Growing up in McKinney, Texas I always had a great love for cars. You see, my father owned an upholstery shop for over 18 years and I can still remember the days when my father would customize the interior of a vehicle for a so called hot-rodder. Dad would roll and pleat the seat covers in the cars and I would love to watch him cut the material and sew it in the channel foam, of course my favorite part was when he got it all put back together. At the ripe old age of 10, I would sit in those cars on Coke Cola cases and shift the gears as the cars were sitting in the upholstery shop only imagining myself owning a car like that someday.
In 1967, I was a junior at McKinney high school and I bought a yellow with a white top 1957 Chevy 2 door sedan. It was a six cylinder, automatic, single exhaust car. After about two weeks of begging I talked my dad into putting a solid black leather seat cover, black headliner, black door panels and a black package tray in the vehicle. The seats were so hot you could hardly stand to sit on them in the summer because they would blister your legs. In 1968 McKinney Motor Parts (an automotive parts shop) had a brand new 283 that had just been bored out to a 301 with a full race cam. This man had it built and could not pay for it and there was $250.00 owed against the engine. I remember asking my grandmother if she would loan me the money so that I could buy that motor and I would pay her back when I went to work that summer after football season. I can recall my dad wasn’t real big on his high school son having that much of a motor in his car for some reason! Of course, I immediately got the loan and I had the engine delivered to a local garage in McKinney and they started to make a senior’s dream come true. Changing the 6 cylinder automatic single exhaust Chevy over to a brand new 301 dual exhaust with a Fenton four speed transmission in the floor was a dream come true. From that day forward I always had a love for the tri-five Chevy. I was like most other teenagers at that time, and after a couple of years with the car I wanted something different, something more modern with air-conditioning, so I sold the senior’s dream car for $1250.00.
Fast forward a number of years and we started going to a lot of the car shows. We would go to Oklahoma City and attend the National Street Rod Association events and the Good Guys shows locally along with making sure to attend the Classic Chevrolet events in this area. I was doing my best to locate and possibly buy a ‘55 or ‘57 Chevrolet. I acquired a taste for the ‘55 Chevrolet because this guy in McKinney had a ‘55 that I thought was a dream car. It was silver and black and I really liked the way it set and it had a big block and that sound was sweet. I would see him in my neighborhood and always wanted to stop the guy and ask some questions about his fine ride. The man I am talking about is Rob Wechsler, he only lives a couple of blocks from my house and we have since become very close friends with him and his family. Everything was coming together to make it possible for me to buy my dream car and at the time I didn’t realize it. You see, I was very fortunate to have belonged to McKinney Country Club. This club is a nine hole golf course located in McKinney, and I had belonged to the club for the past 15 years. But the value of the land was getting so high that we could not afford to play golf on it and it was hard to get members for a nine hole golf course. It fell upon hard times when we couldn’t recruit new members. After some time, several developers wanted to make offers on the property. The 97 members decided to sell and divide the funds, thus giving me the means to hopefully purchase my classic vehicle. We were now ready to get serious about searching for my dream car. We had added a third car garage onto the house approximately one year earlier so that if and when we found the right vehicle we would have a place for it.
I had been steadily looking at cars all over the country for the about two years and we decided to go to the Kruse Auto Auction in Tulsa where I had seen a yellow and white 55 Chevy that I had been looking at on the internet for several months. As most cars guys know, they’re not always what they appear to be until you get there and see them for yourself. I had pretty much decided this is the vehicle that I would be purchasing through this auction. My wife, Rendy and I traveled in June to the auction held in Tulsa arriving on Friday and we went straight to the auction and found the yellow and white Chevrolet. But after getting within ten feet of the vehicle I knew it was not the car for me. The yellow and white Chevy was a little rough around the edges, the carpet was worn out and under the hood it had some leaks and there were alot of tie wraps around the wiring to keep it off the hot engine. Needless to say we were very disappointed that we had traveled that far and it was not the vehicle that I thought it was. On that same Friday afternoon I saw a purple ‘55 Chevy that a man had going through the auction and I thought it was an absolutely gorgeous vehicle, but I was afraid it would be way out of my price range. This purple ‘55 Chevy went through the auction that afternoon not meeting it’s reserve. I expected that it was long gone and was probably to rich for my pocketbook. Friday night we went to the hotel and the next morning I woke up early and went down to get some things out of my truck. Parked beside me was the man that had the purple ‘55 Chevrolet and he was getting into his truck. I spoke to him and we started up a conversation, one thing let to another and we started talking about the ‘55 Chevy that he had in the auction. I thought the vehicle was gorgeous and we really hit it off well. He explained to me the history behind the car and why he had it at the auction. Also at the auction was a friend of mine Rick Prince who owns Texas Muscle Cars just east of McKinney. Rick looked over the car and he was good friends with the guy selling it. He said the car was solid and in fine shape and if I didn’t buy it he would. My wife and I decided to buy the car. We now call that gorgeous purple car the “Painted Lady”. It is Hawaiian Orchid Pearl, P.P.G. colors. It was built by Mr. Gerald Walker in Jacksonville, Illinois over a period of five years. He had the car finished for about a year when he died of a heart attack. The gentleman that sold me the car was selling it for Mr. Walker’s wife. We have had a lot of fun with the car this past year. We have gone to lots of shows and we enjoy weekend cruises and I often think of the man that spent all of his time building the purple ‘55 and only enjoy it for a short time after it was completed. I would like to say the greatest benefit that Rendy and I have realized after having the car for almost a year is the great people you meet and get to know when you go to and participate in car shows. We have met so many good hardworking people with great family values that share our interest in classic cars.
Our “Painted Lady” has a new 350 HO crate engine, 650 cc Holley carburetor, HEI distributor, Sanderson ceramic coated headers, electric fuel pump, 700 R transmission, rebuilt stock rear end with 355 gears and new axles. Also it has Heidts two inch dropped spindles with one inch lowered coils, 11 inch power disc brakes, KYB shocks all around, 17 inch intro wheels, rack and pinion steering, stainless steel brake lines, new aluminized exhaust with stainless steel tips, smooth fire wall and a new grille. The body was a frame-off restoration taken down to bare metal and blocked to perfection painted with P.P.G. Hawaiian Orchid Pearl paint. The interior has Stewart Warner Speedometer, Tach, Fuel Gauge, Volt, Temperature and Oil Gauges, custom fiberglass console, polished dash inserts, AM/FM cassette radio, Vintage Air, Gennie floor shifter. Chevelle bucket seats are finished in a medium gray custom interior by Twin City Upholstery in Bloomington, Illinois. I would like to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the great effort and work of the late Mr. Gerald Walker of Jacksonville, Illinois for building a wonderful example of a 1955 Chevrolet.
Truly one of the great benefits of owning a vehicle like this is that I have been in law enforcement for approximately 40 years and I have been Sheriff of Collin County for approximately 23 years and I truly enjoy the break from law enforcement that my ‘55 gives me. I get a chance to get away from my regular job and enjoy the fellowship of other car guys and gals. Going with your wife to functions that are not related to law enforcement or politics has been a real treat for Rendy and myself.
There is nothing like getting in the ‘55 on a cool morning or late in a summer afternoon and feeling like you are teenager again, if only for a couple of hours while you cruise around town. I look forward to meeting more DACC club members and going to more club events in the future.
BACK TO FEATURE CARS