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This is the first in a series about area people and their interesting cars.
Cherry red, with pinstripes and a cream interior, Brad Beauchamp's 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle is not just a classic driving machine, but a bridge to his past.
The car was his first. In 1979 when he was 16 his dad purchased the car for $1,700 from a friend he worked with at Dana Corp. At that time the car was pea green. Three paint jobs later the car is now newly painted and will soon have a vintage-style radio installed. The car spends much of its time in the garage, and for a while it lived in Florida at his parents' condo.
The convertible has rear brakes, which Beauchamp said you really have to stomp on to make work, so he is reluctant to have anyone else drive the car.
“I know my two daughters (Emma,18, and Ava, 11) are hoping at some point to drive that car. I'm not ready to let anyone else drive it yet,” Beauchamp said adding, “It's just a car, but it's a nice car.”
When the weather is warm he and his wife like to pile in and take the kids for ice cream or to a drive-in-movie.
“In the 50s and 60s they still made the big luxury cars where you could fit three adults in the front and three in the back. Of course I had a lot more in there,” Beauchamp said.
One of his fondest recollections of the car was when his wife, Leslie, was fooled for a long time into thinking he was the perfect gentleman, always unlocking and opening her car door first. She would then slide over and unlock his door. What she didn't know was the lock on the driver's side was broken so he couldn't have unlocked it.
“It was years and years before she found out the lock was broken on the driver's door. She said “I just thought you were being a really nice guy,” Beauchamp said.
Beauchamp said he has had a few close calls driving the car.
“I had a come-to-Jesus moment one snowy day,” Beauchamp said.
He can remember his first winter when he was driving downtown on West Jefferson Boulevard in the snow when right across from Swinney Park his car spun around twice and ended up by the power plant service entrance. He learned that putting heavy objects in the back of the car during the winter helped to stabilize it.
One of his happier recollections was cruising with the top down with high school friends. Kids would sit in the front and lob Skittles and M&M's over their shoulders while friends riding on the boot - what the top recesses into - would catch them in their mouths. Going to drive-ins with high school friends he discovered you could easily fit three people in the trunk.
The car has no air conditioning, but Beauchamp is said it does have “astro ventilation.” All this amounts to, he said with a grin, is a small round vent in the dashboard that lets in more hot air when you are driving.
Driving a convertible Beauchamp said you tend to notice the things you would miss in a hard top like how the air gets cooler when you leave the city and hit the country roads.
Under the hood the 307 engine is the third one in the car's life The first one Beauchamp admits he blew, as a kid; the second one never worked that well, but the current engine is “brilliant.” The beauty of it is it's just an engine. No computers. Although he isn't handy under the hood, it is a much easier fix. The fuel gauge doesn't work, and the lock on the glove box has no key, so currently he isn't using it. As for mileage, it gets about 16-18 miles per gallon. Every year he likes to do a little something extra to maintain the health and beauty of the car. The next item he would like to update is the boot (cover) and the top.
“It's a fun, fun ride. It keeps me off the streets and out of trouble,” Beauchamp said.