Every week I feature a profile of a classic car owner. This past year I interviewed several for a publication called Indiana Autos and RVs. It’s been fun talking with classic car owners, especially when they are already my friend. John and his wife Carol attend my church.
It was an oddball year.
The 1958 model cars were some of the least popular made by the American car manufacturer Chevrolet. “For a long time collectors didn’t want the 1958 Chevy Bel Air Sports coupe because they thought it was an ugly duckling,” said John Schreiber of Ossian. “Everyone wanted 1955, 1956, and 1957 Chevys because they had a more popular design.”
Schreiber, a retired employee from General Electric in Fort Wayne, owns a 2-door, hard-top 1958 Chevy Bel Air. The car was heavily optioned from the factory. “It was equipped with a 348 engine, power windows, power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning,” Schreiber said.
Like many car owners, Schreiber purchased his turquoise and snowshoe white Bel Air for nostalgia. “A friend had a Chevy in the early 1960s with a 348 engine and I spent a lot of time helping him work on it, he said.. “Owning a car of the same model is like reliving my youth.”
When Schreiber bought the car, it needed restoration. He could choose to keep it ‘stock’, i.e. using parts as the car was issued by the factory. Car owners go this route if they want to compete in judging at car shows.
. Schreiber chose to modify the car for street driving. “Some people put so much money into a car they are afraid to drive it,” he said. “I didn’t want to worry about this car getting a paint chip or rained on. I could always re-do it.”
At the time of purchase Schreiber performed the mechanical work, using a lift in his pole barn to work on the car. He installed new springs, shock absorbers, and transmission. He also replaced disc brakes, tires and spoke rims. He paid others to do the interior work.
Schreiber has won several trophies at car shows, including Best of Show. Schreiber estimates he drives his car 3,000 miles a year to car shows at the Bluffton Free Street Fair, James Dean Festival in Fairmount, Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, New Haven Canal Days, Berne Swiss Days, and Fort Wayne’s Muddy River Run. He and his wife Carol also attend monthly cruise-in’s in Fort Wayne. The couple belongs to a car club called “Fort Wayne Rolling Classics”.
“Although the club members are mostly owners of cars from the 1950s and 1960s, any type of car owner is welcome to join the club,” said John Schreiber.