When Jim Brull looks at his refurbished 1964 two-door Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu, the melody of a long-ago television commercial pops into his head, just like it did when he originally purchased the car.
“See the USA, in your Chevrolet, America is asking you to call. Drive your Chevrolet through the USA, America is the greatest land of all.”
Those words sung by Dinah Shore during the 1950s were in Jim Brull’s head when he went to Feld Chevrolet in Kansas City, Kan., to purchase his first new car as a married man.
Brull, now 79, admits he is sentimental and has a hard time parting with things that hold fond memories. It is why he has two trucks and four cars, including his parents’ 1968 Pontiac Executive at his home in Shawnee.
Images of the past flash back in his mind, whenever Brull views the 1964 Chevelle Malibu. He recalls vacations he took with his wife, son and daughter. He drove Route 66 to Arizona in it. Other memories of trips to Oklahoma, Texas and Branson, Mo., pop up.
“I walk out in the garage and look at it and all the memories come back of where I went with it and where I bought it,” Brull said.
Bull finally got the car running in June, and that moment nearly caused him to cry. He always believed the Chevelle would operate again.
It just took nearly 35 years.
The history of his car is like many. It started as his new family car, then became his son’s car. He drove it to high school for three years and then passed it down to his younger sister. She drove it to high school until 1979.
“She wrecked it,” Brull said.
The front end of the car was ruined, but Brull never thought about getting rid of it or taking it to a salvage yard. It had too many memories for him.
Brull simply towed the car to his cattle farm in Holden, Mo., and put it in the barn for 30 years.
“I used go out there and take care of the cattle and I looked at the car and said, ‘I am going to put you back together again. It is going to happen,’” Brull said.
Decades went by before Brull got serious. The car still had the gas that was in it before the wreck. Four years ago, the time finally arrived for Brull to restore the car.
“About 4 years ago I took a welding class at Johnson County Community College so I could weld the car together,” Brull said. “I started on the motor and then decided I was ready for the body.”
Brull brought the car home so he could work on it whenever he had time.
“I’m just a shade-tree mechanic,” Brull said. “It means I work in the shade.”
Brull went to salvage yards to find parts. Over time, the car began to look exactly as it had when he bought it in 1964. He bought the hood, fenders, grille, bumpers and chrome from salvage yards.
He took it to a shop to have rust areas removed. He bought parts for the motor and worked on it. After four years, the restoration was complete. Brull was eager to call his son and daughter to tell them the job was finished.
“I told my daughter I am driving it now,” Brull said. “She came over, and I said, ‘I straightened that wreck you had in it.’ She was as crazy about it as I was.”
Now, whenever Brull takes his car out on the streets of Shawnee, he can’t help whistling that commercial tune from his younger days.
“Drive the USA in your Chevrolet.”
It takes him back to the time he bought his first new car.
“Back then you turned your key and away you went,” Brull said.
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like see featured in Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com