For a time when my dad was between 8 and 15 years old he lived in a small town in Northeast Indiana called Lagrange. That is where his obsession with cars started and where he would become what the car folks call a “gearhead”. The obsession may have started before, but in Lagrange is where my Grandpa Hubner opened his own car dealership: Hubner Chevrolet.
A little something about my grandpa Hubner. Elwood Augustus, or EA as he was known, was a man that didn’t care for authority. This led to him jumping from job to job quite often, much to my grandma Hubner’s chagrin. Now don’t take this to mean that he didn’t like to work. He was a hell of a worker. Prior to the dealership he owned his own construction supply company. It was like a Lowes or Home Depot, except it was just one guy unloading 100 lb bags of cement by hand off the back of rail cars, along with various pieces of lumber, boxes of nails, bolts, and other masonry supplies. It didn’t last long(and it led to him ultimately having to have back surgery), which then opened up the opportunity for him to own his own car dealership, again to my grandma’s chagrin(but my dad’s glee.)
With your dad having his own dealership in Smallville, USA, this gives way to opportunity and access to a bevy of mechanical trouble. My dad would tell me about all the amazing cars my grandpa would drive home for the weekends, and how he’d let my dad drive said cars. Mind you, my dad was only 13 or 14 years old at the time. This was the early 60s, when you could still smoke on airplanes and you could smoke while you were pregnant. Things were still a little lax back then. My dad also told me that he had three speeding tickets by the time he was 15….a whole year before he was old enough to have a license. I guess you could say he developed a lead foot at an early age(I can attest to it, as I too developed one…heredity I suppose.) Though he never got another ticket(at least until he was 35 years old), he never lost his taste for speed. I can remember many times going into town with him in our 1977 Trans Am Firebird with the 350 V8, a bottle of Strohs straddled between his legs and the speedometer clocking over 90 miles an hour. I could feel my heart tickling my tonsils as it made its way up into my throat. It was both the most thrilling feeling and the most horrifying. As he let up on the gas before getting into the city limits I felt both relief and disappointment.
In 1961 my grandpa got on the lot his very first Chevrolet Corvette. Up to this point my dad had only read about the Corvette in various car zines he’d collect. But now there was one on his dad’s lot. My grandpa even brought it home for my dad to check out, though this one was off limits for my dad to get behind the wheel of. One thing that Chevy did was distribute these promotional 45s to various dealership owners to give out to potential customers. Sounds Of Corvette has various Chevy suits as well as the Corvette designers talking up the 1961 model like it was the car of the future(in some ways it was.) But what’s truly amazing about this little 45 is the sound of that beautiful and monstrous V8 at full throttle. If you turn up those speakers enough you’d swear you were under the hood of this cherry red beauty as the gas pedal is crushing floorboards. It’s one thing to listen to AC/DCs High Voltage at maximum volume, but to hear a 1961 Chevy Corvette revving at 4800 RPMs it’s truly an ear-shattering experience.
A few years ago my parents came over for dinner. When my dad came in he handed me this beat up old 45. He’d kept this thing from the time he was 15 years old. He wanted me to clean it up and play it through my system. He figured my son would get a kick out of it. Turns out it didn’t do much for my son, but it made an impression on me. Not only the brilliance of that engine pouring out of my Pioneer speakers, but the brilliance of the marketing. What a way to sell their car. Put it purring like a hell cat in prospective buyers home stereo systems. It was genius.
How well did it work? I can’t say for sure, though I can say it worked on my dad. He ended up owning two Corvettes over the last 30 years. In 1987 he bought a dark brown 1974 convertible Corvette Stingray. He had it for 10 years before selling it. Then in 2004 he bought a 1998 Corvette. Both were magnificent automotive creatures, and in both my dad took me for a drive or two that ended up with me once again swallowing my heart back down into my chest.