1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air, rural Pierce

1.5 miles from Lambrecht Chevrolet

PIERCE — That car contained too many memories — had carried his family too many miles — for Gerald Hixson to simply let it go.

So for years after he’d traded his 1957 Chevy to Ray Lambrecht for a station wagon, Hixson tried to buy it back.

“He wouldn’t sell to anyone. There were quite a few of us who tried to buy cars back. I tried eight to 10, maybe even 11 times.”

The two men had a history. His father’s seed, feed and produce store stood next to the Chevy dealership. So when Hixson had returned from the Army to get married, he bought the ’57 from Lambrecht.

“As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it. I had to have it.”

He had wanted a new car, but Lambrecht didn’t have one. But this Bel-Air wasn’t even a year old yet.

Hixson knew its first owner. As a teen, Hixson had run the projector and cleaned the theater for Mel Kruse. He asked his old boss what was wrong with the Bel-Air.

Nothing, Kruse said. His wife didn’t like it.

Hixson and his bride, Betty, paid about $3,000 for the hardtop in the last week of 1957.

They paid $12,000 for it on Sept. 24, 2013.

And they’ll pay another $30,000 to $35,000 on it by the time the repainted body comes back from the shop in Fremont, and the motor and transmission are rebuilt at the garage in Pierce, and the interior is replaced in Blair.

“Everybody thinks we’re crazy,” Betty said. “But we’re not.”

Sentimental, maybe. They drove their blue two-tone through the first dozen years of their marriage, back and forth to Oklahoma as Gerald finished his service, down to Texas and into New Mexico, and later, with children in the backseat.

“It’s got a lot of remembrances. It was special,” Gerald said.

But it wasn’t big enough for their family. He traded it to Lambrecht in the early ‘70s for something with more room.

The Chevy sat next to Lambrecht’s dealership for years.

“Then all of a sudden it disappeared,” Gerald said. “And I said, ‘You sold my car?’ He said, ‘No, it’s in a safe place.’”

It had been hauled to Kansas City for safekeeping. It returned to Pierce for the auction, and Gerald wasn’t going to lose it again. He paid four times its original sticker, despite the faded paint, flat tires and falling headliner.

He heard from Ray Lambrecht after the sale in September.

“He was glad I got it.”

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Peter Salter is a reporter.

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