Tears came to Nikki Minick’s eyes and to those of several of her co-workers a day before Thanksgiving when she walked into the service garage at Overland Park Mazda and saw the 1967 Chevrolet Impala coupe that her husband, Brian, had restored.
They bought the car 10 years ago because it was a style of car that Nikki liked. She saw one in 1995 in Shawnee and asked her husband what type of car it was.
“She said that was really nice,” Brian said. “She liked those kinds of cars because her dad had those types of cars when she was growing up.”
They started searching for one. Their interest increased when they saw one in the television show “Supernatural” for the first time. Nikki found the 1967 Impala she was looking for online in South Carolina, and her husband flew down to look at it.
Brian liked what he saw and drove it back home for her. In the ensuing years different things were done to the car.
“We swapped out the transmission,” Brian said. “It has the original engine, a 327. We upgraded the radiator and got electric fans. We upgraded the suspension and upgraded the power steering. We gave it power steering.”
In July, 2014, Nikki was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she is still going through chemo treatments.
To help lift her spirits, Brian came up with a plan to have the Impala’s exterior completely restored as a surprise.
His love for his wife dates back to when he was a junior at Bishop Ward. He was a new student at the school when he spotted her in the hallway one day. He wanted to get to know her.
Nikki wasn’t as enamored with Brian.
“I said, ‘Come on, Nikki, let’s go out to the movies as friends,’ and she said, ‘Nope,’” Brian said.
They were in a religion class together and one of the things they had to do was a semester-long project of planning a wedding. Brian was thrilled when he picked Nikki’s name out of a hat. Nikki put her head down. She wasn’t nearly as happy.
They eventually clicked and have been married for 21 years.
“I’m always dotting on her,” Brian said. “I have been chasing her for 25 years. I fell in love with her when I was 16.”
All it takes is 15 minutes of conversation to know that Nikki is very loyal. She has worked at the same building at 7801 Metcalf in Overland Park for 20 years. When she started there it was Andy Klein Pontiac Buick GMC. Now it is Overland Park Mazda and Volvo, owned by Doug Kinney.
“She is the comptroller,” Brian said with pride as he looked at his wife. “Nikki has worked her way up from title clerk to basically the top position in the back office area.”
One reason the unveiling of the restored 1967 Impala was so emotional was because many of her co-workers were on hand to see what her husband had done for her.
Nikki is very appreciative of what Kinney has done for her as she battles breast cancer.
“When I don’t feel well, he wants me to go home,” Nikki said. “His sister had breast cancer so he knows. He has had it in his family.”
Brian, who is an Overland Park firefighter, saw on a daily basis what his wife had to go through as she fights cancer. He wanted to make sure the car she liked so much was done just right.
For six months he had it at an auto body shop in Merriam. The auto body shop was run by one person, and he wanted to work on the car because his mother suffered from breast cancer. But the owner never had time to get to the car.
When Nikki’s struggle to overcome breast cancer became more serious, Brian felt a need to hurry up with the restoration. Brian went back to his first choice.
He tried Ussery Auto Body Shop at 5008 Leavenworth Road in Kansas City, Kan., where Brian is friends with the owner, Eric Ghafari-Naraghi.
“Eric runs the shop with his little brother and his son,” Brian said. “They all gathered around the car. I told them the history of the car and what it means to Nikki and what she has gone through.
“They all said this is what we are going to do. It was awesome. Four and half months later we were delivering it to her.”
Nikki thought it was going to be a simple paint job. She had no idea it was going to turn out the way it did. She thought the car was in storage at her mom’s house, waiting to be painted.
“I sketched up some renderings of it all blacked out,” Brian said. “The only thing I wanted chrome on was the wheels because Nikki likes earrings and jewelry a little bit. She likes a little bling. I wanted the wheels to bling. She loves those wheels.”
Even before Nikki saw it, Brian knew that Ussery Auto Body Repair hit a home run. He said his friendship with Ghafari-Naraghi has grown stronger because of the care and work that was put in the car.
“I was blown away by what they did,” Nikki said. “It is beautiful. I drove it that night. It was nice because people who probably normally wouldn’t look at it, looked at it because it was so beautiful.
“It is a nice thing to help forget about reality.”
As Brian heard those words in their Shawnee home, he smiled and said, “It is Nikki’s car.”
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like to see featured in Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com