Carol's Chevy: A story of two special '67 Caprices
This entry was posted on May 21, 2012.
This is a submission by one of our friends replying to the What's Your Chevy Story post about the '67 Caprice Carol Mansen inherited from her great uncle and the '67 Caprice she has now. Happy reading, and if you have a story about your Chevy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The story of both of these 67 Chevys begins with Carol’s great uncle George Benken who was born the day after Christmas in 1895 in Kentucky and lived most of his life in the Cincinnati area with his wife Virginia. He worked for many years a CPA for General Motors in various accounting and auditing roles. He audited different plants, but primarily worked at the Norwood, Ohio facility. In his last year before retirement, in late 1967, he bought a unique Chevy Caprice. This one was built in St. Louis and was one of only a few that was a two-door coupe rather than the more popular four-door hardtop that most Caprice’s were. It had a black vinyl top and black luxury cloth interior with a split bench seat. Additionally, this car was ordered with the high performance 327 engine and the 3 speed automatic transmission. This was the same set up that was put into the Corvette, which was also built at the St. Louis plant at that time.
Great uncle George had the Caprice for three years but probably didn’t drive it much, as he and Virginia had a lot of traveling to do in retirement. George lived a full life and certainly died a happy man, since he passed away in January 1971 while on a cruise to South America. George’s wife Virginia died in June 1971.
Carol’s dad Carl arranged to buy George’s car from Virginia’s estate and went to Cincinnati in August 1971 to bring the car back to Dallas. At that time Carol was 16 and had just gotten her driver’s license that summer. Carl and Faye made a deal with Carol that she could drive the Chevy if she would be the car pool driver for her sisters and friends that needed to get to Bishop Lynch high school each day.
It was a fairly big car for such a pretty, petite girl, but Carol could get all her car pool buddies in with no problem. Now she says she has always liked big cars since she first got used to driving in the Caprice. In 1973, Carol went off to Trinity University in San Antonio and sister Beverly took over the car pool duties with the Chevy, since Carl would not let Carol have the Chevy in her first year at college. Then in the fall of 1974, Carol got to bring the Chevy down to San Antonio, and it was her car for the rest of her college years.
The Chevy served Carol well in driving all over Texas, only breaking down once on the way to Dallas from San Antonio. By the time Carol and Dave married in May 1976, the Chevy was showing it’s age. The air conditioner quit, the water pump quit, the transmission was dying, and the electric windows broke. Still the car was used for Carol and Dave’s wedding and their honeymoon. It even still had enough power to pull Dave’s dad’s boat up the hill going out of Austin to Lake Travis for a camping honeymoon.
Unfortunately as newlyweds still in college, Carol and Dave didn’t have enough money to fix the Chevy, so they painfully decided to sell it in the summer of 1976. Carol got $975 for the Chevy because it still looked beautiful till the day it had to go. Dave gave his Pontiac to Carol, and he drove a motorcycle until they moved to Dallas in December, 1976. Then Dave found a used Pinto for Carol to drive in Dallas ,and the Chevy was by now long forgotten. At least Carol might have forgotten about it…
By the time Dave had halfway worn out his first Corvette, and Dave and Carol had moved back to Dallas in 1988, it came time to think about rebuilding the old Corvette and in that process, Dave started looking for a '67 Caprice to rebuild for Carol at the same time. This was before the Internet, and although Dave looked all over Dallas for a close duplicate to the Chevy, none could be found. Many years went by and many classic car auto trader books were purchased, but nothing ever showed up. Once the Internet was available, then Dave could search everywhere for a Caprice coupe with the 327. Nothing ever showed up, and if it did, it was junk. Over time, and with Carol’s 50th birthday only a little more than a year away, Dave figured he would have to settle on an Impala coupe, since there were many more of them made in 1967, and then have it made to look as close as possible to the Caprice over a year or so. Still, lots of junk was available, but five good candidates did emerge. One in Pennsylvania, one in Vancouver, one in Alabama, one in Dallas and one in Denver. Dave checked out the one in Denver but the owner decided he wouldn’t sell it. A friend checked out the one in Pennsylvania but it looked too rough. A cousin checked out the one in Dallas but thought we could do better.
Before the Vancouver car could get checked out, an Internet search one Friday showed a '67 Caprice coupe with a 327 and black split bench seat and black vinyl top in Atlanta. This one was vanilla white instead of butternut cream on the outside, but otherwise it was identical. As it turned out, the car was bought by a broker in Atlanta at the Super Chevy car show last spring and was actually in an eBay auction that was to end on the following Monday.
Dave called good friends Matt and Debbie in Atlanta ,and they agreed to go check out the car on Sunday. Debbie meticulously inspected the car, Matt drove it a bit, and they agreed the car looked almost new, so Matt gave the broker some money to pull the car out of the auction. Turns out the car was restored on the outside by a dealer in Tennessee, and as it was a numbers-matching original car with only 30K miles on it; they had driven it to Atlanta to put it in the show. The car actually was from New Mexico where it had lived in a garage until 2002, was sold to someone in North Carolina who did not restore it, and then it was sold it to the Tennessee dealer in 2003. Dave’s Dad paid off the Atlanta broker so Carol wouldn’t find out what was going on, and with the purchase completed, the Chevy was shipped to Denver. It arrived in July and Dave’s Mom and Dad saw it while they were in Denver.
Now, if Carol was to be able to drive this car, and not just keep it for shows, it had to go through an entire mechanical restoration process. Don, Bob and Fritz at Autotek in Denver took everything out and replaced most every part, careful to maintain the entire original look and numbering of the car’s mechanicals.
Ok, so we have had a lot of people involved in this secret project, starting with Matt and Debbie Pearce in Atlanta (the buyers) to Gus Orr in Pennsylvania and Steve Mansen in Dallas (the reject evaluators) to John and Joyce Mansen (the financers) to all the guys at Autotek (the restorers). Then there was help from the insurance agent, the banker, the parts supplier, some folks at work that are also restoring cars and then on to Beverly, Carl and Faye for the true history on the original '67 Chevy.
An unknown piece of history that we wondered about, is that since great uncle George was quite a traveler, did he have a hand in this advertisement for a two-door Caprice?