COAL: 1971 Chevelle Sedan – Easy Come, (Not So) Easy Go


With so many Mustangs this week (and a few more to come), I figured that you, dear CC reader, might appreciate a little change of scenery. So how about something with a bowtie… and more doors?


This Chevelle was found lurking outside the facility of a wholesale auto auction in southern Minnesota. Its latest owner (the third, from what I could tell) had planned to get it roadworthy and give it to his wife. But instead, the wife ended up with a Firebird, and the Malibu ended up rotting under a tree.

Save for the Olds wheels, it was surprisingly original – right down to the seized 307 under the hood. It had been a Minnesota car all its life, spending the first couple of decades in the hands of a older couple, then eventually going to their (son? grandson? I forget) who drove it to work at Valleyfair every day. After 15 years of that, it was sold to the well-intentioned husband from whom I bought it.

Being a Minnesota car, it did have some rust… but it was surprisingly minimal. The interior was in great, almost too-good-to-be-true, condition. And for the low, low price of $700, it could be mine. After realizing that no amount of dickering was going to change that figure, I coughed up the seven Benjamins and took it home.


Upon finding that the original 307 was more of a basket case than it first appeared, we decided to give it the old heave-ho. In its place went a ’72 Chevy 350 with a Quadrajet on top… an engine which itself had quite a history.

According to the numbers, it had started life in a Monte Carlo. We found it under the hood of a late ’70s Chevy pickup back in 2000. It was then transplanted it into the family van, an ’89 G20 with a tired 4.3, where it gave us ten more years of reliable service. When that van finally succumbed to cancer, the motor went on the shelf.

Despite its extended slumber, we had no problem getting it back in fighting shape. (A/C purists, please note that all the absent components were cleanly removed and saved for possible future use.)


As I said before, this one’s interior was in amazing shape. I would have suspected it to be made up of reproduction parts, but who buys (much less makes and sells) repop sedan door panels? Guess it just didn’t see much hard use.


The only other change made to the car (which I never did photograph) was the switch from Oldsmobile sport wheels to Nova-style rally wheels with proper caps and rings – a valid choice for that year and model, and a much more appropriate one to my eye.

The plan had been for Dad to make this his daily driver. But then, along came Trouble.


This is Trouble, our aptly-named Labrador retriever. He arrived at the shop rather unexpectedly, all of a week old and in need of a home. Though we weren’t in the market for a dog at the time, we couldn’t bear to turn him away – so Dad and I agreed to adopt the pup.


But puppies like to chew. And though we couldn’t stand to turn him away, we also couldn’t bear the thought of his little teeth ripping through such a pristine interior. So after only a few days of use, it was already time to sell this car. A craigslist ad was created, and a price of $2000 set to encourage a quick sale.


Within hours we had a buyer on the hook. He and his wife drove all the way from North Dakota to see it. They liked it (he more than she), and handed over the cash just as the sun was setting. But as they went to leave, he suddenly decided to back out of the deal because… wait for it… the dash lights weren’t working! I went out and twisted the dimmer switch a few times, at which point the dash lit up like Times Square.

That should have been the end of it. But the wife’s whispering in the buyer’s ear had apparently had an effect, as he still decided to walk away. That after driving for hours to see it, wasting nearly two hours of my time, and taking an extended test drive that probably cost me $10 worth of gas. Thanks a lot, buddy!

After that, it was dead silence. No one called about the car. Days turned into weeks. The snow was coming, and I didn’t want to keep it through the winter – so I reluctantly began dropping the price. When it finally sold (to a nice young couple who lived near where I’d originally found it, oddly enough), there was a thin layer of snow on the ground – and a likewise thin stack of bills in my pocket. The final price? $1800.

Given the cars I’d end up finding in the months that followed, I don’t regret selling it. But I do regret not sticking to my guns on the price. (The people who bought it actually told me they would have payed more. D’oh!)


Project XJ6, normally seen at this time each Wednesday, will be included as part of this Friday’s Junkyard Outtake – entitled “The Biggest Junkyard Yet”… aka “Don’t Cry For Me, I’m Already Saabing.”