Home Again 40 Years Later
Roger Day’s 1969 COPO Chevelle
July, 1969 KAN GM Plant COPO Chevelle . . .
My '69 COPO Chevelle was manufactured by GM “KAN” facility located in Kansas City Missouri, assembled near the end of the ’69 model year during the third week of July. The car was ordered via the COPO process (perhaps through Bill Allen Chevrolet).
Update or replace my trusty ’66 SS 396 Chevelle . . .
In the summer of 1969, I considered a motor update for my trusty old '66 SS 396 Chevelle. I put over 105K miles on it since new - never any problems but signs of wear (puffed blue smoke between shifts) were evident. I stopped by Bill Allen’s parts department mid July '69 and priced out a 427 crate motor. Recently paid off the '66 and an update made sense to me! A crate motor was the way to go - the counter man suggested a few other “improvements” (HD 4 speed tranny, clutch, pressure plate and 4.10 posi track unit). As the $$ mounted up, my plans began to fade. . .
|My aging ’66 SS396 Chevelle, problem solved ...|
Aug 19, 1969 – on my way to work around 8AM, a bright orange Chevelle with black hood stripes rolling onto the 'showcase' section of Bill Allen's lot caught my eye. The salesman didn’t waste any time - he hit the key points about performance mods. Shortly afterwards, I drove on to work in a brand new HOT 1969 COPO 427CI 450HP Chevelle!
I enjoyed the car briefly and then, my first “race” . . .
I was never left behind at a streetlight and on the two occasions I raced locally and was unbeaten. The first “race” with John C (a former PHS classmate) was in early Dec 1969 out on Highway 33 near Plattsburg – he had a hot 396CI/350HP Chevy Nova. John smoked his tires while I screamed to the turnaround. It was a hollow victory - my motor scuffed a cylinder wall – it was replaced under GM warranty at Bill Allen’s shop days later. While there, they damaged the hood, top and deck lid and just patched it up without telling me. I discovered their botched repair a few weeks later when the fresh paint started cracking and another shop visit for a repaint on the hood, top and deck lid followed.
Memorial Day weekend, May of 1970 . . .
I stopped by J Fancher’s home place (an underclass school buddy) in Trimble Missouri for an impromptu Memorial Day weekend event. Several other Plattsburg locals with friends from out of town were there as well. We had a bonfire going just behind his parent’s house, convenient logs near the fire and ice cold drinks (thanks to a small cattle tank filled with ice). I met a pretty young girl (Karen B) from Gallatin at the party - she was there with mutual friends (Steve W and Jill N). I took her home afterwards - we talked until 4:30AM the next morning. Two weeks later we were engaged to be married - just celebrated our 40th anniversary a while back and we think it's going to work out!
Summer of 1970, the other Race . . .
The other race was just outside Karen B's hometown of Gallatin, MO in the summer of 1970 shortly after we were engaged. She and a lifelong friend (Janel R) were riding around with me that night when we were “invited” to race Ben H (an underclassman to Karen & Janel) in his strong running 440 six pack Challenger. Junior B set it up on Highway 13 between Gallatin and Hamilton. Ben smoked his tires - I eased off the line and then hammered it to the turnaround. Flashing red lights in the distance headed our way halted a rematch . . .
That's exactly how it happened back in 1969 and 1970 – then, in the fall of 2008 . . .
My wife and I often talk about our chance meeting at Fancher's, our “summer romance” and the Monaco Orange '69 Chevelle which was so much a part of that summer. We were having one of those conversations in October ’08 talking about times past. I embarked on an “all out, do or die” effort to either find the car or chase it to ground. In Dec ’09, I tracked down and talked to the mid ‘80s owner of the car. During our conversation, he talked about a subsequent owner who contacted him in 2005 about the car. The 80’s owner knew all about the car’s heritage and told me the Dick Harrell emblem on the trunk lid had been removed the day he sold the car at auction.
|What are the chances - I searched (unsuccessfully) . . .|
In Dec ’08, I posted an inquiry on the chevelles.com and then followed up with another on yenko.net. I posted photo shopped pictures of how the car looked in ‘69 and copies of my docs (minus key details). It started a shark feeding frenzy in the muscle car community – they quickly picked up on the posts and began to ask very specific questions about my car, the documents and a few individuals pressed me for the missing details and the VIN number.
|Many offers of help . . .|
“Help” offers came in over the next several months - nothing meaningful came from them. From the mid 1980's owner, bits and pieces of information began to fall into place. I tracked it to a subsequent owner and was told that it was "sold for scrap and crushed a couple of years ago". My spirits were crushed when I heard that report. A dead end - a few days later I was back at it – trying to find where it had been crushed.
My enthusiasm hit the floor - I was about ready to give up (again) but . . .
Over the past 12 years, I had “given up” several times only to pick it up and start again. That's exactly what happened in late Feb 2009 - something inside me just wouldn't let go - I just couldn't quit. So, I started again - went back to the farm contact (where it sat for years) and continued to ask questions. Tracked down and talked to the tow company that hauled it - couldn’t locate any scrap yard in the area that could verify it had been crushed. Loose ends remained -it just wasn’t finished . . .
On May 2, 2009, I received an intriguing email . . .
It was from a guy on the East coast totally unknown by me - a riveting one liner - "Roger, by chance was your cars VIN 136397K470099? Dan". Was it a scam or perhaps was my car really out there? Dan's e-mail rekindled my fire - it was the spark I needed! I regained my focus - up every morning at 4:30AM - going back over clues - looking for anything I may have missed. I responded to Dan a couple of times and then, in late July I e-mailed him one last time - no response. I began tracking Dan via old posts and e-mails hopeful that I could locate his phone number to call him. . .
July 31, 2009 - Success, I located “D Palchanes” (more than one, in fact) . . .
Left Voice Mail’s on each of at least four Dan Palchanes phones in the Northeast US that day. Later that evening my phone rang and it was the same “Dan” who had e-mailed me. After a brief exchange, he asked – “Was that your VIN”? I affirmed and added that I was sure my car had been crushed based upon research. I followed up with a question asking where he found the VIN. After a long pause, Dan responded, “I think it was on e-Bay or Racing junk or Autotrader or maybe Craigslist - on the West Coast - that's it, San Francisco or Los Angeles or maybe San Diego”. After a few additional words, I thanked Dan for calling me back. The fire was lit but would I be able to find the owner who posted the VIN or had my chance to find the car just gone down the proverbial drain? I realized Dan had been following my posts from the very beginning but never made the connection with his online moniker. He knew all about my car and documents from my posts. I knew nothing about Dan or his involvement in the muscle car community. Fact is, I knew nothing about finding old muscle cars compared to “veteran trackers” in the muscle car restoration business .
It was inactive but I kept on, hopeful the seller might relist. He did and on Aug 12th shortly after 6AM, I found his (Aug 11th) relist. Several e-mails to the seller later, he responded and by mid afternoon, I connected with Jon W via phone. We agreed to meet the next morning at 7:30AM at the storage rental where the car was stored.
Aug 12, 2009, 3:00PM – is it my old ’69 Chevelle – a last minute flight to Chicago . . .
After the information exchange around 3:00PM on Aug 12th, I called Karen to bring her up to speed. She already knew I had found the ad early that morning and couldn’t wait to hear any news. I started explaining about the pending trip and she interrupted, “meet me at the house, I’m leaving work now”. I left work to go home immediately, packed for the overnight trip to Chicago and a short while later, we headed for the airport. Nothing certain at this point, but I just had to make the trip – I had to know for sure if this was my old Chevelle or not . . .
August 12, 2009, 10:00PM – on to Ottawa via rent car . . .
Arrived in Chicago about 10PM, picked up the rental car and headed for Ottawa. It was about a 2 hour drive and I was fortunate to find a room for the remainder of the night. I was up at 5:00AM the next morning, pacing the floor and trying to stay calm. I needed a place to store the car (if it was authentic) so I started searching via the internet (love motel wireless access about now). First call I made had space available but politely said “no” to space for a non-running vehicle. Next call, I explained my urgent need for a space to store the car in which my wife and I had our first date over 40 years ago and that it wasn’t running right now. The agent just couldn’t say no and they were running a special on the first month’s rent for just $1.00 – that’s right one buck. At 7:15AM sharp (Thursday Aug 13, 2009), I was waiting for the seller at the storage unit in Ottawa. I noticed as I drove in, the phone number was the same as my space reservation – everything was falling into place. Jon arrived at 7:30AM right on the dot - we exchanged pleasantries and a few minutes later he was opening the door to the storage unit.
August 13, 2009, 7:30AM - A mid ‘80’s Missouri Inspection Sticker . . .
|As the door opened, a yellow inspection sticker on the driver side of the windshield caught my eye. As I moved in to examine, my heart raced – it was a mid 80’s Missouri inspection sticker. I asked Jon if he had any documentation to go with the car and he pulled out a clear Illinois title along with a Missouri DMV marked envelope. Inside the envelope was an old (owner copy) title application – it was the same mid ’80’s Missouri owner to whom I had tracked the car in December 2008. It all matched – it was the same as the VIN tag on the car. Money changed hands, papers were signed and I took ownership (again) of my old '69 Chevelle. My rental space was in the same unit, just two spaces down from the Jon’s – he helped me push it from his space to mine. During the flight home, memories came flooding back from ’69 and ’70 - difficult to stay calm – I looked at the pictures I took while there over and over – my ‘Orange” Chevelle had been painted white . . .|
August 14, 2009, 12 Noon - 1,900 mile Road trip – whew . . .
I was at work early Friday morning, met with my boss and explained the situation. Called a friend (Ken H) from work to see if could accompany me on a road trip and together, we headed for Ottawa, IL shortly after noon that Friday. We drove straight through, spending a very short night (from 3AM to about 7AM) about 60 miles South of Ottawa. After coffee and a light breakfast on Aug 15th, we headed to Ottawa and the storage unit. After loading the car, I settled up at the front office ($1.00 total cost) and we started for home. Every time we stopped for gas, someone would walk up and ask about the “old SS Chevelle”. We spent the night in Springfield MO, just too tired to go any further that day. Aug 16, 2009, arrived back home in Texas - whew -over 1,900 miles up and back - sure good to be home and with our old Chevelle in the rear view mirror!
March, 2010 - It’s been over a year since I tracked down and bought back our old Chevelle . . .
I’ve searched for and bought needed NOS GM parts all over the US during that time – started the day after it came home. Trying to find a good body/paint shop was a real challenge. I know there are many good, reputable shops out there but it’s difficult to work through the short list after you narrow them down. Todd L contacted me in late Jan 2010 inquiring about a few details on my car and how I tracked it down. We struck up a friendship right off the bat and after a few e-mails talked on the phone from time to time. As our friendship grew, Todd asked about my plans for restoration and I openly shared with him. Todd suggested that I visit a shop he trusted with his “special cars” and it sounded good to me. Karen and I met with Todd, Jeff and Darren (Premier Body and Paint LC) in May 2010 while on the way to a HS graduation celebration in Osage Beach for Karen’s nephew (Michael L).
May, 2010 - We immediately took a liking to the boys at Premier Body and Paint . . .
|Jeff and Darren – we were comfortable right away, same as with Todd. We talked a bit – it was as if wehad always known them and then they showed us a pristine looking ‘70 Chevelle LS6. It was in the final stages of a frame off restoration and it looked absolutely breath taking! They later turned it over to Todd (Platinum Muscle Cars) for his final touch on detailing and the end result is nothing short of spectacular! Needless to say, we finalized our decision on where our “special” Chevelle would go for frame, body and paint that same day. Jeff and Darren couldn’t start until late August but we were OK with that.|
August 31, 2010 – let’s get the project started . .
Karen and I headed for Buffalo with a precious trailer cargo in tow! It was loaded with NOS GM stuff along with our “special” Chevelle in need of the touch from experienced hands – Jeff, Darren and Tim (Darren’s younger brother). The trip up was relatively uneventful – did have to change out a tire on the trailer when it decided to let go. No harm done, just a bit of a delay to do the work and get back on the road again. We arrived at the shop early Saturday morning and quickly unloaded our cargo.
Jeff, Darren and Tim - doing what they love to do . . .
Over the next 3 months, the boys did their part of the project - tearing my Chevelle right down to the frame. They took it completely apart – sandblasted the frame, body and related components, cut out the rusted body panels and replaced them with the NOS GM parts. I spent countless hours tracking down and buying those parts during the past year. Then, reconstruction -taking great pains to “get it right” and boy, did they get the job done! Next came the primer coats and lots of block sanding, base coats, clear coats – again, their goal was to get it right and their efforts clearly paid off.
December 1, 2010, progress – lookin’ GOOD . . .
Frame, body and paint work are complete – thanks to the boys at Premier Body and Paint LC in Buffalo, Missouri! It’s now almost years end (Dec 21, 2010), just over 16 months since we brought the car home. There are now more “spectacular results” from the boys in Buffalo Missouri of which, Karen and I are very well pleased. We started the detailing portion of project back in Texas during December 2010 – piece by piece – everything going back together just as it was when it rolled off the line at GM’s Kansas City plant.
My first “race” back in the winter of 1969 – Highway 33, Plattsburg MO. . .
December 2010, I decided to track down John C to find out what’s happened with him during the past 40 years. Turns out, he and his wife still live in Plattsburg. He works with the same company with whom he started right after high school. It was an “out of the blue” phone call for John – over 40 years since we last talked. Sure brought back old memories – we talked about our race out on Hwy 33 that Nov/Dec ’69 night. It was like it happened just yesterday. He remembered the orange Chevelle, our race and the ‘knock’ from my motor after the race. I “fessed up” about my “stock V8” and gave John the “rest of the story” (COPO/heritage). We had a good visit . . .
Another memorable “race” back in the summer of 1970 – Highway 13, Gallatin MO . . .
December 2010, I tracked Ben H down to his mom’s place in Gallatin through long time friends (Frank and Kay W) who still live in the area. Turns out Ben was visiting his mom (he lives in Georgia now) and was there for a few days – what luck! Ben remembered the “good old days” and our brief 1970 encounter. When we talked, he remembered that he “never lost a race” in his Challenger. I didn’t push the point with Ben – after all, it was over 40 years ago and lots of water under the bridge since then. Later that same day, Frank called to tell me about his conversation with Ben and mentioned Ben recounting that “his Challenger didn’t win one race with an Orange Chevelle after all” - we had a good laugh about that call. I spoke to Ben the next day and we had a good laugh as well. Didn’t really matter to Ben or me on who won the race – it was just good to finally hook up with Ben again and talk about old times . . .
Jan 6, 2011 – A Mega millions Lotto Winner in North Idaho . . .
I wonder if an old friend, Chris F, may have been the one who cashed in on the Mega Millions lottery in Idaho? Just had to call – Karen and our two daughters spent five years in Coeur D’ Alene back in the late ‘70’s and early 80’s. We became friends with Chris (his wife, Glenna) and Otis W (his wife Carol) through our church. Otis was in the auto body repair business and Chris was retired from GM with many years of service. Chris, Glenna, Otis and Carol were over for the evening during the winter of ’78 and we were talking about old cars. Chris was into the 50’s ~ 60’s Chevies and in the process of building a beautiful ’57 Chevy 2 door post (California car). When I told him about my 427 Chevelle, he commented – “I don’t believe GM built any 427 Chevelles in ‘69”. I retrieved my documents for Chris and after a few minutes he responded - “that’s new to me – guess they did after all”. When I called Chris last evening, he laughed when I asked about the lotto – didn’t even buy a ticket! We talked quite a while and he asked about progress on the Chevelle. We reminisced about that December ’78 evening - he still remembers looking over my documents - hopeful he will have a chance to see the finished car that goes with them .
April 8, 2011 – 2 hours driving time Southeast from my place . . .
I met James L back in 2009 while searching for parts. Turns out, the orange 69 Chevelle I photo shopped back in Dec ‘08 was a car James restored. Didn’t connect with him at the time but did when I later contacted him about his Craigs List add for parts. James has been very helpful on my project – coming up with hard to find original GM parts – tips on “how to” each time I’ve called –he’s one of the “good guys” I’ve met on my quest. Arrived early Saturday morning at James’s place – he lined up a good glass man (Lonnie D) to set the glass. Lonnie arrived around 8AM and 12 hours later (after 5 trips for parts & tools) $$$ changed hands - we were done.
April 30, 2011 – Circa ‘69 Missouri plates back on the bumper . . .
During June of 2010, a “Cousin’s reunion” near Hot Springs Arkansas and what a GREAT time! I bored Karen’s family with details about our project and mentioned my hopes to find a vintage ’69 MO Plate for the car. D.Filley, husband of Karen’s cousin took up the challenge – turns out, he wasn’t bored. D. grew up and was graduated from HS at Cameron, MO where his folks owned and operated Filley’s Antiques for many years. D. recently delivered on his offer to help when he came down for the annual ‘Pate Swap meet’ at Texas Motor Speedway. His favorite ride is a beautiful ’34 Ford Roadster – he brought along a really nice Aug ’69 MO plate. SPECIAL THANKS to Mr. Filley . . .
Memorial Day weekend, 2011 . . .
The source of a persistent oil leak at the back of the block is finally isolated – a galley plug that was very tight but didn’t seal. A bit of Teflon tape did the trick – had it buttoned up by lunch and back together. Finally, it’s time for a test run and then a ‘day 2’ trip around the block with Karen . . . It was 41 years ago this weekend that I took her home in this very same car – our ‘first date’. It’s only a few days until we leave for Chevell-Abration 2011 and not a day too soon to finally have the car back on the road.
Click the video below to watch:
June 7, 2011, we left for Chevell-Abration 2011 bright and early
Tuesday morning. Twelve hours later, we were at the Best Western in Goodlettsville, TN. Shortly afterwards, we were talking to new friends in the parking lot. It was great to be back again but this time we had a car to show, hopeful that it would be well received. It was hotter than blue blazes but that didn’t matter –hundreds of beautiful Chevelles were parked on the grassy field at Moss-Wright Park where everyone could look them over. The cars are “participant judged” by year and by class (stock or modified). I was just happy to be there and had no expectations beyond the chance to simply show my car. I was surprised Saturday afternoon when Chuck Hanson announced my name as one of the “Top three” in the ’69 Stock category. A few minutes later, Chuck explained the criteria for “Peoples Choice” or what some call “Best of Show” and then he called my name again. I was speechless – a rush of memories from the ‘70’s came flooding back mixed in with more recent memories from my long search, find and restore mission. I fumbled with the mic and failed miserably to convey my appreciation. Since December 2008, I have received encouragement from 100’s of ACES members and others – always positive and always pushing me to keep going. Without their encouragement, I simply would not have made it. A sincere and heartfelt THANKS goes out to them all and especially to that beautiful young woman I met on Memorial Day, 1970 and my beautiful wife for over 40 years. Answered prayer, absolutely – simply a miracle that I found my old Chevelle and was able to bring it back again – the truth, nothing more and nothing less . ..
Next stop, going to Kansas City for the ACES Regional, Sept 23 ~ 24, 2011 . . ..
THE GANG from Louisiana – they whip up the best Cajun Jambalaya you ever tasted – $$ proceeds go to charity!!
Update: Nov. 2011
|Sept 22, 2011, We left for MAC Regional in Olathe, KS bright and early Thursday morning - nine hours later wewere sitting in the parking lot of the Great Mall of the Great Plains. Next morning, I unloaded the Chevelle, dusted it off, warmed up the motor and made my way to the event location. Wasn’t long before cars started streaming in and by lunch time the lot was crowded with a bunch of beautiful Chevelles!! Friday evening, several participated in the cruise that had been arranged. Had a GREAT time – Frank & Kay Woodruff, Karen’s childhood friends from Gallatin rode along. Saturday morning, up early for fuel and then parked in my assigned spot. A steady stream of visitors and participants started looking over the field. Many who came by were familiar with Dick Harrell from back in the day – several ‘gearheads’ commented about visiting his shop. Friends and family came up for the show Friday and Saturday - the clock turned back for over 40 years. Things wrapped up mid afternoon,|
the awards were handed out & we were honored to receive one of the three “TOP THREE ‘69” awards!! The event was more than just the award for Karen & me – it was "homecoming" for the old Chevelle, a special time with family & friends sharing memories from days gone by. They were almost as excited as we were, having witnessed races or ridden in by my niece Shirley Parsons and Karen’s friend Janel Culver or for Jim Fancher, head under the hood like old times . . .
|Nov 16, 2011 we were up bright and early, headed for MCACN in Rosemont, IL . . .|
This would be our first ever ‘Muscle Car’ event and we were more than a little unsure of the outcome. Made it past Saint Louis the first day and then finished the trip early the next afternoon. Lots of cars were already unloading and moving into the Donald E. Stephens Convention center when we arrived. We settled into our hotel room right across the street and started checking things out. Met Grady Burch at the staging location and together with three other attendees, walked across the street to check in. We were in luck – after a brief conversation with Bob Ashton, were given the green light to move in. Just couldn’t believe how many GREAT muscle cars were there. We were in the “COPO Invitational” section with Grady Burch’s un-restored COPO Chevelle and Albert Galdi’s restored Fathom Green COPO Chevelle. How could it get any better? Our car was entered for the “Concours Day 2” judging event - we were a bit apprehensive but held out hope that our Chevelle would do OK.
We did better than OK – the judges spent what seem like hours looking over, under, inside and outside our car. They asked questions, consulted together, went back to the car for more inspection, shined their ‘special’ flashlights on various parts and then tallied the results. Then they came over to review the results with us pointing out specific items for which points were deducted. I simply couldn’t believe the final tally, 994 out of 1,000 possible points - it was FANTASTIC – we made it - GOLD! We met many friends and made several new ones during the weekend event. Our trip back home went by quickly as we recounted the weekend happenings - what a GREAT time we had in Rosemont!
AT A GLANCE - 1969 COPO 427 CI/450HP Chevelle
Owners: Roger and Karen Day, Double Oak. Texas
Bought new August 19, 1969 from Bill Allen Chevrolet, Kansas City, MO
Repurchased: Aug 13, 2009 Ottawa, IL needing full restoration
Restored by: the Days, Premier Body and Paint, LLC – Buffalo MO, and friends
Engine: L72 427 (PN correct, Cast Date Correct, Component Correct)
Transmission: Turbo Hydro 400, CX
Differential: 4:10 PosiTrac 12-bolt, KQ
Suspension: Factory heavy duty (F41), power disc brakes front, drum rear
Body: special paint Monaco Orange (available only on SS and COPO)
Interior; Parchment vinyl bench seat, AM radio, Column shift
Wheels: 14x7 SS-type “YA” 5 Spoke
Tires: F70-14 Goodyear Polyglas
We had a leisurely trip back home from Chicago, stopping along the way in Columbia MO overnight, visiting with Karen’s childhood friends.
Owners: Roger and Karen Day, North Texas
May 21, 1966: Bought my first NEW car, a 1966 Chevelle SS 396 - drove over 105,000 miles in 3 years
Aug 19, 1969: Traded my aging '66 Chevelle for the NEW '69 COPO at Bill Allen Chevrolet, Kansas City, MO
Oct 19, 1970: Terminal engine problems, traded it for a NEW 1970 Camaro RS
Aug 13, 2009: Tracked it down/bought it back near Ottawa, IL needing full restoration
June 6, 2011: Restore complete by Premier Body and Paint, LLC - Buffalo MO, the Days and friends
Quick Specs - 1969 COPO 427 CI/450HP Chevelle
Engine: L72 427 (PN correct, Cast Date Correct, Component Correct)
Transmission: Turbo Hydro 400, CX
Differential: 4:10 PosiTrac 12-bolt, KQ
Suspension: Factory heavy duty (F41), power disc brakes front - drum rear
Body: Special paint Monaco Orange (available only on SS and COPO)
Interior: Parchment vinyl bench seat, AM radio, Column shift
Wheels: 14x7 SS-type "YA" 5 Spoke
Tires: F70-14 Goodyear Polyglas
ACES Midwest Regional 2011 - "Top 3 1969"
ACES National Chevell-abration 2011 - "Top 3 1969, stock"
ACES National Chevell-abration 2011 - "Peoples Choice"
MCACN COPO Invitational 2011 - "Concours Day 2" GOLD
2012 Goodguys "Terrific 12, Finalist"
2012 Hemmings "Muscle Car of the Year, Finalist"
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