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The Twenty-Eight
Written March 1, 2007


My father was the Chevrolet dealer in Richwood, Ohio.

That meant that when I was a boy in the Fifties, I had the chance to ride in some classic vehicles.  For example:


When Chevy introduced their Corvette sports car, it was a big departure from their family sedans.  It was innovative and expensive.

One source of worry was the body, made not of steel but of fiberglass.  A minor accident would not dent the fender; it would shatter it.

At first, many smaller dealerships were reluctant to risk buying any Corvettes at wholesale from the factory.  However, my father agreed to accept one, in white with a red leather interior.  He figured correctly that he could find a retail buyer.


In my apartment today are these two scale models of 1953 Chevys.  They remind me that Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet sold a lot of pickup trucks that year, plus the one Corvette.

Before he sold the car, he put me in the passenger seat for a short trip.  We purred along at only 25 miles an hour, so the ride wasn't exactly thrilling, but I do remember how low to the ground we were compared to the other vehicles on Franklin Street.


In an effort to add Corvette sportiness to a utilitarian two-door station wagon, Chevrolet brought out the Nomad in 1955.  We got a red and white one as a demonstrator and took it on an August trip with my recently widowed Grandmother Buckingham.

At the right are my mother, me, and my grandmother outside the Sun 'n Sand Motel in Daytona Beach, Florida.  See a photo from the beach here.


Two years later, a woman living on a farm outside Richwood decided to trade in her old Chevy on a new model.  Remarkably, her trade-in was nearly 30 years old.  Thus it was that my father acquired a green and black 1928 sedan.

1955 Nomad Station Wagon


Here's a painting by Al Anderson of a similar car.  The caption tells us, in part, that the “1928 Chevrolet National Series AB Coach fulfilled the Chevrolet slogan of its day, ‘Bigger and Better,’ by having a 107-inch wheelbase (four inches greater than previous models) and by having brakes on all four wheels.  At the price of $585, this roomy passenger car with its Body by Fisher rapidly became America's best seller.”

My father remembered that model year well.  When he started in the automobile business in Falmouth, Kentucky, this ’28 would have been a late-model used car.  He knew, for example, how to use the levers on the steering column to set the fuel mixture and the spark timing so that the four-cylinder engine ran smoothly.  (By the 1950s, cars had automatic chokes, eliminating the need for such manual adjustments.)

The trade-in boasted an optional accessory, a Moto Meter This was a more than just a hood ornament on top of the radiator.  It contained a thermometer, positioned so that the driver could see the coolant temperature.  Although this had been very important on earlier models, the ’28 for the first time also had a thermostat in its cooling system.

I recall that the other instrumentation consisted of an ammeter on the dashboard.  This monitored the generator by indicating whether the battery was charging or discharging.  At night, with the headlights on and the engine running, the meter showed “discharging” until the speed got up to 30 mph or so.

My father had his body shop repaint the car, including the concentric pinstripes on the wheels.  We marveled at the thick, heavy steel on the fenders and hood panels.  These wouldn't shatter in a collision!

The front of the passenger compartment was narrow, tapering down to the engine compartment ahead of it.  There was room for the driver and one passenger, each sitting with one knee close to the floor-mounted shift lever.  There was a hole in the floor through which we could see the road moving past.

The rear seat was wider, accommodating three passengers.  There was plenty of headroom by today's standards.  I remember the interior fabric as sort of a musty beige corduroy.

We occasionally took the car out for a drive down a two-lane road.  It ran well enough, though not very fast.  We also displayed it in the showroom and at the Richwood Fair.

And it is to keep those memories alive that I have this portrait of a ’28 Chevy hanging in my kitchen.



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