Richard Hermann learned to drive at the wheel of his father’s 1951 Chevrolet. He was comfortable with the car and it provided him with transportation through his years at Round Lake High School in Illinois.
Upon graduation he landed a job in Deerfield, a town about 30 miles away. By the fall of 1964, Hermann had saved enough money to acquire a car of his own. H paid a visit to the Rockenbach Chevrolet dealership in Grays Lake, Ill., where he found a used car, a low-mileage 1958 Chevrolet Del Ray four-door sedan. The seven-year-old, six-cylinder car had a $275 price tag.
“I drove the heck out of that car,” Hermann recalls of his 60-mile daily commute. By late 1965 the engine in the Del Ray was beginning to burn more than a little oil.
Hermann returned to the Rockenbach dealership and received $275 for his Chevrolet on a trade for another car. He was drafted into the military in January 1966 and returned home to civilian life in late 1967. From that point on several cars came in and out of his life, but he never forgot that 1958 Chevrolet.
Forty years passed before Hermann retired in July 2007. As his retirement was approaching, Hermann casually began looking for an antique car to keep him occupied. “I hadn’t really made up my mind what kind of car or if I was really going to do it,” he says.
In September 2007, Hermann and his wife were strolling through an outdoor antique show with about 70 vendors. On the periphery of the show were a few antique cars for sale, including a 1958 Chevrolet that arrested Hermann’s attention.
“I wasn’t there for the cars,” Hermann says, “when I saw the 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne two-door I walked away, but I went back three times.”
It wasn’t exactly like his first 1958 Chevrolet but it did share many similarities. It was black and it rekindled memories of long ago, including days when he was dating the girl that would become his wife.
On the third walk over to the Chevrolet Hermann introduced himself to the owner, who invited him to get in the car. Hermann settled on the new cloth seat upholstery behind the familiar two-spoke steering wheel and admired the instrument panel designed with its strong horizontal theme. The speedometer showed speeds up to 120 mph.
The owner twisted the ignition key and with a two-barrel carburetor feeding fuel to the 283-cubic-inch V-8 engine it fired up with a satisfying rumble. “When I heard the dual exhausts, I fell in love all over again,” Hermann says.
Hermann discovered that the handsome Chevrolet was totally restored in the early 1990s by two owners who did the work themselves. “I put about $2,000 more into it to correct the rust on the frame and several spots on the surface,” he says.
Research revealed that the original owner of the car was a farmer in Texas. That location may have helped keep the rust monster at bay. When new, the car had a base price of $2,343. Hermann reports that his 1958 Chevrolet has always been painted black.
The Chevrolet is equipped with power disc brakes but does not have an air conditioner. Even without air conditioning the occupants of the car are kept comfortable by the management of the flow of fresh air. “I had forgotten about the vents under the dashboard,” Hermann says. Comfort is achieved with fresh air entering the cabin at knee level from those vents and the wing vent windows directing air into the cabin at shoulder level.
Oversize tires support the 3,407-pound Biscayne that rides on a 117.5-inch wheelbase. “It rides real good,” Hermann says, “It’s a big tank of a car. It’s a time machine and at highway speeds it’s smooth as glass.”
Since he has owned the 1958 Chevrolet, Hermann says he has driven it from Illinois to Florida many times. Now that he is retired, Hermann and his wife enjoy cruising to car shows together in a car similar to the one they dated in.
“For 50 years old it looks great inside and out,” Hermann says.
For your car to become the subject of the Classic Classics column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. Only photos of good quality will be considered. No customs or hotrods accepted.
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009