MARION -- "Bub" and Linda Lovelady were enjoying their morning coffee one morning back in 1996 when Linda noticed an old car for sale in Penny Power.
"It was a '31 Chevy coupe and they wanted $3,950 for it ... there was no phone number, just an address," Bub recalled.
"Do you want to go look at it?" his wife asked. "If it's worth anything, it's already gone," Bub observed. They drove over anyway and found a bone-stock, 39,000-mile car.
He made the deal on the spot and arranged to return the next day with the money. "When we came back the next day, there was a guy sitting in the driveway, waiting to see if I showed up," he said.
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"I got in it, started it up and drove it home and put it in my garage," Lovelady said. "I had street rods before, but I had got out of it and I kind of wanted another one, a hot rod," he said.
By early 1997, a complete, frame-off, ground-up rebuild was under way.
The car was in remarkably good condition, having sat in a dry barn for 45 years before the previous owner found it.
Lovelady decided no chopping or channeling was needed. "I was trying to make the old car look like it was built back in the '50s or '60s," Lovelady said.
Lonny Moore did what little body work was needed and painted the car in a jet black base/clearcoat.
Lovelady had new springs made up and added tubular engine and transmission cross members to stiffen the frame. A custom-built Jelly front axle with a 4-inch drop gave the car an aggressive new stance.
For motivation, Lovelady stuck with a basic 350 Chevy V-8 crate motor outfitted with Edelbrock valve covers and carb, a '54 Cadillac air cleaner and a set of block-hugger headers. "I wanted it dependable, with some 'pretties' on it," he said. Kevin Kaiser did the remainder of the dual exhaust system.
A set of custom tubular stainless steel nerf bars from Rock Valley were substituted for the original bumpers and a set of Wheel Vintiques steel wheels, fitted with Coker wide whitewalls tuck up inside the fender wells.
Inside the cabin, Lovelady enlisted Tom Richardson to craft a gray tuck and roll interior, using a wood-framed bench seat from Jerry Park's 1934 Chevy coupe. Park also made the steering column mount, gear shift and turn signal knobs.
Old-fashioned black-faced Stewart Warner gauges fill the custom dash insert and Vintage Air air conditioning is hidden out of view. A Billet Specialties banjo-style wheel tops a '78 GMC Suburban tilt column.
"I had a lot of help from a lot of good guys," said Lovelady, who said the transformation took fully 4 1/2 years. "I would do a little something and then my pocket book had to get well," he noted.
"Next year it will have been on the road 10 years," he said. It's a regular at smaller car shows around the area, but has been to major street rod shows in Springfield, Mo., three times, Kansas City another three times and twice in Oklahoma City.
Lovelady isn't sure how many miles his Chevy coupe has logged, since the odometer quit working years ago.
"It's my car, I get in it and I drive it," he said. "It's never been on a trailer."