One of the storylines we encounter here at MyStarCollectorCar is a “boy meets truck…boy buys truck…boy sells truck” scenario.
Typically, there is an element of sadness attached to this style of story because the former owner is obliged to sell the truck for any number of reasons, none of which will soften the blow in most cases.
Except for the following reason:
Bob Sportel and his unique 1957 Chevy pickup truck had a long history that spanned over a 44-year period and ended when Bob sold the truck to the right buyer this past summer. MyStarCollectorCar did a feature article about Bob and his truck in February 2019 after we became aware of the story due to the massive publicity generated about the unique Chevy truck in numerous major US media outlets.
The main impact of the story was Bob’s purchase of the truck for 75 dollars when he was a young man looking for cheap transportation in 1976. The former owner was a farmer named John VanDerVeen who used the pickup for agricultural work and basic transportation until John decided to step back from the farm life.
Bob believed he could get a few more years out of the ’57 Chevy pickup before time and miles finally took their toll on the aging workhorse. Throw in the grim prospect of long Minnesota winters and one could easily conclude that Bob’s game plan might be considerably shorter than a few years, given the truck’s age and condition.
Actually, Bob’s estimate of cheap transportation for a few years was more than a little inaccurate because his trusty old truck (bought as a temporary vehicle solution in 1976) was still on the road in 2020-well past Bob’s official retirement with the same company that first employed him when Bob was a young man.
The 1957 Chevy truck had been a part of Bob’s world for 44 years and helped him ease into retirement after a long and successful career with his local co-op grain elevator.
The truck was showing its age after 63 years, but that was not a big detail for an eager prospective buyer named Tom Leenstra. Tom kept in touch with Bob over the past 10 years because he wanted to buy the truck for the best of reasons in our opinion here at MyStarCollectorCar: sentimental reasons.
Tom’s grandfather (the aforementioned John VanDerVeen) was the previous owner of the Chevy truck and Tom developed a strong bond with his grandad when he was a kid riding in the pickup. The trips included visits to local livestock sales, along with side excursions to Tom’s favorite food and beverage palace when he was a youngster.
Tom’s fondest memories of his grandfather could always be found in the old pickup so, about 10 years ago, Tom let Bob know he wanted to be the next owner of the truck at some point in the future. That future point occurred in mid-summer 2020 when Bob Sportel sold the truck to Tom Leenstra for exactly what he paid Tom’s granddad in 1976: 75 dollars.
Bob would not have sold the truck to just anyone. In fact, he likely would not have sold the truck at all — except Tom was the grandson of the previous owner and exactly the right guy to buy it for exactly the right reasons.
The changing of the guard for the ’57 Chevy pickup gives the story a direct route down memory lane for its new owner. The truck’s former owner is glad it went to the right home, but it will take Bob Sportel a while to get used to the empty space in his garage after 44 years. Tom Leenstra plans to shape the ’57 Chevy’s future by honoring its past in his family when his grandad owned the truck, but right now he wants to drive it and soak up fond memories of his grandfather along the way.
The 1957 Chevy truck’s story with Tom’s family is likely to continue in the future because Tom’s 7-year-old grandson already loves the truck.
Talk about a happy ending.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.