'54 Chevy and driver are both classics

Wednesday, October 15th 2008, 5:18 pm
By: News 9

By Darren Brown, News9.com INsite team

STILLWATER, Okla.-- Remember getting your first car?  Remember how you washed it and waxed it almost every week?  And how you would just die if it ever got a scratch?

Dean Bartel remembers those days.  And over fifty years later, he's still treating his car like it just came off the showroom floor. 

"Cars have never been one my weaknesses," Bartel said.  "When I've gotten one I've generally tried to take care of it, because they're a pretty pricey thing anymore."

Bartel has had his share of cars over the years, including a '51 Ford pickup, and a  '76 Ford Granada.  But it's his 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air that makes him beam with pride.

"Everytime I have a vehicle I take really good care of it, and if I ever do get rid of it, I wanna pass it on to someone who will continue to take care of it," said Bartel.  "They've always meant something to me, because I never did have enough money to trade cars every year or two like some people do y'know, and I've always had to take care of 'em."

Bartel will admit to overhauling the engine, and some minor repairs under the hood, but his Bel Air is largely untouched.

"My upholstery--what you see is what it was--came out of the factory with it," said Bartel.  "I put floormats on it years ago--kind of a rubberized floormat, and that's help protect my interior and floorboard."

"I like the chrome on it, you see, you can take a damp cloth and wipe that off, and it shines just like it did when it was new," Bartel went on.

The classic Bel Air turns heads not only in Stillwater, but at certain car shows.  But there's just one problem.

There's not really a class for Bartel's original classic.  It's a problem Bartel's son Del hopes to fix.

"He said dad, they're not giving you credit for taking care of your old car for 54 years," Said Bartel.  "What you need to get is a class where they call it an untouched original--that's the class you need to be in."