Restored ’67 Chevelle is a sight for ailing eyes

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After being parked in the garage for many years, Richard McBride's cherished but tired 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle is on the trailer and heading to the restoration shop | Richard McBride family photo

In 1965, Richard McBride got his first car when his father found him a 1963 Plymouth Fury. But McBride was dreaming of other possibilities.

“I’d sit in my high school drafting class thinking about a Chevelle,” McBride recalled. “More specifically, it was an L-79 327 engine that had my attention. I wanted one badly.” 

Even though McBride had the specs for the car memorized, such a vehicle wasn’t within easy reach, and the Plymouth had to suffice as McBride graduated from high school and entered the work force.

In 1967 McBride was working at Boose Chevrolet in Brookville, Ohio, where he still resides. “Russell Boose, the dealership owner, lived across the street from my parents so I knew him as I was growing up,” McBride said. “My summer jobs included running parts, doing clean-up… the normal things a kid would do around a car dealership. I enjoyed my time there.”

Plus, it put McBride in the vicinity of that L-79 equipped Chevelle and he was determined to turn that daydream into reality.

The car was ‘tired’ when it arrived at the restoration shop in Virginia | Terry Davis photo

“In 1967 I decided it was time to purchase a car I really wanted and went to Mr. Boose to buy a 1967 L-79 4-speed Chevelle. ,It was all black with a black interior, not an SS, but a Malibu hardtop with black-wall tires and little hubcaps.” 

And it had that 325 horsepower engine with Chevrolet’s first high-performance hydraulic cam, a 600cfm Holley carb topped by an open element air cleaner, and enough go power to surprise even the big blocks that were thumping around the streets in neighboring Dayton, Ohio area.

The Chevelle did its share of street racing, and a stint as a tow vehicle for a N-stock ’57 Chevrolet Nomad that McBride and some buddies campaigned in the early ‘70s. But for the most part the car was daily transportation as McBride worked at various tool and die companies. 

In 1972 he married his wife, Christy, and the couple settled into raising their family, the Chevelle eventually being pushed aside as it lost much of its glory and was relegated to a corner in the couple’s garage.

Not all of the body panels could be saved, but otherwise the car was ‘solid’ | Terry Davis photo

McBride recalls fondly the advice Russell Boose had given him when he was presented with the keys of his treasured dream. “Richard, everybody knows nobody buys a car like this to go to the grocery store.” 

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The McBride family prospered and in 2017 he retired. 

“And I was thinking seriously about some sort of retirement project,” McBride said. “My kids will tell you I talked constantly about the Chevelle, even though I did nothing with it all those years.”

While the car had seen better days, surviving fender benders and normal wear and tear, it was still sitting in McBride’s garage. 

“I went to some car shows and talked with various people, hoping to get some leads on who I might contact to get the project started.”

It wasn’t until he attended the Northern Ohio Chevelle Regional Chevelle Show in Strongsville, about a 3-hour drive from his home, that McBride got the advice he really needed.

The car returns from media blasting and is ready for refinishing and some replacement parts | Terry Davis photo

“I talked with a couple of very knowledgeable guys at that show and they pointed me in the direction of some shops they felt could really do justice to the car. 

“I visited some shops, including taking a trip to Nebraska to check out a potential there.”

However, once again, life got in the way.

“I’d had some eye issues and in 2017 I made a visit to a doctor that changed everything,” McBride said. “I was diagnosed with macular degeneration and told I probably had anywhere from 5 to 15 years before my sight would get so bad I would no longer be able to drive.

“My wife and I left that appointment and on the way to the car we just looked at each other and said, now what do we do with the Chevelle? We knew we had to make a decision.”

In his search for a reliable shop, McBride and his wife had visited Terry Davis Restoration in Wytheville, Virginia. Davis had come highly recommended and they came away from Davis’s shop convinced he was the one to handle the work. 

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“He was very knowledgeable and wanted to make certain the car was completed exactly the way I wanted it. I really appreciated how he approached the project.”

Removing rustproofing was quite a chore, but it had helped preserve the Chevelle’s floor pans | Terry Davis photo

The week after Thanksgiving in 2018, the car and parts McBridge had gathered over the years went to Terry Davis. The projected schedule for the restoration was to be somewhere near the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020. Ironically, Davis had another black ’67 in his shop that was a near twin to McBride’s.

Davis said the project held some special meaning for the McBride family and he was determined to get the car back to exactly the way Richard wanted it. 

“It could have used some new body panels, but I didn’t really want to disrupt too much of the car so it could remain ‘his’ car and not a re-creation,” Davis explained.

Though Davis found the car was solid, new NOS front fenders and hood were installed, however, as damage over the years had made them difficult to repair. 

“One of the things people did back then was have their cars undercoated,” Davis said, “and I just hate that stuff! But it was that undercoat that preserved much of the car.”

The car retained the original engine, even though there had been modifications. 

“As a machinist, Richard had machined the timing marks into the harmonic balancer, and I wanted to keep that because that was part of what made this his car.” 

The restored Chevelle was unveiled at the 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals show near Chicago | Jim Volgarino photo

“Overall the car was solid and presented no major problems for us,” Davis said. “It was just tired.”

Davis contacted Christy during the summer of 2019 and suggested the presentation of the car at the annual Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals show, held late each fall in the Chicago area. 

Davis also had a 1967 Chevrolet, Jeff Helms’ El Camino, in his shop and the idea was to have both vehicles ready for the major national show. It called for long hours, but the cars were displayed side-by-side.

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Christy McBride recruited Richard’s friend Lew Huddleson to make sure Richard would be at the show for opening day. They were, and they made their way to Davis was helping Helms prep the El Camino for display.

Sitting next to the pickup truck was a car under cover. McBridge knew his car had been finished, but thought the covered car was the other Chevelle that had been in the Davis shop.

But as Davis pulled off the cover, McBride recognized his car.

Richard McBride tears up as he climbs behind the wheel | Jim Volgarino photos

“Merry Christmas,” Davis said to a stunned Richard McBride, whose family emerged from its hiding place to take part in the happy but tearful reunion.

McBride said he was completely shocked to see his Chevelle completed. He finally opened the driver’s door and slid in behind the steering wheel, something he had not done in many years. His misty eyes and wide grin told the story and spectators who had just come by cheered along with the family and friends.

McBride popped open the hood and quietly drank in a view he had not expected to see, the sight bringing back a flood of great memories.

Terry Davis said when he gets the opportunity to handle cars like this one, he jumps at the chance because the emotional attachment plays such a big part in creating an indelible memory for the owner. 

“This is what makes what I do completely worthwhile, no matter how stressful these restorations can be,” he said. “When a project ends this way, I know the effort is deeply appreciated and the car will be cared for as I would want it to be.”

To top off the event, judges at the show scored it 991 out of a possible 1,000 points, earning it a Concourse Gold award. McBride, in summing up the entire experience, said, “it just can’t get any better than this.”

Richard McBridge and his 1967 Chevelle back home in Ohio | Photo by Ron Nunnari, Brookville Ohio Star

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At age 12, Jim Volgarino peeked under the hood of his grandfather’s 1957 Oldsmobile and saw a Rocket 88 for the first time. He was hooked. Following stints in the Air Force, the newspaper business, the printing business, and the teaching business he’s finally settled into his first love… automotive writing. He’s covered everything from Bonneville Speed Week to the Lambrecht Chevrolet auction in Pierce, Nebraska, from his home in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He’s owned pretty much anything and everything with a motor and wheels. Currently, he’s restoring a 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS 409.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 66 Ss. 396.chevelle that I bought in 1971 and still have..somehow an old chevelle guy still keeps his old chevelle forever.and loves a 20 minute ride with the 396.roaring and his 4.speed chevelle running down the road..these cars will last forever..rj.signed old Ss.396 guy.rj

      • I owned he exact same car, only mine was Mountain Green. I was stupid and sold it for a SS 396 in 1969. That was the biggest mistake on my life. Purchaser wrapped around a bride abutment while stationed in FL. Tried to find another after retiring, couldn’t be done without spending BIG BUCKS. I kick myself in the butt every day. Need a time machine to go back and purchase one again. Richard your a lucky man. If possible don’t ever sell it. Just enjoy it.
        Dave

  2. I think that so great, I’m 61 my first car was a 1966 Chevelle SS, it was blue used. I work very hard at a Sinclair Shamrock station to pay $800.00 for it

    • I had a 1966 Chevelle SS 396 that my Grandfather bought me when I was in JR high school back in 1969 it was dark red. Don’t have any more but some day I’ll get one.

  3. This was such a feel good story and determination finally paid off. Happy for you and wishing many miles of driving fun. This is my wish list car as well, enjoy!

  4. I like it when stories have elements that individually could sink a project are no match for determined folks to see a very special car back to its owner. This story made my day.

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