Saturday, December 23, 2017

1973 Pontiac Grand Am project: Part I

Regatta Blue Grand Am on jack stands with wheels off.

Devil in a blue dress. A couple of years ago, I was contacted by Ken McColligan of Somerdale, New Jersey. Ken needed help finding a buyer for his 1973 Pontiac Grand AmAll potential buyers in New Jersey had immediate plans to yank the stout, Pontiac 400/4-barrel/Turbo-400 transmission and scrap the body. This was a deal breaker for Ken. The Grand Am had been stored in his heated garage for 23 years and he wanted no part in killing one of Pontiac’s luxury-performance underdogs. 
  Ken’s mission was to connect the solid running, Regatta Blue Grand Am with some energetic, low-buck gear heads who would put it back on the road. He searched the web and found several stories about GM’s colonnade cars, including elusive ’73-’75 Grand Ams, on our page. 
  “Was Junkyard Life the answer?,” said Ken. “Maybe those guys in Alabama could help sell his Grand Am?” 
  Yes! We were guys that love to see these oft-overlooked Ponchos back on the road. But unfortunately, timing and finances did not align with Ken’s plan. Not one of the Junkyard Life galoots was willing to make the 840-mile trip to New Jersey to see a car that suffered from sheetmetal cancer (a.k.a. rust) caused by numerous winter on salty roads. Despite our best intentions we failed to spread the word outside of our circle of friends.   
  Two years passed and Ken hit me up again this past July and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. $1,000 cash and the blue devil from New Jersey was mine. Ken needed the space in his garage and the time was right to turn the Grand Am loose. But wait, I’ve got rules when I buy cars... 

You guessed it, I broke two of my Rules of Car Buying: 

  • Never buy a car before you drive it. (this rule applies to cars that supposedly run under their own power)
  • Never buy a car you haven’t seen in person.

Delivery driver unloads the 1973 Pontiac Grand Am. It stands out like a sore thumb compared to the other vehicles on the car hauler.

Transportation turmoil
  The car was mine but I had to get it home. Could I drive the car 840 miles? Unlikely, without risking life and limb and emptying my checkbook on repairs along the way. Trailer it myself? No. I decided navigating the New Jersey turnpike and various toll roads with my truck at 235k miles was not the best idea. My time and safety trumped the hassle of spending 3 days on the road. 
  I searched the web to find an auto shipper but it was far more complicated that I wanted it to be. I was looking for a cheap ride for my cheap ride. No rush, open carrier. But every site I encountered was a broker who worked from the same network of carriers. Nobody could tell me who would be bringing the car and when it would arrive. 

Who do I trust? 
  Like a shell game of sorts. Pay a deposit and the “shipper” would get back to me on who and when my car would ship. Prices varied from $900 to $1,500. After 10 days and dozens of calls, I went with my gut. A reasonable sounding guy in New York promised to make the deal happen at a good price – $800. I kept my fingers crossed that I hadn’t tossed the $100 deposit in the toilet.

Friendly driver from New York delivered the 1973 Pontiac Grand Am to Alabama from New Jersey.
  The blue Grand Am left New Jersey on a Thursday at 5 p.m. and arrived in Alabama at 7 a.m. the following Sunday. Who knows where she went during her 61-hour ride? I do know she arrived about a half mile from my house with a hospitable, young driver who was happy to see the Grand Am unloaded. He dealt with a few issues on the old Pontiac that the other six, modern vehicles on his car hauler did not encounter. 
  The Grand Am’s trunk lid latch would not stay closed. Ken had tied a gallon jug of water to hold the deck lid down before it left New Jersey. Needless to say, no water was in the jug when it arrived in Alabama. The flopping trunk seemed no worse for wear but I’m sure it attracted a bit of attention along the way. Also, there was no battery installed to crank car. The delivery driver used a jumper box each time he moved the blue Grand Am on and off the car hauler. But, before he could move it, he had to make sure that their was air in all the tires. The left front tire had a decent leak. All in a days work for the young man from New York. He smiled and wished me luck.

A filled water jug was used to hold down trunk. It did not work.
A water jug was used to hold down trunk lid. 

First impressions
  The throaty, dual exhaust announced that this was definitely a V8. Wearing rusty, Pontiac Rally wheels and good and bad repair patches of sheetmetal. The blue exterior and white interior is a combination not seen on modern cars. I settled into the cushy, reclining, lumbar-supported, driver’s seat to watch the functioning tach, and finger roll the barrel control A/C knob. 
  I slammed the door, powered the windows down and wheeled the Pontiac away from the car hauler with a bit more torque than the old tires could handle. Even at 30 MPH the rear end squirmed as I matted the go pedal. The short ride home put a smile on my face.

The beige/off-white interior with chocolate-colored dash pops on the Regatta Blue 1973 Grand Am.

Poorly repaired quarter panel features aluminum can patch and bondo.
Beer can body work on the Regatta Blue 1973 Grand Am. Poorly repaired quarter panel features an aluminum can patch with a garnish of bondo.

Plenty of work to do
  Before the day was out, my top two colonnade cohorts, Ron Kidd, and Anthony Powell, arrived to climb all over the new Pontiac in my driveway. Kidd owns a 1973 Grand Prix, Powell owns three Grand Ams. They both own lots of other vehicles but they have a fondness for the ’73-’75 era. Before they left I had bought a new alternator, replaced rubber fuel lines, and made plans to replace the brake lines. 
  My buddies pointed out that the woodgrain on the dash was not the one-year-only African Cross-fire Mahogany, but a replacement from ’74-’75 Grand Am which used a woodgrain decal. The console wears the wood lid, albeit not in great condition. They noted the power windows/locks, barrel roll A/C control, remote mirror, rear defrost, along with complete interior with sport steering wheel and tach as high points to celebrate.
  A few spare parts Ken had included, were an extra tachometer, wrapped in the South Jersey DEVILer newspaper, and a ’73 Pontiac Service Manual. The DEVILer became inspiration for the Grand Am’s nickname, The Blue Devil.

Plenty of surface rust on the flat hood.
Endura “rubber” flexible nose is missing like many other worn, unrestored 1973 Grand Ams.

Nose job
  The most distinctive element on the ’73-’75 Grand Ams is the flexible, rubber nose. Mine is missing. Most of these “endura” noses crumbled after the first 10-15 years of daily driver use. A reproduction fiberglass piece is available for $744. That’s a large chunk of cash to spend on a $1,000 car, but the nose remains a must-have item to keep your Grand Am "grand”. 
  However, I’ve always been fond of the one-year-only design of the 1973 Pontiac GTO, which featured a Lemans-based header panel (nose). 1973 GTOs were sold in far smaller numbers (4,806 built) than Grand Ams (34,445 2-dr; 8,691 4-dr) of the same year. A Lemans nose would be cheaper to clone my GA into a GTO. That argument is ongoing but I’d kick myself at car shows for taking the easy way and depriving people from seeing Pontiac’s daring design.

A Pontiac 400-V8 with a 4-BBL carb and backed by a Turbo-400 transmission. Plenty of power to propel this 1973 Grand Am. That’s 230hp and 325 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm for those keeping score at home.

To be continued
  I plan to drive this car, warts and all, as a work-in-progress. I’ve found that the best way to source parts and sometimes cars is to drive an older vehicle. You’ll make new friends and witness the conversation-starting ability an old car provides. I guarantee you that the first time I drive the blue Grand Am to a gas station, I will be approached by someone wanting to “talk” cars. Hopefully they know, or maybe you know, where I can find another ’73 Grand Am? Stay tuned.

Jody Potter 
— Junkyard Life

Warning sharp edges. The Grand Am has some jagged, rusty metal around the rear wheel wells.  

Brake job time for the 1973 Grand Am. New hard lines all around and pads/shoes. Old lines were rusty and weeping brake fluid when bled.

Under dash hush panel removed to observe the wiring and Taz air freshener. Note the factory brown carpet. Seems like an odd combo but remember this was when 1973 tastemakers were in charge. I dig it!

Rear seat and louvered quarter windows. Faded red, now pink, carpet adorns hat rack. Note rear defrost on glass.

A glance at the stunning color combo not seen in modern times. Regatta Blue exterior paint, white (light beige) interior with brown carpet and dark brown dash, black console.

Patriot theme carried over in graffiti scribbled on back of front seat back. Red pinstripes would make this a red, white and blue Grand Am.

Close look at nose mounting area and fender on the battered body of the 1973 Pontiac.

Patch panel on lower front fender below first edition Grand Am emblem.

1973 Pontiac Grand Am in all its beater glory. A survivor who will keep on surviving!

Grand Am gets put on lift for underside inspection.

1973 Pontiac Grand Am console clock and in-dash tachometer are some of the extra parts shipped with car from New Jersey.

Plenty of tail-wagging fun to be had in this posi-traction equipped Pontiac sporting a 400-V8. Stay tuned.

Have a Grand Am or parts that you want to sell/donate to the project? Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Tips for our projects? 
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cars in Yards: 1975 GMC Gentleman Jim

Rare black and gold Gentleman Jims were only built for half of the 1975 model year.

You can’t see me. I bet you’ve had this happen to you. You buy a car, van, or truck, and then everywhere you look, you see dozens of the exact make and model vehicle that you just bought on the road. In the same color even! The mind can play tricks on you. Just because you didn’t notice them before doesn’t mean they weren’t there all along. 
  We thought spotting a 1975 GMC Gentleman Jim in the wild was an impossibility, that is, until Ron Kidd wrote about them a few weeks ago. No sooner had the story about these rare trucks, produced for just half of the 1975 model year with less than 1,000 total units built, hit our pages when we trip over one in our central Alabama stomping grounds. No one would believe us, so we had to show you. Take a look at what appears to be an original paint Gentleman Jim parked in a yard.

Unique gold grill insert is a Gentleman Jim clue.

Side view of 1975 GMC shows that the fancy gold "Gentleman Jim" decals are no longer on the bed.

This solid looking, and straight 1975 GMC Gentleman Jim was available in long wheelbase only and it appears to be serving as the perfect, classy, do-it-all, part-time work truck. 

Keep moving and your eyes open
  No one was home to answer our questions about the Gentleman Jim in the yard, but we assume that the owner knows they have a rare classic. It looks original and unmodified. The dirt-stained spots on the tires could mean it has recently been moved after sitting for awhile. That’s a good sign. Keeping old things moving is the best bet for survivability. It works for people and trucks named Gentleman Jim. 

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Do you have a great classic or muscle car barn find story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at & Ron Kidd at

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Gentleman Jim: 1975 GMC Sierra Classic rarity

Gentleman Jim gets the girl. Have you ever noticed that if a vehicle is odd and a little audacious that we here at Junkyard Life probably want it? Trans Ams, funky vans, boats to pull behind Trans Ams and funky vans, side pipes and the love of fads from way back are always cool with us. So now, we find a perfect pickup truck that seems to fall right in place with us. When a regular old truck just won’t do... Gentleman Jim is your answer!

Striking black and gold paint are the first clue that you may have found a 1975 Gentleman Jim GMC Sierra.

Gentleman, Start your Engines!
  We are not referring to the 1942 film, Gentleman Jim, starring Errol Flynn who portrayed a fighter with something to prove. Or are we? The Gentleman Jim we love is this 1975 limited edition GMC pickup. This truck didn’t have to fight too hard to prove it was special like Mr. Flynn did. What was a James Bond type to do when he needed a truck? GMC had the answer. This gentleman was upscale. Any parts associated with truck stigma need not apply. Nothing weak either. Here is the fighter part – we need performance, the kind of zoom a 350 with a 4-barrel carburetor can produce. Maybe even a 454? (See fun facts.) 
  Give us a yacht club kind of a truck. Affluent with a classic kind of flair. Notice the sparkly metal flake callouts Gentleman Jim had on his quarter panels. This luxury truck was going to be packed with options. Some literature indicates an AM/FM with a tape player was included in the Gentleman Jim package. To insure you could hear the symphony over the roar of your V8, GMC also included a lot of sound deadening they call “acoustic insulation”. This also precluded any other rattle and pop sounds synonymous with pickup trucks. Stirred, not shaken. 

Gentleman Jims were loaded, including bucket seats, full gauges with tach, and AM/FM/8 Track stereo.

Bright gold lettering announces the "Gentleman Jim" package on the flanks of these special edition 1975 GMC trucks. 

Black & Gold before "Bandits" were cool
  Special editions would not be complete if they were just any old color. Gentleman Jim wore a very fitting gold and black two-tone paint. They also used gold colored-keyed wheels with fat, muscular 60-series tires that gave it an aggressive stance. Perhaps even a fighter stance, Mr. Flynn? 

Look closely and you can spot the tachometer in the dash.

Luxury truck before there was such a thing
  Being above all of that “truck” nonsense of utility oriented vehicles of the time, let us be distinguished. They didn’t want you to see the bed unless necessary. So Gentleman Jim covered his rear (so to speak) with a factory black bed cover. He also used bucket seats and a nifty center console that provided space and if need be, seating for a third person. Cruise control, air conditioning, cloth interior accents, tilt wheel and a full compliment of gauges almost completed the package. Gentleman Jim wasn’t happy with just analog gauges. He needed a tachometer. He got one! We love factory tachometers here at Junkyard Life. Why, oh why didn’t they put tachometers in every truck? (Editor’s note: I sense a Ron’s Tachometer Rant coming on here. Let us hope he saves it for Fun Facts) Gentleman Jims were all long wheel based, so they rode wonderfully. With a color-keyed grill and special floor mats, now we are complete! 

Seen many sets of pristine Gentleman Jim floor mats? Not us.

Low mile original
  The extra nice feature truck we present to you is extra nice. This example is 100% correct down to every detail. Museum quality you ask? Why, yes. Yes, it is. It was indeed purchased from a museum with all documentation and a nice collection of literature. Bill Owens of Cleveland, Tennessee is the lucky owner. Bill has a history with Gentleman Jim trucks, which is noteworthy due to how precious few there are in existence. Fewer than 1,000 were produced according to LMC’s website.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

A 1975 Gentleman Jim advertisement.
Bill Owens, owner of our featured 1975 Gentleman Jim GMC Sierra Classic, gave us a tour of his rare truck.

Junkyard Life’s Gentleman Jim Fun Facts:
  • These trucks were only built during half of the 1975 model run.
  • Black and gold would become big color combination sales success in 1976, especially for Pontiac. The bold color duo would enjoy an even bigger success in 1977.
  • GMC also offered another special edition pickup truck in blue and silver called the “Beau James.”
  • The Gentleman Jim was based on the upscale appointed Sierra Classic.
  • Perfect for 1975 and the bold graphic era, Gentleman Jim wore metal flake “Gentleman Jim” script on the quarter panels.
  • Although offered with optional 454 cubic inch power, we have never seen one. If you know why, or even better, know of one, please let us know. This fact was almost presented as a question.
  • Even though it would have been cool, Gentleman Jim was never offered as a step side or as a short wheelbase truck. We think GM mandated the smoother ride that only the long wheelbase can provide. That’s another “fact” that is really a guess. (Sorry, we must not know what “fact” means)
  • Gentleman Jim was equipped with a tachometer! (Editor’s Note: Let the rant begin) Chevrolet and GMC both had dash boards with nice circular gauges that would have lent themselves very well for a nice useful tach. In a truck even! People pulling heavy loads could  certainly use this, especially in a truck, but they forced buyers to jump through hoops of fire to get one.
  • GMC tried to break the truck stigma of the time. Cars were used for daily transportation because there was a different mindset and trucks were not as widely accepted as they are today. In 1975, my Grandmother would not have ridden in a truck, much less have been picked up for a date in one. GMC advertising tried to break new ground and advocated that it was acceptable to ride in a Gentleman Jim.
  • Wear items for Gentleman Jim Editions are highly prized and priced today. A set of Gentleman Jim floor mats went for $500 recently on Ebay.

Do you have a great classic or muscle car barn find story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Ron Kidd at & Jody Potter at

This 1975 Gentleman Jim advertisement provides not so subtle clues that the ladies will love a man who drives a Gentleman Jim GMC.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Proud owner of a Pontiac Trans Am with a 403 Olds Engine

The engine that gets no respect because of its cross-breed origins.

Who made who? I dig the 403 engine. I even love it when others openly loath the underdog right to my face when I am standing by the open hood of my 1979 Trans Am. So it was big and slow and needed unavailable (at the time) and costly (even now) performance upgrades. That is fine, those upgrades can be done with the help of Edelbrock and Mondello. That is correct. Mondello. The Oldsmobile specialist. Pontiac did not make the drivetrain in my Trans Am. It is not a true Pontiac engine despite being installed in the car when it was built in Norwood, Ohio. Pontiac borrowed my motor from Oldsmobile. Is that such a bad thing?

The Olds 403 engine gets no respect because of its cross-breed origins.

Who made you?
  We have all heard the story about the Cadillac purist who bought a brand
new Sedan Deville with a capable 425-V8. He was waiting for the car to be
serviced and inquired what was taking so long for something easy, like an oil
change. The service writer told him they were waiting on parts from the
Oldsmobile dealership. A little baffled, the Cadillac owner asked what his car had to do with parts from the Olds dealer. He was only then informed, “Because it has an Oldsmobile engine in it.”

6.6 litre decal denotes the Olds 403 engine on Pontiac Trans Ams.

What On Earth Are You Talking About, Willis?
  “It most certainly does not!” Okay, now you have done it. You have gone and slapped a loyal Cadillac buyer with his own driving gloves. This was a Cadillac guy and not an Oldsmobile guy. Now you tell him. Now, after the sale. After he has paid a considerable amount more for the Cadillac, only now do you tell him he has an Oldsmobile. If he wanted an Oldsmobile, he would have bought an Oldsmobile.
  The litigious battle ensued and the higher courts saw it his way. He was misled by some degree and a higher end automobile was misrepresented to the buying public. As it turns out, not everyone loved Oldsmobile the way we do here a Junkyard Life.

Olds On Tight!
  Recently, I ran across a back issue of Hemmings Classic Car and I found another spin on the story. The wonderful article by Bob Palma, who is one of my favorite columnist, told us in facts and used names! 
  The victim and hero of this story is a gentleman named Joseph Siwek. Like us, he was an Oldsmobile guy. So he buys a new 1977 Delta 88. To reiterate, we keep talking of Pontiacs and Cadillacs that had Oldsmobile engines in them. So, this was an Oldsmobile and probably has an Olds engine between the fenders, right?

Oil fill tube located on front of engine and makes identifying a 403 engine in a Pontiac easy.

Wrong O’ Rocket Man
  The mechanic at the Oldsmobile dealership reaches for an oil filter
synonymous with Oldsmobile engines and it doesn’t fit. He lowers the car to get a better look at the VIN code, and it even says “Rocket” on the air cleaner like a proper Olds should. For those not in the know, “Rocket” had been a marketing success for Oldsmobile and could mean many things to a car guy. Mainly, it always had been safe up until now to assume your blue GM motor was an Olds. The filter for the true Olds would not work. Try the one for the Chevrolet! Mr. Siwek indeed had a very traditional, dependable, garden variety small block Chevrolet. It wasn’t even wearing little bowties. Junkyard Life surmises that this engine was even further disguised as it was probably painted the corporate blue that GM had mandated all its power makers to be painted. Unless you bought a new car within the last year, you probably had seldom seen a Chevrolet painted blue. Those were supposed to be orange. Oldsmobile made a blue, so it made sense. 
  It made sense until the customer was called out and things didn’t go so well. Mr. Siwek refused to be a part of this engine identity crisis. General Motors had been caught swapping. These once exclusive engines now went to anyone. What once had been sacred had now become a cross breeding love fest blending various GM divisions for power. (Editor’s note: The words “cross breeding love fest” have never been mentioned in a Junkyard Life article ever before. Those are Ron’s words and definitely not the words of one of our favorite columnist Bob Palma) Mr. Siwek called the Illinois Attorney General and prompted the largest class action lawsuit GM had ever seen. Extended warranties and $200 rebates squeezed around $40 million from the large automaker. It was also mandated that information of this practice was to be disclosed in sales literature, ads and brochures.

The T/A 6.6 decals was applied to the 400 Pontiac Trans Ams.
T/A 6.6 decals were applied on the shaker hood scoops of Pontiac 400 equipped Trans Ams.

But Why? Why O’ Why?
  That is not actually a rhetorical question. Really, why would Oldsmobile
themselves, the maker of the larger engines not put it in their own large car? I looked it up and a 1977 Delta 88 was offered with a 403 Olds engine. That is a little comforting. Still, you have to give someone credit for leaving the 425
exclusive to the Cadillac. Even though it was Oldsmobile based, they left it for
Cadillac. Had that motor been mass produced and divvied out, would that have been a game changer? We have seen a few Olds motors that made their way into trucks after the fact. That makes sense, for they had loads of usable torque at low RPMs. Fear not, Oldsmobile, for we love the 403. Or at least I do.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

403 Fun Facts 

(Just a few- not actually four hundred and three)

  • The 403 was introduced in 1977 for larger cars to actually move themselves during an era of strict emission laws and fuel consumption standards.

  • The 403 should have won the hearts of many since most of the 1977 Trans Ams from Smokey and the Bandit employed them. The top dog 400 Pontiac motor received most of the notoriety. Look closely at The Bandit’s car and you will see “6.6 Litres” on the shaker scoop. The 400 would have said “T/A 6.6”.

  • The 403 despite having a piston wider than a 454 Chevy, it is still based on the small block Olds. For you specs fans-Chevy 454 had a 4.250” bore. The 403 had a 4.350”. That is a lot of piston for a small block.

  • The 403 was advertised as being lighter than previous motors. In the 1977 Cutlass 442, it was called “The lighter weight Rocket”.

  • The 403 was also popular with the Buick division and used in their Electra 225 even through 1979.

  • Lynn Welfringer at Mondello Performance Products recently told us he does a piston change, raising the low compressiom to a healthy 9:5 to 1, a camshaft and lifter change to their own JM2022 or even the 2225 cam, 60 cc aluminum heads with an aluminum Cometic head gasket made especially for the 403 and don’t be surprised to see 400+ horsepower. Their knowledgeable and experienced Oldsmobile talent can be reached at (805)-237-8808.

  • Joe Mondello once noted the 403 Olds as being an overlooked performance engine and somewhat of the “unsung hero”.

  • When really thinking about it, how many Olds 403’s have you seen torn up or prematurely worn out? They really were hard working , long lasting and truly deserve more credit than they get.

  • The Oldsmobile 350 was actually gold and the 455 Olds was blue. Pontiacs were also blue albeit a different shade. When GM declared their “corporate motors” to be blue, this included Chevrolet’s 305 and 350, as well as the Olds 403. That really doesn’t bother me on the 403, but I feel a Chevy block must be orange.

  • Do you have a great classic or muscle car barn find story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Ron Kidd at & Jody Potter at

    Saturday, September 30, 2017

    The Greatest 1955 Chevy Story Ever Told

    45 years later the agent owns that runaway moonshiner’s family car.

    Tell me more. Junkyard Life is fortunate enough to have many awesome barn find stories and fate-filled “meant to be” tales told to us. This very story is my favorite. Recently Junkyard Life did some filming and I (Ron) was asked what was my favorite story. Well, this one we didn’t cover, it just unfolded for me one night when an older gentleman in a new Mercedes was waiting beside my 1972 Vista Cruiser. After he asked permission to take a photo of the vintage wagon, we continued to talk. He told me he had a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air that he had owned since he was a young man. When I told him I too, had a 55 Bel Air and I wrote articles about finding such things, I had to ask. ”What was the story?” The man gazed away as if in a deeper quandary about if the story could be told. 
      He said, “You know, I have never really told anyone exactly how I got that car. Not many people ever knew.” 
      Okay, now I had to know...  

    This story has it all! Firearms, Alcohol, Espionage, Chase Scenes, Child Birth, Moral dilemmas, Death, Bribery, Statutes of Limitations, and a Low-mile ’55 Bel Air in Green! 

      The year was 1955 and the city was Atlanta, Georgia. A Chevrolet enthusiast was finally in his place in life to buy a new car. Recently retired and also a new grandfather, life was good and he knew just the car he wanted. A brand new 1955 Bel Air 2-door hardtop in a lovely and a bit unusual color. Green and cream two-tone paint and powered by the new 265-cubic-inch V8.

      The car was purchased and he loved it. He took very extraordinary care of his new Chevy. He knew he had something special. Here the story gets a little sad. He died. His widow knew he loved the car, but she couldn’t stand to see it, so she had her children move the car to a back field and cover it up. No one other than family knew the car was there. Life happens and she became the primary caregiver for her now slightly older grandchildren. If you don’t watch them, they can easily get in trouble. One of her grandchildren found trouble.

      Now the year is 1972 and the city is Birmingham, Alabama. This gentleman was an ATF agent (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). As a governmental agency they were often called to help other ATFs in other places. The ATF sent a few Birmingham agents to Atlanta to assist in shutting down some illegal whiskey manufacturing. Some were big time and others were just local moonshiners. Our hero was stuck watching a smalltime copper still with a few other agents. They watched for days out in the woods. Finally, all the culprits were present and they moved in for a bust!

    A runner!
      As this gentleman told me of this moment, I could picture it like a movie. He said they each picked a guy to arrest and the one he picked was a runner. Could he run? You bet he could! Like a young moonshiner running from an ATF agent. Yes, exactly like that.
      They ran and ran. He chased this young man through trails, over fallen trees and down into deep ditches. The young whiskey maker thought he may be able to outrun this guy and make it back to his house. Actually, it was his grandmother’s house. 

    First sight of the ’55 Chevy
      He almost made it. He made it as far as a covered car at the rear of the property. The pursuer and the persuee both collapsed over the car from sheer exhaustion. As the ATF agent , our hero and my future story teller, fell on the car, he realized it was a ’55 Chevy under the tarp. His dream car. 
      As the young and exhausted moonshiner was babbling his pleas of innocence, the huffing and puffing ATF agent asked him, “Whose car is this?” 
      The young man paused his desperate ramblings to answer the question. 
      “It was my grandfather’s, but my grandmother put it out here.” 

    Owner’s identity protected – photo of car in story not used.

    Angry grandmother
      As in life, timing is everything. For this young man, fate took mercy on him when his grandmother heard the commotion and came out to find an ATF agent with her grandson. She asked a very direct and very damning question. 
      “Boy, have you been down messing with that still again? I told you about that!” 

      So, now you have an angry grandmother, a very busted and scared young man and an ATF agent who just found his fantasy car. Perhaps taking slight advantage of the situation, the agent asked the culprit’s grandmother a very important question.
      “What do you intend to do with this car?” 
      She responded very confidently, playing her very obvious card. 
      “That depends. What do you intend to do with my grandson?”  

    The price of freedom
      After a few awkward seconds of sorting out the moral dilemmas of the situation. The ATF agent replied, “I think he is very tired and could use a good night’s sleep.” 
      The unspoken deal was made and the ATF agent returned a couple of days later with the money, tools, a battery and some fresh fuel. This was 1972 and the car had been sitting since about 1958, so it was dormant for about fourteen years. After a quick tune-up and a trip to the tire shop, it was driven back to Birmingham, Alabama and the long retired ATF agent still has it to this day.

      Finally, enough time had passed and the exciting story was told. All of us here at Junkyard Life have been told some awesome car finding stories, but this story has been saving itself since 1972 for just the right listener. Fortunately for me, I drove my wagon that night and ending up hearing the greatest 1955 Chevy story. Thank you, sir.

    Ron Kidd
    — Junkyard Life

    Do you have a great classic or muscle car barn find story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Ron Kidd at & Jody Potter at