HAYSVILLE — The grin on Ron Provines' face in the photo taken in 1971 said it all: "Life is good." Wearing his cap and gown, about to graduate from South High, with his '66 Chevelle hardtop in the background, he was the picture of youthful exuberance.
Today, with his wife Debbie at his side and another '66 Chevelle on the driveway, the smile is just as convincing.
By the time Provines was a senior, he had worked his way through a '60 Corvair and a '62 Falcon — not exactly exciting cars, to say the least. So when he spotted the '66 Malibu under a tarp, it looked like a real step up, despite its condition.
"I think someone had sugared the original motor. It was a 4-speed car, but the motor was gone," he recalled. He paid $500 for the car and bought a 327 V-8 out of a salvage yard and set to work rebuilding the engine.
"I bought some 11-to-1 compression pistons and a Sig Erson cam. We had good gas back then and it was only 32 cents a gallon," he chuckled.
"It was a teal-colored car. I would take it up on Douglas all the time, until the motor blew up. I was tired of hot-rodding by then and I sold the car.
"Gas was up to 50 cents a gallon," he recalled. "First I bought a Beetle and later I bought a VW bus."
"The joke was that he sold it for peace, love and a VW bug," said Debbie.
The young married couple began a family and Ron opened his own plumbing business, so their cars were a little more ordinary for quite a few years. He really didn't think much about his old Chevelle.
"Actually I just kind of phased out of cars, which was just as well with three kids," he said.
But eventually, he would be drawn back into the car hobby.
"With the start of the internet, he would get on line and he looked and looked and looked, for probably three years before he found the Chevelle," said Debbie.
The car was located in Metamora, Ill., a suburb of Peoria.
Her sister and brother-in-law just happened to live in that area and agreed to go check the car out in person. "He called me and said, 'I think you better come look at this,' " Ron said.
This Chevelle was a genuine Super Sport model, complete with its original 396 cubic inch big block V-8 and 4-speed transmission. Provines believes the car had been converted to drag racing, as it had huge wheel tubs in the rear to accommodate bigger tires.
"It took forever to get it trailered back here," Provines said. He finally found someone who transported to car to Haysville for only $500.
"It was a happy day in the Provines house," said Debbie.
That was a little over six years ago.
"We had the upholstery done first. Scott Downey got it all pretty for us," she said. Meanwhile, Ron, with the help of several neighbors, set to work rebuilding the engine, which got a new cam, crankshaft and push rods. A set of L-88 low compression heads were used, along with a factory 375 horsepower aluminum intake manifold.
New Cragar S/S mag wheels were installed, with the fronts carrying 235x60x15 Goodyear Eagle GT II tires. The rear tires are massive Hoosiers measuring over 12 inches of tread each. The rear suspension is a ladder bar system employing coil-over-shocks and a 12-bolt Chevy rear end fitted with a set of 3.42 gears.
"I've had the transmission built three times," Ron said. "Somebody keeps tearing it up... I'm gonna blame her," he said, indicating Debbie. She pleads innocent, though, noting she's only driven the car a couple or three times.
"The best part in the Chevelle is when you're at a stop sign and you take off," she admitted. The car attracts a lot of attention and Ron points out, "I haven't had one ticket yet — but I have been blessed."
The Provines don't attend many car shows. "This is a driver, not a show car... and I don't like to sit," said Ron. "We just go for joyrides, especially in the summer when the weather is nice," added Debbie.
That probably explains those smiles on their faces.