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First things first — no, I don’t have a picture. I probably had it at one time, but this was back in 1969-72, and I’ve moved several times since then. This wasn’t my first car, but it definitely was the nicest one ride I ever had, even though it was for just a short period of time.
When I was 12, my dad told me, “In a few years, you’re going to get your driver’s license and you’re going to want a car. I’ll match whatever you have saved up.” So I got a paper route, plus in the summer I’d mow grass and in the winter I’d shovel snow. I gave Dad some of my earnings to put in the credit union. When I turned 16, I obtained my license and in November 1963 I bought a 1956 Chevrolet from a guy my dad worked with. It was a puke green two-door coupe with a six-cylinder and three-on-the-tree, but it was mine. It felt good to drive back and forth to school and to the local burger joint on the weekends — at 26.9 cents a gallon, no less.
When I graduated in 1965, LBJ was really ramping up that war. When you turned 18 and graduated from high school, you pretty much packed your bag — you were going on a field trip. I hung out that summer but knew my days were numbered, so in September I joined the Marines. My dad said that since I was going to be gone for four years, he’d sell the Chevy and I could send money home every month so that, when I came home, I could buy a really nice hot rod. So I did, and he did. After all, what did I need money for? The Marine Corp gave me free housing, free clothes, free food and even free ammo in Vietnam — twice. I was sending $125-140 home every month. When I got out in June 1969, I had a heap of wampum stored at the credit union.
In April 1969, my dad told me he’d start looking around for something I might like, and he’d ask a couple of my uncles to tell him if they saw something. One of them found a car that he was pretty sure I’d be interested in, so my dad wrote me and told me about it. I wrote back and said I was extremely interested. “Buy it if you can!”
It belonged to a guy whom my uncle worked with. He bought it brand-new as a graduation present for his son when he graduated high school. The kid went to college, where he majored in beer and girls. He didn’t go to class, but he was cited for public drunkenness, speeding and DUIs. All of this resulted in the suspension of his driver’s license and expulsion from school … and the loss of his 2-S status with the draft board. Soon enough, he received his letter and was on his way to Fort Knox. Today his name is on the wall in Washington, DC.
His dad put it in the garage in February 1967 and covered it with a tarp. When my uncle asked him about it, he said that he’d never touched it since. My uncle told him about me coming home in a couple of months and asked if he would be interested in selling it to me. The father said that, sure, if he could get it running and drivable, so my dad and he went over there and, in three days, my dad drove it to my uncle’s and put it on jackstands. They worked on it right up until I arrived home.
What was it?
A 1966 Chevrolet Nova SS, Ermine White with red and white checkerboard interior, 327/350, four-speed Muncie with 2.20 low gear, 12-bolt Positraction and newer Rally wheels. Bad-ass fast!
I drove that little hot rod all over God’s creation and, on Friday nights, I’d go to Kil-Kare Dragway, then to Frisch’s at Forest Park, the local hangout for all the gearheads in Dayton (plus girls — lots of ‘em). It was the absolute best time of my life in many ways: a great car, lots of friends (especially girls) and racing, especially after four years in the Marines, two tours of Vietnam and legally being able to buy beer.
I had found a job with Greyhound, as I had been a mechanic in the Marines. I also met a girl. And then she got pregnant, so that was the end of my hot rod/drag racing/Frisch’s days. I had to sell the car, find an apartment and start driving her 1966 six-cylinder Mustang.
But I still remember punching the gas pedal in that Nova to this day.
— Steve R., Ohio