Sepia: Detroit Wheels II

I'm not sure why my father fixated on Chevrolets but fixate he did, and from the time I was about three we had a series of Chevies.

Uncle Wiggily was a 1950 two-tone coupe exactly like this. I remember the velvety grey interior and the buttons on the radio - they were a cream Bakelite, square with a large dimple for my tiny finger. I remember being small enough to curl up on the inner deck (in the rear window). One one summer drive to the ocean (this took all day, before the freeway came through town in 1963) I captured a "woolly bear" caterpillar in Oregon who escaped in the back seat somewhere. I believe we also took our cat Growler for a seaside weekend and he spent most of the trip under the front seat.

Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy (Uncle Wiggily's muskrat lady housekeeper) was a '55 four-door. It was not a two-tone like the one pictured, but a solid blue, a funny darkish shade. Nurse Jane had a habit of overheating; crossing the Cascade range one day we had to fill soda bottles at every mountain stream to pour in the radiator. This ad does not illustrate our typical hill-climbing exerience. (Click to better read the exquisite prose!)

The Bad Pippsissewa was actually a powder-blue '63 Impala, but this ad is as close as I could come, aside from the hovercraft effect. It had a manly V8 engine that got about 6 miles to the gallon. When I finally got my license I drove it into the ground -- through high school and for several years thereafter until it expired in 1979 in California, where I left it to the junkers. It's the car in which I honed my dashboard-and-steering-wheel drumming technique.

My mother at last acquired her own Chevy, a Merlot-red '64 Nova. (In Mexico they called it something else since "Nova" means "No go.") My father named it Rosie (my mother not being a car-namer) after an old girl-friend, I think! My mum finally managed to eviscerate it by running over a concrete divider in a parking lot.

My father upgraded Impalas -- to a '65 model, a maroon stick-shift. A feckless colleague fobbed it off on him. It became known as Sam Abelson after a crusty childhood acquaintance of my dad's. The trunk leaked and he developed quite a forest of redolent mold in the trunk. It was also a sort of "annex" for him, he kept several years' worth of old student papers in the back seat.

Meanwhile my dad bought my sister, now out of high school, a 1969 Chevelle, sky blue like this one but not actually an SS (SuperSport) edition. She drove it like a SuperSport though, and eventually "totaled" it. Although, my son having just done the same to his old Honda Civic with a slight fender crunch, the term is pretty relative! Bloody insurance companies.

In the early '80s my folks got a pair of nearly matching chocolate Novas (Novae?) - a '77 and a '79. I honestly don't remember if either of them got names! Anyway my wife and I inherited them after not only my father but my Datsun B210 wagon shook off their mortal coils. The Novas had only six cylinders but were gas hogs, and they were hard to park, not only because of their size but because neither had power steering, my dad always trying to save on the extras. I recall that at least one of them featured a back seat that wouldn't stay put.

So, uh, that's the story.

Some these ads came from this great site.


  1. What a fun SS post. It must have taken a little work to find the wonderful ads. Someone told me recently that cars that have names get in fewer accidents than those without names. (I know that sounds like they're toddlers going off on their own....) I don't know the source or validity of that statement, though. Oh, and, "no va" in Spanish is singular, as "it doesn't go." The plural of "no go" in Spanish is "no van," "they don't go." Sounds like they did go, though. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. That was very interesting Sean. Yesterday had a clue on the crossword and the answer was Supersport, about a Chevrolet. There was a Chevrolet garage in my little town and I remember that 1950 version, yes I am old as dirt.LOL

  3. Nice to meet you Sean. This post could have easily been written about my Dad! He loved Chevrolets and had many of the ones you mention above. The funniest story I can tell you is that he bought a new 64 Impala which was stolen from our CHURCH parking lot during church! I too had a Nova w/o power steering. In college I had a 74 Caprice Classic 2-door - the door was as long as most cars today! Thanks for the memories and for such great ads and pics!

  4. In spite of the overheating, and mould in the trunk, these cars still have a special place in the hearts of people like me, who grew up watching endless series of American imports.

    I really liked this post for the fact that it has a different take on the past.

    Nice one, Sean.

  5. I know what you mean about people having relationship with particular types of cars - my father was the same (in his case Hillman's until they went out of business and then Honda's) A most enjoyable Sepia Saturday take.

  6. nice to see the evolution of the american car.

  7. So glad to hear about your Chevy memories. My best car memory is when my dad went out shopping for wood to build my mother a sewing machine table and instead came home with a 1956 Chevy convertible and three straw hats. He walked in the door and told us to come out front. I think at the time I was more taken with my straw hat than the car. I do remember we used to drive around with the top down, the windows up, and the heater on. Not the most practical car for Washington D.C. in the 1950s. However the car was perfect when we moved to Hawaii.

  8. A great series of cars, they certainly had style.

  9. Love those car names! My father had two unnamed Chevrolets. I would have posted about one of them, but already have a post here:

  10. Fabulous cars and I enjoyed your stories - I'm a car-namer like your Dad, but the car has to have personality. I particularly like the Chevelle - it looks a bit like the Ford Capri we had in the UK in the 1970's. Jo

  11. What a great post that told me a great deal about Chevrolets. The ad-men knew how to push a brand.

  12. We had a number of Impalas too, but I think it was a less a choice than an opportunity. My father's company cars were available for us to buy after a year or two of company use.

  13. I think my cousin might have had one of those SuperSports in the turquoise blue and with the long black shifter. It smelled like car, lol and drove like a bat out of hell!

  14. oh my goodness! This brings back so many memories. My best friend in HS drove an old rusted Nova - power steering no longer working!

    And Uncle Wiggly - my always favorite character!

  15. A great reprise : and I see I mentioned the Hillman Minx in my original comment that I feature in my post this week.