoyed the sound and feel of the truck and the countryside.

I bought a 1956 Chevy pickup in the late 1970s just for a run-around pickup. It was mostly straight but needed paint and wood in the bed and a new steering wheel. I always thought someday I would fix the thing up and really have something. In the early 1980s a wedding changed all that and I sold the extra vehicle to help pull together a down payment on our first house.

I saw a 1966 Chevy shortbed parked on the street this week with a “for sale” sign in the window. I’ve always liked that model so I had to stop and take a look. I haven’t called the phone number yet but I’ve redone the pickup in my mind already.

It could be best left there, in the back of my mind. But then again …