Classic Chevelle draws a lot of attention
MIDDLEBURY — It’s sitting there just a few paces off Quarry Road in front of a small barn, so coy and so alluring.
Its finely sculpted body has beckoned many a lover of the finer things in life to stop and gawk and even make advances.
“Everybody and their brother dropped in,” said Jamie Simpson. “I had seven to 10 people per day asking if I’d sell it.”
The object of all this solicitous attention is a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS.
The sporty muscle car with the tapered front fenders and the rounded beltline has a beautiful black paintjob with a red interior. The long, broad hood covers a beefy 307, eight-cylinder engine.
Simpson, who has owned the car for 14 years, clearly loves it, so he understands why others love it, too. But with the hot rod parked right off the road in a space with enough room for another car or two to pull in, he found that some who stopped were showing the classic automobile a little too much love.
“With it that close to the road people would stop and walk around it and tap on it to see if has Bondo on it; it was like they were doing their own personal check,” Simpson said.
So he put a sign in the windshield with lettering big enough that you could read it from the road: “NOT FOR SALE.” A second sign says, “Private property. Do not touch!”
Who can blame the guy? This is a classic.
Simpson has had cars in his blood from an early age.
“I always loved cars,” he said. “I had Matchboxes of all kinds. I had Transformers, which I turned into vehicles.
“I was always into vehicles. And once I got my license I was really into them.”
As his tastes matured, Simpson gained a definite preference for muscle cars — the class of American-made sports cars from the 1960s and ’70s that featured distinctive, two-door styling and a powerful engine. While a friend developed a liking for super-high performance Ferraris and Lamborghinis, Simpson’s interests stayed squarely in the muscle car category.
“I was infatuated with all muscle cars of all styles,” he said. “For me it’s about the era, what things must have been like back in the ’60s driving around.”
The range of cars he has owned shows that affinity.
“I’ve owned a 1970 Cougar, XR 7 model; a 1972 Chevelle; a ’78 Dodge Ram Charger — that’s an SUV with military axles,” Simpson ticked off. “And I had a ’78 Nova.”
Simpson came across this ’69 Chevelle in a hay barn where someone had it parked for several years with the intention of fixing it up. The interior needed some work, the body required a few repairs and it needed a coat of paint over the green and blue primer.
“I was a flooring installer, and a gentlemen said he’d purchased it a long time ago,” Simpson recalled. “I was infatuated with muscle cars so I wanted to see it.”
It was a beauty, and it ran. Simpson, then 24 years old, paid $1,100 for it and started into to work on restoring the Chevelle to its former grandeur. He fixed the interior himself, and a guy in Vergennes did the bodywork and applied the black paint.
Simpson is able to do some of the work himself on this classic car, which was designed and manufactured in an era when simply being a grease monkey took a weekend mechanic a long way. He said that while growing up in Leicester he was “kind of poor so going to a mechanic was not an option.” So he learned himself how to fix cars.
He said he’s not driving the car right now because it’s not registered and it needs a little brake work. But he’s confident that he can fix the brakes himself.
“On something like that it would be easier (than with a newer model car),” he said. “The older cars are all mechanical,” as opposed to the electric, computerized components in today’s automobiles.
Finding parts for this 45-year-old car is also not a problem, because it is a highly sought after model with plenty of original and aftermarket components available.
As he continues to fine-tune the Chevelle, Simpson says he won’t add a modern radio. As he understands it, the original model came from the factory only with AM radios.
“Once you put in a new, modern unit it ruins the effect on the dashboard,” he said.
A civil engineer by trade, Simpson said he will continue on the Chevelle at his own pace. Although he likes to tinker with his car, he laughs it off when people suggest that he indulge his passion for auto repair as a full-time job.
“Doing it to pay the bills does not appeal to me at all,” he said.
And he repeatedly said the Chevelle in his yard, the one that still draws a few people a week to stop and fantasize, is not for sale. But after being asked a third time, Simpson hedges.
“I would consider it,” he said, and hastily adds, “but the price would have to be right.”
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