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Home Car Culture My Classic Car My Classic Car: Restoring Mom and Dad’s original ’65 Chevelle

My Classic Car: Restoring Mom and Dad’s original ’65 Chevelle

After selling their beloved Chevelle, their son tracks it down decades later to restore it

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On July 8, 1965, my Dad purchased a brand new 1965 Chevelle Malibu SS. This was his first new car purchased off the lot and, oddly, has been the only new car he has ever purchased. He paid $3,262.45 for the car.

He then married my Mom in November of that same year. This car was very special to my Dad and Mom and we have great pictures of their adventures.

Shortly after their honeymoon, my Mom became pregnant and my oldest brother was on the horizon. He was born in ’67 and soon after, Mom and Dad learned of twins coming. The discussion turned back to the two-door coupe, and my Mom and Dad decided to sell the Chevelle to accommodate the future family.

1965 Chevelle Malibu SS
Eric’s Dad in the Chevelle during his honeymoon

My Mom shared with us kids growing up that she saw Dad’s emotions only a few times. One of those times was the day he had to sell his Chevelle.

As it often happens, life throws a few curves at families. My Dad’s youngest brother Paul was killed in a car accident in 1970. This event, and a few others, changed my Mom and Dad’s lives and began to shape our family’s future in ways we had yet to understand.

By 1971, our family now had three boys and one girl. My Dad was working a solid career with a Minnesota-based company and had the typical Minnesota family.

My parents attended a Lowell Lundstrom religious crusade, and through the message they heard, they committed their lives to serving God daily and through ministry. In 1974, my Dad left his job and moved the family to Dallas, Texas to attend Bible college and become a full-time pastor. He arrived back in our hometown of Sunburg, Minnesota, in 1976, and pioneered Sunburg Community Bible Church.

Through he and my Mom’s ministry there, as well as three other churches in their careers, us kids witnessed countless people helped, served, loved and lives changed because of the way Mom and Dad lead their lives.

Sacrifice seemed to be my Mom and Dad’s mantra. If they had the means, whether financial or physical, they were constantly giving back and pouring their own lives into those around them. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched them serve the needs of others and give selflessly.

As I’ve grown into my own, I’ve tried to follow the message that my parents instilled in me — giving back in specific ways as often and as freely as I can. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts we have and can give.

My bride of 27 years and I have been blessed in so many ways. Together, we have tried to figure out ways of giving back, just as our parents have taught us. Giving back is what brings me to the next phase of the story — the 1965 Chevelle.

Hearing about this car while growing up, it has been a dream of mine to someday give back to my parents the dream car they gave up for us. 1965 Chevelle’s are not a rare car and are easy to find, but I wanted to find one as close to my Dad’s model as possible. It hit me during the search — could I somehow find Mom and Dad’s original ’65 Chevelle?

1965 Chevelle Malibu SS
The original ’65 Chevelle before the restoration

When Dad sold his car, he sold it to a neighbor in Sunburg, so I knew where to start. I reached out to this person and learned that they still had the car, but they had plans to restore it themselves, so they were not interested in selling.

I’m in sales, and needless to say, I didn’t give up! Through multiple calls, we finally landed on an agreement and I was off to Sunburg with a flatbed trailer to pick up my Dad’s original ’65 Chevelle. As a bonus, I learned that the owner had kept the original purchase agreement signed by my Dad!

I found the car sitting in a grove of trees. It had been there since the mid-1970s.

The full restoration took over 15 months and the car was revealed through several key sponsors. Here in Minnesota, Luther Dealerships got behind the event and hosted a party for 200 guests at their Brooklyn Park store for both family and friends. Fame Hot Rods of Minnesota also helped greatly with a sponsorship of a portion of the restoration. Overall, the event was exactly as I’d dreamt it to be.

Since the event, I’ve had the privilege of watching my Mom and Dad drive, go to car shows, win car shows and simply relive what they gave up for us. This project has been a blessing beyond words. As I look back on the sacrifice, the adventure, the restoration and the final reveal, I’m taken aback at how truly intimate cars can be. They shape so many aspects of our lives.

While the Chevelle will be forever back in our family, the servant approach toward life is the moral behind the story. My parents sacrificed and gave back at every turn. Returning their car and watching them relive younger years – that restoration was priceless.

— Eric Gafkjen, Delano MN

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Eric what a beautiful thing you did, I am in tears as I’m writing to you. I know the feeling deep down inside me. You have a special heart. You parents showed you and your siblings what life is about in a very special way. How beautiful, how very beautiful. I only hope your Mom and Dad enjoy their car. I know what it’s like to give, even if it’s just a token of a gift. It makes me feel so full of love inside. I can just imagine how you felt when Mom and Dad realized what you and all the sponsors achieved for them. How nice what a wonderful story, you are blessed in every way. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Anthony.

  2. Great story and a beautiful rebuild. My neighbor growing up next door was four years older than me and a gearhead, so of course I thought he was pretty cool. His first car was a ‘64 Chevelle Malibu SS, red exterior and black interior, very much like your ‘65.

  3. In this year of Covid-19 this story is even more important. I am so happy for you and your family. Everyone these days is about me and a sense of entitlement. But no matter what, they are not ever happy. Giving is what fulfills your soul. And getting it back some, brings joy to both parties. And if it’s a classic car, all the better! Thank you for still giving and making us smile 😃

  4. Growing up on the northwest side of Chicago, I purchased a 1964 Chevelle SS convertible as a high school junior in 1973. It had a white exterior, red bucket interior, and black top. I bought it from the original owner with 30,000 mikes who was a United Airlines pilot living in Arlington Heights, Illinois. I used it as daily transportation through high school and college in Chicago. I sold it in about 1978 to a young man. I always wonder where it is now? I would like to find it and restore it. If anybody knows the whereabouts please call me. Thank you, Bob (920)809-1938

  5. Scott,
    My nephew bought a 1964 SS Convertible Chevelle in 1967. He paid $1,300 for. It had a 283 with a 4 barrel carburetor, and a muncie 4 speed. It was Canary Yellow with a black rag top that had no hydraulics. Just unlock it and fold it down. Some times I think it’s a better way. It also had 373 posi rear. Cars can and will change the way we do things. I am a hear head myself.
    Eric’s story was beautiful.

  6. Wonderful, heartfelt story! Thank you for sharing! Now if my kids would hunt down my 1st new car, a 1969 Mach 1 and restore it for me. 🙂

  7. What a terrific and God-honouring story. It’s like the story of some of our lives, of allowing something treasured go to rust, then made new again … by God. It’s about the people in this story, and the car is an accessory, albeit, a beautiful one. Enjoy each other, and the car.

  8. Great story! There is definitely a place in heaven for you and those that helped you. I have a ’69 Nova I am restoring that will need a forever home. Also a ’72 El Camino that runs and drives, needs rear panels and bed replaced. Have all panels. When I have the time, I do not have the money. When I have the money, do not have time. Lol.

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