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HomePick of the DayPick of the Day: Chevrolet station wagon comes with integration-era history

Pick of the Day: Chevrolet station wagon comes with integration-era history

Car was purchased by governor of Oklahoma for his maid

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When Raymond Gary became governor of Oklahoma in 1955, one of his first official actions was to have the “whites only” and the “colored only” signs removed from restrooms in the state Capitol building. A former school superintendent turned businessman before entering politics, he also had the state comply with the Brown v Board of Education ruling and integrated Oklahoma’s public schools.

As the governor, he employed an African-American woman as a maid, but rather than her riding the bus to work, Gary bought her a 1956 Chevrolet 210 station wagon. That car, now restored, is the Pick of the Day on ClassicCars.com, where it is being advertised for sale by its private owner.

Oklahoma, Pick of the Day: Chevrolet station wagon comes with integration-era history, ClassicCars.com Journal

“This completely restored 1956 Chevy, Model 210 Wagon is one beautiful time capsule,” the seller reports, adding that the car was purchased from the maid by Bell brothers, “2 great OK City mechanics” who restored the car nearly 20 years ago. 

The Bells parked the wagon for a period of time but then did a complete restoration, and Troy Bell presented the restored vehicle to his wife, Deb. The car was restored at 81,000 miles and currently showed 86,000 miles. Deb Bell died some 15 years ago and the car went into storage, though the seller notes that it was routinely taken on short drives.

The seller, who is in Lincoln, Nebraska, appears to have special interest in the car’s history, adds that the quest to find the name of the governor’s maid to add to the car’s history continues. 

Oklahoma, Pick of the Day: Chevrolet station wagon comes with integration-era history, ClassicCars.com Journal

The seller reports that the Bells took the car down to the chassis, “replacing most parts and repainted any parts not undercoated… They also replaced the entire front-end with new parts.

“They rebuilt the original motor (265 power pack) and the original transmission (automatic 2 speed).

The interior also was restored “to its original design” but with new seats, headliner, carpet, sun visors and padded leather dah. 

“Radio is not original and the only part of this car, that was not replaced like original factory,” the seller adds. “Classic Chevrolet Parts Inc., here in Oklahoma City sells an AM/FM radio that looks original for $206 including tax. 

“This ’56, shifts and runs perfectly. I drove about 20 miles last weekend. Everyone takes notice.”

However, “What this vehicle needs to be completely perfect,” the seller adds. “Front and rear bumper needs new chrome (see pictures). One bad section on both. It will someday need a new starter solenoid. Or just have the starter rebuilt. 

“Right rear window has a 6” long crack towards very back (see picture). Few surface rust spots on 2 doors. One is just a one spot the size of a pencil eraser (front left). Other door (rear right) has a small cluster of rust spots. See pictures of both. That is all, unless you want the radio to look original.

“My son, who worked at a few Hollywood studios, believes this would be a very sought-after car to rent out for ’50s and ’60s motion pictures. Additional notes: Car is equipped with factory air. What a luxury in 1956.”

The station wagon and his history are offered for sale for $45,000. To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Hagerty
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Very Cool and I love the story on the history of the car. The 56 was one of the best looking Chevrolets ever made and the history of this one is priceless!

  2. In 1973 I bought this identical wagon (less AC) for $35. The owner got a ticket for excessive smoking and didn’t want to spend the money on a ring & valve job. I had a 283 sittin’ in the shop so I put it in the wagon and sold it to a friend for $350.
    Boy, those days are over !

  3. At $45K, the seller does want to keep this in the family. I think a 1956 2DHT Might garner that but unless there is documentation that John Glenn owned this, I think it will stay in the family. Nice color and the weird diamond-type tuck is odd to redo as such. It would serve to go back to the handy and comfortable cloth insert seats especially if you wear shorts or have a skirt on. I live where it rains all the time so cloth is much ‘cozier’ and fashionable as well. I think $12-18k would be a price that this would sell for but it is only an observation. I have owned 2 and 4 doors of this car and a black and white 2DHT that was an original ‘not a barn find’. One of those overused statements I cringe at. Maybe ‘ranch found’ or basement beauty. Anything but ‘barn find’ heading the department of trite.

  4. I had a ‘56 210 coupe when I was in high school in the 70’s. It was a hand me down from my older brother who had bought it from our grandmother. It was all original, including a tube radio that took about 30 seconds to “warm up” before any sound came out. It had the 265, complete with oil bath air cleaner, and the 2-speed automatic. One of the coolest things to me was the gas filler hidden behind the left taillight.

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