Chuck and Glenda Downey are the kind of folks who don't waste any time when they find a car that was meant for them.
About 10 years ago, Chuck spotted a memory on wheels a few miles away from their home: a Surf Green and India Ivory '57 Chevy 210 2-door sedan. "I had one that I bought from my aunt (in 1963) that was the same color and same body style. Of course, it only had a 6 cylinder and three on the column," he said.
"It was a stock little old lady's car with only 36,000 miles on it. Being a kid, I had to change things. This one was so close to it that nostalgia kind of took over," he said. It didn't take him long to negotiate the purchase of his second '57 Chevy sedan.
Glenda, on the other hand, found her prized 1930 Model A Ford Fordor right in their own neighborhood. "I'm a garage sale mama. If I find a car at a garage sale, I've got two boys who can get it home and a husband who can fix anything that's wrong with it," she said. She found her Model A at the garage sale of a neighbor who was moving to Georgia and didn't want to take the car along.
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Sure enough, Chuck was up to the task of doing what little work the restored Briggs-bodied Ford needed. "I learned a lot when she brought home that Model A," he said. "You have to throw out everything you learned on other cars because they are so simple," he said.
The Chevy was already painted, pinstriped and outfitted with a neat aqua and white vinyl diamond-tuck interior when he bought it. Coincidentally, he learned that the previous owner was someone he had talked to on the phone for years during business calls, but had never met face-to-face.
Downey's approach to the Chevy has been to "fix one major thing per year." One year, it was a complete front suspension/disc brake upgrade using a Dutchman Motorsports kit. Another year, it was a Vintage Air air conditioning system for more comfortable road trips.
Last year, it was an engine transplant. "It had a 305 in it when I got it, and it was kind of weak," Downey said. He rectified that by building his own Chevy 383 stroker V-8.
Wanting to keep the engine streetable, Downey kept the compression ratio on the reworked Vortec heads down to 9.5 to 1 so it can run on pump gas.
He added an 800 cfm Edelbrock carburetor atop the Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake, a Jerry Wilson-ground roller cam, a Griffin radiator and Sanderson headers flowing into 2 1/2-inch Magnaflow mufflers, with pipes fabricated by Kevin Kaiser at American Muffler.
Downey's best estimate is that the power plant puts out somewhere around 420 horsepower, which is directed rearward by a Hurst-shifted Muncie 4-speed transmission turning 3.73 gears in the Positraction rear end. The next upgrade will be an overdrive unit to drop engine speed and improve cruising mileage.
The Model A, meanwhile, gets by with its stock 40 horsepower engine, which must haul around 3,200 pounds of automobile. So it gets a head start on road trips and actually gets worse gas mileage than the Chevy.
The two cars really couldn't be much different, but they are exactly the same when it comes to the purpose they serve.
Cars are a family affair with the Downeys, including their grandkids, Courtney and Glenn Cline, who love car shows and cruising in both vehicles. "Those cars are played in," Glenda said. "What we have belongs to our family. What has made this family whole is the memories of old cars... and one good man," she said, indicating her husband.
"Now we have memories we can leave our grandkids... if you leave a memory behind, you leave a million dollars," she said.