A life­time of sto­ries were built around this 1966 Chev­elle

Chevy High Performance - - Contents - TEXT & PHO­TOS: Chris Shel­ton

A life­time of sto­ries were built around this 1966 Chev­elle

As some­one who sac­ri­ficed to do so, I al­ways fig­ured that keep­ing your first car is the ul­ti­mate mea­sure of an en­thu­si­ast’s re­solve. I mean, yeah, there are a hand­ful of us who can brag of keep­ing their first car that they bought new. But I al­ways felt like it couldn’t get much bet­ter than that.

Then I met Doug Van­der­schuere. What­ever brag­ging rights I felt I had sud­denly felt pretty weak; more than his first, this car has been in his family since new. And his par­ents didn’t just buy it new; they or­dered it. But not even that com­pares to this next part: a month af­ter they took de­liv­ery of it, they took de­liv­ery of their son, Doug. Yeah, this Doug. I mean, the thing could be a clapped-out Celebrity sedan and I’d still get warm and fuzzy about it just for that story. (I’m sen­ti­men­tal that way.)

As luck would have it, Mr. and Mrs. Van­der­schuere bought the right car. And it was the per­fect car for a newly

minted gear­head in the early ’80s. “I drove friends around town and on road trips for years,” he re­calls, re­lat­ing a story about how he, one of those friends, and the friend’s fa­ther re­built the en­gine over the sum­mer af­ter high school. “I con­tin­ued to drive it oc­ca­sion­ally af­ter I was mar­ried and even brought our first born home from the hos­pi­tal with this Chev­elle.” The ar­rival of a sec­ond kid kind of put the Mal­ibu on the back burner, specif­i­cally his dad’s ma­chine shed. “I knew some­day I would re­store it.”

But un­like most who as­pire to re­store, Doug ac­tu­ally fol­lowed through. “When we started the project the car had been cov­ered in a shed for about 14 years,” he re­veals. “We no­ticed the rust spots had

got­ten worse, the in­te­rior was ru­ined by ro­dents, and a few new dents and scrapes were on the body.” Rather than get it run­ning again, Doug and his dad, Dick, be­gan dis­as­sem­bling the car and la­bel­ing the pieces.

Doug had a good idea of how the car would go back to­gether. “Over the years, I fol­lowed trends in car mag­a­zines and went to an oc­ca­sional car show, but when I first saw Pro Tour­ing cars I knew that was the di­rec­tion I wanted to go,” he says. “The idea of re-en­gi­neer­ing some of the sys­tems while keep­ing the car clean, simple, and el­e­gant cap­ti­vated me.”

Nat­u­rally, the path wasn’t quite as straight­for­ward as Doug an­tic­i­pated. “The most chal­leng­ing part of this project was adapt­ing to the ex­pand­ing scope and level of de­tail that we ended up with,” he ad­mits. “I ini­tially thought it would take three years to com­plete, but once I de­cided to do the LS swap and raise the level of fin­ish I wanted, I had to re­set the time­line sev­eral times.”

Doug re­lin­quished the ad­vanced tasks to the pros at A&M Deluxe Cus­toms. “They were a very big part in bring­ing this car from con­cept to its fi­nal state,” he in­sists. The A&M crew did all the metal restora­tion; a lot of fab­ri­ca­tion, in­clud­ing the dash, fire­wall, and air in­take; and even much of the close­out work like plumbing, assem­bly, and fit-and-fin­ish. So pleased is Doug that he said he’d change only one thing: he’d in­stall elec­tric cutouts in the ex­haust sys­tem to make two modes, “one for nice en­joy­able cruis­ing and an­other loud enough for my fa­ther.”

It’s safe to say that Doug Van­der­schuere has a life­time of sto­ries. Even the re­con­struc­tion part is wo­ven into the

family lore. “Over the six years of the re-en­gi­neer­ing project, I truly en­joyed spend­ing evenings and week­ends with my fa­ther in his shop wrench­ing on it and just talk­ing about things,” he says. Which re­ally gets to the heart of what ac­tu­ally mat­ters: the people. The cars merely bring us to­gether.

And for a car to ac­tu­ally bring a family to­gether, well that’s prob­a­bly more ro­man­tic than any of that other stuff about own­ing a car for a long time. CHP

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