“I heard about the hurricane… HOW’S THE CHEVY?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words in the past few months. The next line is usually a slightly embarrassed, “Oh, and your kids… how’re your kids… and your wife?”
The Chevy in question is, of course, the Bohren Family’s legendary red & white ’55 Chevy Bel-Air. The one with all the chrome. The one that towed an Airstream trailer full of guitars and children all over the country through the ’80s and into the ’90s. The one that’s approaching 900,000 miles on the odometer. Yes, she’s a mythical beast, and to be truthful, she’s in trouble.
A couple of years ago our Chevy was involved in a hit and run accident, and I foolishly thought I could parlay the insurance money into a minimal restoration of the whole body.
Along the way, however, I met a wonderful guy, a mechanic and auto body man named Tevis DeLaundro, who took the Chevy to his shop in New Orleans East, almost as a mission of mercy. I gave him the remaining insurance money for starters, and over time sold a few treasured instruments and amps to keep the project moving. The last time I saw the Chevy, she was runnin’ good and stopping well (which is significant for any fifties car). She had new upholstery on the seats and door panels, and all the chrome and windows had been removed. Tevis had the body as smooth as glass, primered, and ready for paint. That was August 25th.
On the morning of August 29th, Hurricane Katrina visited New Orleans and left in her wake a disaster of biblical proportions. New Orleans East was one of the hardest-hit areas, and we naturally assumed that the Chevy was lost. And make no mistake, the Chevy has indeed sustained considerable water damage. Tevis, however, once I finally managed to track him down, refused to let it go. His family’s house had ten feet of water in it for two weeks; his wife and kids are evacuated indefinitely to Jackson, Mississippi; most of his tools, equipment and office are ruined; his shop is seriously damaged, and still, he refused to let the Chevy go.
When I said, “My house is ruined and I have no money to spend on the Chevy,” he replied, “You already paid me.”
I said, “That was before the hurricane added all this water and mud into the equation.” He countered, “But I made a promise.”
I said, “I’m letting you off the hook.” He got frustrated and replied, “That car can be fixed!”
Tevis told me he had a vision. “I see that shiny red & white 1955 Bel Air driving out of the muddy ruins of New Orleans East,” he said with a faraway look in his eyes, and I couldn’t help but think of the mighty Phoenix rising from the ashes, or Pegasus unfolding his powerful wings. And I knew there was nothing I could do to stop him.
Now it’s going on three years since Hurricane Katrina brought her winds and the levees failed, flooding 80% of the city. Tevis is still living in Mississippi and comes to New Orleans only occasionally. The Chevy has had to take a back seat to our home repairs, and Tevis is occupied with sorting out the next chapter of his own life. We have a feeling that the restoration project is very likely out of our reach. In any event, there are many decisions to be considered. We promise to keep you posted on any new developments.
Stay tuned . . . And thanks for your support.