My brother Bill loves to restore cars and a few years ago he took on the project of restoring my grandfather’s 1929 Chevrolet. I’m not surprised by his passion, since we grew up in Detroit and our parents worked in the auto industry. Bill got a technical degree in engineering and followed my father’s footsteps by working at Chrysler, but my mother and many of her siblings worked for GM. My brother’s goal was to have the Chevy ready for the Detroit area car circuit this year when General Motors launched its 100 year celebration of the first Chevrolet.
Bill didn’t quite reach his goal – it was difficult to get many of the parts he needed to replace. However he did get the engine purring again and the chassis rebuilt and with some help from my other brother Gilbert, he started driving it that way to local car shows, with a photo display of the new auto from the family archives. It was a big hit. The public flocked around his exhibit and the family had fun getting pictures taken driving the sparkling new chassis around the neighborhood. He’s talked to many reporters and finally a story appeared last month in Tech Center News with an interview with both brothers. On a trip home last month, I helped him submit a photo and story to a local newspaper. Who knew that his passion for cars – a common pastime in the Motor City—would make him such a big hit with other car lovers.
The ’29 Chevy was purchased new by my Uncle Joseph Lehotan while an employee of General Motors. He retired after about 35 years. My brother has a great photo of my Uncle Joe in front of the car with my mother, my Aunt Amelia and my Uncle John – all GM employees. Those four relatives together represented about 130 years of devotion to the building of General Motors products.
A little research showed that Uncle Joe paid a total of more than $600 for the car from a Detroit area dealership and borrowed $509.40 on a chattel mortgage to afford it. During the depression, my uncle sold the car to his father Joseph Sr., who worked with former United Mine Workers America president John L. Lewis in East St. Louis, Illinois. The car was eventually brought back to Michigan when my grandparents bought and relocated to the Vassar family farm in 1935, one of many Slovak families to settle in that area. For the next 15 years, the Chevy was the family’s main car and was also later used as a utility vehicle on the farm until it was finally stored in the mid-50s. When my Uncle Andrew passed away several years ago, Bill bought it from the estate with the intention of restoring it.
Bill is proud to be sharing both his family’s long, devoted work history with General Motors and 82 years of family ownership and caring for their 1929 Chevrolet. How great that often recognition comes just from pursuing the things we love most!