Tears of joy and gratitude at Pebble Beach

Hot rod class provides emotional ride on memory lane for participants and spectators

You couldn’t blame 84-year-old Jim Govro for having tears in his eyes.

Here he was, showing his car at the world’s most prestigious concours d’elegance, right there on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. And his car was one he had built himself, sold to pay for the birth of his first child, and then reacquired 50 years later, only for him to rebuild the car all over again.

But with help from friends and relatives and some volunteer labor from a Texas restoration shop and a painter, and with neighbors helping him with travel expenses, here he was, with his car, at Pebble Beach.

Jim Govro back at the wheel of his 1932 Ford hot rod

Govro and Tweety Bird as they appeared on the magazine cover in 1959

Wiping his eyes, he said that this moment was even better than when his car competed earlier this year at the Grand National Roadster Show, where the yellow car named Tweety Bird was one of the finalists for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster honors, or even when it appeared on the cover of Rodding and Re-styling magazine back in 1959. 

Govro’s 1932 hot rod was one of eight such homebuilts selected for the Historic Hot Rod Cover Cars class at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. 

Govro may have sold his hot rod back in 1962, but he retained his Dukes club license plate and remounted it on the rebuilt Tweety Bird

Back in 1951, when Jim Govro was a 15-year-old high school student in Texas, he got his hands on a body and a frame from 1932 Fords and started building his hot rod. He found a Cadillac V8 to power his car, which had a white interior and which he painted yellow — he named it Tweety Bird after the yellow-canary cartoon character.

Govro was a member of the drag-racing Dukes car club in Austin, Texas, and his car won races on strips in multiple states. Tweety Bird was photographed for an article in Hot Rod magazine, and Govro was sitting behind the steering wheel when the car was featured on the August 1959 cover of Rodding and Re-styling magazine.

A few years later, as the Govros were anticipating their first baby, Tweety Pie was sold to provide the money needed for a growing family.

Though sold, the car was never forgotten, nor very far away, since the new owner lived just 100 miles west of Austin. 

Jimi Lovejoy encouraged the reacquisition of the historic hot rod

Time passes. Jim Govro remarries and with Evelyn comes a new step-son, Jimi Lovejoy, who helped convince his mother that Jim Govro should be reunited with his hot rod.

That potential obstacle overcome, Govro contacted the car’s owner, “pestered him for five or six or seven years,” before he agreed to sell the car, and even then it took another two years for Govro to sell enough stuff so he could afford to buy back what remained of the car.

But 50 years to the month after he’d sold Tweety Pie, he got her back. Well, sort of. What he got back was a body with rusted out quarter panels, beat-up fenders, no engine or transmission or suspension, and with the wrong steering gear and wrong rear end.

But what mattered was that Tweety Bird, or what was left of her, was his again, so despite her “horrible-looking” condition, he and Jimi rested the body on the frame and trailered it to a local car show.

Govro reviews details with concours officials

As the show was ending, a man approached Jim and Jimi. He suggested they visit the shop where he worked, and although they’d never heard of Rex Rods & Chassis, it was only about five miles from where Govro was living. 

The team at Rex Rods was so taken by Govro’s reacquisition of his famous hot rod that they offered to help with its restoration, and not only donated their labor, but got a local paint shop to donate its labor as well, and got the House of Kolor to donate the paint.

Finally, when it came time to bring the historic hot rod to Pebble Beach, his neighbors helped cover the cost of getting the car, Jim and Jimi from Texas to Pebble Beach

And, like Jim, you also might have a tear in your eye if you’re read this far.

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5 Comments

  • James McIntire
    August 21, 2019, 10:10 AM

    I’m speechless.
    I love seeing stories like this so please keep them coming.

    REPLY
  • Tim OLeary
    August 21, 2019, 2:12 PM

    It’s a shame you didn’t interview Phil Cool right next door. In 1978 he won the Grand National Roadster Show “Worlds Most Beautiful Roadster” and got front page and foldout of Hot Rod Magazine! You missed the trifecta of Hot Rodding in 1978!

    REPLY
  • Muffy Bennett
    August 21, 2019, 6:16 PM

    Awesome article, and a very touching story! I’m thrilled that hot rods are featured at Pebble…

    REPLY
    • Merry Trucksis@Muffy Bennett
      August 21, 2019, 7:40 PM

      Your article captured the essence of the heart and soul both of the owner and the auto. Yes indeed, all the owners touched our hearts with their stories as we set up their surprise displays. Very proud of the quality and dedication that Concours Consultanting puts into every PB Concours d’Elegance.

      REPLY
      • Chris Hartwell@Merry Trucksis
        August 22, 2019, 1:55 AM

        Chris Hartwell Sydney Australia
        What a great story and particularly the effort Jim’s stepson put in along with the boys at Rex Rods and House of Kolor. These are the human interest stories that make Classic Car ownership so rewarding.

        REPLY