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MARCH 31, 2012 (APRIL 2012): 1957 CHEVROLET BEL AIR WAGON – RECAPTURING MISSPENT YOUTH

By on March 31, 2012
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Wayne Russell has nothing but fond memories of his first Chevy Bel Air station wagon.

 

This was back in the swinging 60s and that car was a rolling bachelor pad for a young Wayne.

 

He never forgot how much the Chevy wagon meant to him.

 

Wayne explained his relationship with this unique piece of his personal history; “I had it when I was cool, probably even pre-cool. It was my first real car”.

 

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Wayne saw the possibilities in the roomy interior of the Bel Air so he got busy with the interior decorating side of the equation as he recalled, “ These were the precursor to the boogie vans so it ended up with red satin curtains and a mattress plus I worked at an electronic store so I added a 4 track stereo. That was high tech at the time”.

 

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He lives near the resort town of Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Canada so he used to drive out there and to park the car on Lakeshore Drive for the weekend right across the street from Varsity Hall. That was a legendary local dance hall and Sylvan used to swell from under 2000 people to 20,000 kids on straight party mode in the 1950s and 60s.

 

Wayne took his ‘57 Chevy out to Sylvan Lake to meet girls and clearly it worked, as he admitted, “that’s where I met my wife”.

 

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Wayne is a 100% hardcore car guy, so he didn’t leave the ‘57 Chevy stock-it wasn’t in his blood as he recalled, “I ruined it, I painted it burgundy with purple lace, white pin striping and yellow frosting. I put a 3″ exhaust on it too”.

 

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He “drove the car into the ground“, sold it and bought it back twice and then lost track of the Bel Air wagon. Wayne admits, “I never did anything with it either time when I got it back but I like to think it didn’t get crunched”.

 

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Since then Wayne has always mourned the loss of this significant piece of his autobiography. He’s owned many cars since then including a ’57 Chevy Nomad wagon but the Bel Air wagon was never far from his mind.

 

True car guys totally understand this because they’ll forget significant dates like wedding anniversaries and kid’s birthdays but they’ll never forget the day they sold a beloved car.

 

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Wayne found this car last year and he freed up some money by selling a Graham to get this car. Initially, he thought it was out of his price range but the color drew him back to the game. The first deal on Ebay fell through, so Wayne was back in the hunt for this piece of his past.

 

He knew he had a chance with a 4-door wagon despite the soaring prices on the Nomads. In fact, he ran into the new owner of his former Nomad who paid 71,000 for it at a high-end auction where the car had just sold.The guy assured him “you couldn’t afford it”. Wayne was happy to point out a sticker that he put on the car that could only come from a city in Northern Alberta.

 

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Wayne was the high bidder on the Bel Air and he picked it up in Spokane. It’s a driver and he had some minor mechanical issues. He reported, “ it didn’t want to start, no voltage to the coil but you open up an old car there’s the battery there’s the carb etc. etc. so you can solve problems”.

 

Wayne’s 2012 version of his beloved Bel Air is a nice driver. He admits, “It’s got a little rust here and there but nothing serious. The main thing is I’m 65 now and I want to take care of this one for life”.

 

His only real regret is the passage of time.

 

Varsity Hall at Sylvan Lake has been gone since 1979 and you can’t park on Lakeshore Drive any more.

 

Jerry Sutherland

 

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