Gary Kelly was just 15 ½ years old when he purchased his first car in the spring of 1958.

The car in question was a 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe 2-door hardtop that Gary purchased for 500 dollars, a substantial amount of dough in 1958 for a kid who was not even 16 at the time.

Jim Sutherland

Sadly, Gary’s first car purchase did not excite his father to the same level, so Gary was forced to sell the car in the fall of 1958 because his dad “wanted it off his driveway”.

Life moved on for Gary and he left his first car in the rear-view mirror of personal memories until 1994 when he was able to repurchase his ’52 Chevy for the princely sum of 100 dollars. Few car guys are given an opportunity to buy back their first car 42 years later-let alone for a fifth of the price.

Chevrolet introduced its first hardtop model in 1950 and ran with it until 1952, so Gary’s car was a first-generation hardtop for the Chevy brand. It was a stylish body design that caught Gary’s attention when he was a young teenager in 1958 and held his attention throughout the ensuing decades.

The allure of his first car was a driving force behind his decision to buy it back in 1994 because the Chevy had become a rust bucket with no floors or trunk, so Gary had to put its restoration on hold until he found a donor body in 1995.

Gary’s second round of ownership came to a grinding halt in 1999 when he sold his ’52 Chevy to a buddy but Gary quickly developed a severe case of seller’s remorse. Gary attempted to convince his buddy to sell the car back to him but was unable to persuade the man to part with the Chevy.

Unfortunately, the previous owner passed away so Gary found himself in a position to buy the car back from his friend’s estate, so he became the owner of his first car for the third time in 2018.

Gary wanted to preserve the ’52 Chevy hardtop in its original form, basically the same car he bought back in ’58 when he was a kid looking for his first car, so he rebuilt its original powertrain. The car left the factory with a 216 cubic inch six-banger hooked up to a three-on-the-tree manual transmission and both still perform flawlessly in Gary’s 1952 Chevy.

The car has its factory vacuum wipers, while its tube radio and clock still work in the six-volt car, although Gary added an electric fuel pump to remedy the Chevy’s fuel delivery issues. The factory mechanical fuel pump remains in place, but it is more decoration than function on the car.

Gary also added an aftermarket novelty horn to the car, along with an aftermarket radiator, a visor and headlight eyelids to his ’52 Chevy. He shopped around for a Continental kit but was floored by the price, so Gary built his own from a blueprint to reduce the cost.

The net result was a happy ending for Gary when his ’52 Chevy was “99% ready” (his words) and back on the road in 2020.

He was able to get his first car back not once- but twice. But this time the 1952 Chevy will stay in his family for good.  

Jim Sutherland

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.