We’re excited to kick off a new series here on GFL (and one that Tom is pretty excited about!). Sweet Ride will share the stories of the vintage automobiles that grace our hometown streets and beyond, and their cool owners, too. We’re thrilled to start off with Carl and Judy Luhrmann and their gorgeous ‘55 Chevy. Read on for the details on how they came to own it, hear about its claim to fame, and find out a few of their tips if you’re thinking about buying that classic.
Beautiful ride! We can’t wait to hear more about it, but let’s start with a little bit about you!
Judy and I met in 1978 at college in Ohio, married a few years later, and just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. Judy moved to Glens Falls where I was working as a Field Service engineer for Kamyr. Kamyr transferred us to the Portland OR area in 1986, where our two sons were born, and where we bought this Chevy. We came back to Glens Falls in 1989. I still work for the same company, now called ANDRITZ. Our offices are on Pruyn’s Island. Judy taught elementary school and Art for 35 years and is now retired. We still live in Glens Falls, in the same neighborhood we moved to in 1989.
Year, make and model?
1955 Chevy 210, Ivory over Navajo Tan paint colors, Body by Fisher interior and original one piece California factory bumpers.
Straight 6, 235 cubic inches.
Automatic or stick?
3 on the tree, manual transmission.
Not a clue! Google says 15-20 mpg?
How many years have you had it?
30 years! Purchased in spring 1989.
Do you drive it year round?
No, we store it from November to May.
How did you you come to own it?
While living on the West Coast we constantly saw great looking vintage cars used as daily drivers. When we were being transferred back to NY in 1989, Judy said she was not leaving without a Chevy. In 1989 you could buy a 55-57 Chevy for as little as $2000 at a used car lot. She started searching for a 55-57 Chevy that we could bring back home. Judy found this one on consignment at the Memory Lane Motors classic car dealership in downtown Portland. Because it wasn't a Bel Air model but did have low mileage, we paid somewhere around $3000 for it.
Do you know much about its history or previous owners?
We are the second owners, the car was purchased on August 25, 1955 (Carl’s Dad’s birthday). It was supposedly the “company car” for the wife of a lumber company and sawmill owner in Springfield, OR. Fast forward 34 years and she had gone into the hospital and asked her minister to look after it. After the woman went into a nursing home it was taken to Memory Motors to sell. So it’s a real cliché – literally owned by a little old lady who only drove it to church. Had only 55,000 miles on it when we bought it. Looked like the back seat had never been sat in. Still had the plastic wrapping from the factory around the trim on the bottom of the front seat. The only body damage was front bumper dents from her hitting her trash cans when she parked it in the garage.
In the mid 1990’s we took the Chevy down to Guptill’s Ice Cream for their annual summer car show. This guy came over and started taking pictures of the Chevy and asking questions. He had noticed our custom plates “OREGON55” and was wondering what the car’s history was. Told him that we were the second owners and that the car was originally bought in Springfield, Oregon. He starts to tell us he thinks the car was the Chevy parked in front of the Delta Tau Chi frat house in the 1978 Animal House movie with John Belushi! The movie was shot at the University of Oregon in Eugene which is less than 4 miles away from Springfield. His logic is that our 210 is rare and how many Ivory over Navajo Tan 55 Chevys could have been in the Springfield/Eugene area in 1977 when the movie was shot?! A few months later we get an email from this guy telling us that he runs a website that deals with cars from famous movies and that he has posted ours on his website under Animal House movie cars (acmewebpages.com). The site is now defunct but if it was on the internet it must be true?!
How about the inevitable repairs and maintenance - do you tackle those on your own?
We do little projects, but we have great guys that do the mechanics. For 30 years we have used Duell’s Garage, in Fort Edward to work on it. Gregg Duell owns multiple vintage cars and trucks. He is semi-retired, but he and his son, Fred, are great mechanics, the best in the area for working on classic cars and reasonably priced. Our Chevy has yearly tune ups, a new exhaust system, but needs no major work. With no power steering and three on a tree, it’s a true tank with only 67,000 miles on it now.
We also recommend Evia Motors in Glens Falls. They work on vintage Volvos, Jeeps, European imports, and the two vintage DeLoreans in town. They have worked on Judy’s old Volvos for years. Billy Anthis of Evia is currently restoring his two vintage ’65 Mustangs.
What's next for the '55?
We had the Chevy repainted and the chrome redone for its 40th birthday in 1995, so it is time for a paint touch up. The original upholstery fabric is disintegrating after 64 years, so that’s the next big project.
Where's your favorite local cruise? Long distance road trip? How far have you taken it?
We stay local, driving up to Martha’s Ice Cream and Lake George and around town. It’s the perfect car for going to the Glen Drive-In Theatre, because the seats are so big and comfy. We’ve travelled to Manchester, VT and the Catskills in it. It’s been to the Glens Falls HS prom plus it’s been in a wedding or two……...
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the leap and buy their dream ride?
In our opinion, when buying a vintage vehicle research, research, then search! Be patient and get friends involved in your effort, network online, have a independent pre-purchase professional inspection done, get the vehicle with the lowest mileage possible and the most paper history. Show the undercarriage and engine compartment photos to all of the mechanics you know and try to drive it before you buy it. Don’t buy for investment. If you are not a mechanic, don’t buy a “Trailer Queen” that you only drive 50 miles a year and needs constant maintenance, and expensive parts. Buy it because you love it and want to drive it. Judy loves driving old cars. She owns this car, plus a 1978 International Harvester Scout, and her current daily driver, a 1988 Volvo 245 wagon. Our enjoyment is actually driving these great old vehicles!
Anything you wish someone had told you before buying your first classic?
Make sure you have storage space. With winters in the North Country so challenging, the Chevy is professionally garaged November to May. But having 5 cars takes up a bunch of room. If your classic car is not garaged, make sure you invest in a good all weather car cover and use it. If it is a daily driver, wash the undercarriage every week in the winter. The magnesium chloride they use here for road salt will eat through almost any metal.
Thanks Carl and Judy - enjoy the ride!
Have a vintage car you’d like to see featured, or know someone who does? Shoot Tom an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us here.