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

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