How a Closed Club Spawned One of the Largest Classic Chevrolet Car Clubs in the U.S.

Posted by Danny B Howell on 8/27/2014 to General

It was 1971 – I'd finally finished college and I was excited to get started in life. The Vietnam war was not over yet and I anticipated getting drafted since I'd already received one draft notice. I had really grown to love cars while I was in college where I bought a 1940 Ford 2-door Deluxe Sedan that I developed into a little street rod.  It was powered by a small block Chevy.  Next, I had a ‘67 mustang in which I suped up a 289 and added ported and polished heads. My partner and close friend Doug Moorhead was really into the Chevrolet scene and we'd actually picked up a ‘57 Chevy along the freeway and dropped a 409 cu. in engine into it. It was our first real undertaking and it taught us a lot.  We just liked old cars -  they were fun and we began to watch what was happening in the hobby. We attended car shows, hit the drag strips and just did what a lot of guys our age were doing.  We had never considered turning our hobby into a business. What brought about the change were two events that I'll never forget.


By the early 1970s, the Shoebox Chevys (55 56 57 Chevys) had become quite popular and one of the first major Chevrolet automobile clubs had formed out of Colorado, the National Nomad Club.  We were intrigued by what the Nomad Club was doing; they pre-dated Classic Chevy by several years. We were interested in becoming members of the Nomad Club - the problem was that one of the prerequisite to being a member of the National Nomad Club was that you had to own a nomad, but we were fresh out of college and broke. Eventually, Doug purchased a nomad and became a member of the association. We began to watch the letters that went back and forth between the members and the directors of the association. There was discussion about enlarging the club but all the directors were quite adamant, “It's going to be a Nomad Club and a Nomad Club only.” After lots of talking and lots of consideration and suggestions, it was evident that the Nomad Club was just a Nomad Club and there was a need in the marketplace for an organization for something other than Nomads.


Another factor that played into our decision to get serious about a national Chevy organization came from reading the leading auto enthusiast magazine of the day, Rot Hod. Back in the early 70s, it was the single publication that most street rodders, hot rodders, and old car people were drawn to. It was interesting because if you go back to the 70s, in a number of editorials and letters to the editor, there were people suggesting that somebody should step forward and start a club or an organization for the '55 '56 and '57 Chevys. In the summer of 1974 Doug had just accepted a change in teaching positions from a school in Michigan to one in New Port Richey, Florida. I was teaching at the time in Wisconsin, and before Doug and his wife moved to Florida, we’d spent quite a bit of time brainstorming.  Literally, while on the trip to Florida, Doug finally decided to take a chance.


From Magazine Ads to Self-Publication

Doug called Hot Rod magazine and bought a little one inch ad that offered a $10 or $15 membership for people that were interested in joining fellow enthusiasts of '55 '56 and '57 Chevrolet’s.  We started a club that would embrace any Chevrolet model from 1955-1957.  We didn’t know exactly what to expect. I have often told people that it would’ve been nice to have had a detailed plan but all we had was a big idea and we wanted to see if there was an interest. That little 1 inch ad cost us a lot of money especially on a teacher’s salary. At that time, we were making about $12,000 a year teaching and the ad was quite expensive, about $125 as I remember, but we thought it was worth it, we figured if we never tried - we’d never know. I do remember this, we took out the ad in the fall issue of Hot Rod magazine and in the first month 305 people sent us $15. We were stunned!


At that point we realized that we were on to something and for lack of just not knowing what else to do - we set up a small board of directors. Doug Moorhead was the president, I was the vice-president, and Doug's wife was secretary. So we gathered some material and went to a local layout and design place to print the very first issue which was in the winter of 1974. When we got the bill, we realized we were gonna be broke really fast. This was about the same period in time when IBM came up with their first correctable typewriter. It had a little round ball that used to bounce all over the place, and when you hit a letter wrong you could hit a button that would allow you to correct it by peeling the black ink off. So we went out and bought a correctable typewriter and hand typed the entire second issue of Classic Chevy Club magazine. We figured we were schoolteachers, we could figure anything out.  We went to a local art store, bought supplies and created our own layout and design pages. We started doing a monthly magazine we simply called  Classic Chevy Club. When you didn't have a lot of expendable cash you had to be quite creative. Remember, this was just before computers became available, we had to come up with a method of doing address labels.  We took 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper that we would divide up into little squares so that we could hand write a person's address in each square.  Then we would mimeograph that onto sticky labels (for those who don't know, a mimeograph was the early photocopy).


We kept this method up for the first few thousand members. It was a ton of work!  It wasn't until we reached 10,000 members in the late 70s that we got our first computer. By this time we were collecting $4,500 dollars in membership fees every month. This may seem like a lot, but when you add up the cost of the envelopes, newsletters, and postage stamps you aren't left with very much.


By 1976, it was evident that Classic Chevy Club was just growing too fast. Doug was the first to step down from his teaching position to work on the Club full-time. Then in January of 1978, I came  to Florida and I spent 10 days working with Doug on the Club. There was just so much to do and after those 10 days, I realized I had to make a life changing decision. That spring, I tenured my resignation at the high school in Wisconsin where I was working full time. I moved to Florida in June, 1978, and from that point on was I was fully engaged in the Classic Chevy scene. It was about this time that we also hired our first employee, a gentleman named Burt Hardle. Bert was a local car enthusiast and he and his wife were very much into the ’55, '56, and '57 Chevys. When he was offered the place of being our first secretary, he jumped at the chance. Bert worked for us for close to five years before he decided to move on to other pastures. Hiring Bert was one of the wisest things that we did. He was an incredibly personable individual, good on the phones, knew the cars, was very organized, and helped get the club going in the right direction.


Would you like to hear more of the story?  There is certainly more to tell but I think this is enough for now.  I’d love to hear if you were ever part of the old Classic Chevy Club?  Please leave me your comments below and tell me your old membership number.  I’d love to hear some of your fond memories.


Danny

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Comments

Ed Ryall Date 11/7/2014

was 11928 dropped out when it expanded to late great.

John Date 11/8/2014

Joined CCI 1980, still belong. Joined Late Greats and Bow Times as well.

Admin Date 11/17/2014

Ed and John, what year of Chevy did you own?

Gregg Dempsey Date 11/19/2014

I joined the Classic Chevy Club in 1975 -- my member number was 6165. Still belong to the Ecklers version, but wish it was just 55-57 Chevys like the old days. Still have both the 56 and 57 Chevys I had back then also. The 56 was restored in 2012 and 2013 and the 57 Chevy will be up next. The 57 still looks ok, but it's got 100,000 extra miles since it was last redone. It's been all over the US.

Danny Date 11/19/2014

Gregg, do you have pictures of your '57 all over the US? I'd love to see them. You're free to post them on our FB page.

Ken Croxton Date 12/29/2014

My brother and I were both members.His membership number was 2853. I can not remember mine. I had a '55 BelAir hardtop and my brother had a '55 convertible. We both attended the conventions in Tulsa,Memphis,New Orleans and Orlando. We no longer own the cars.

Mike Date 2/21/2015

I joined in the late 70's. # 9464 Still a member of eklers but it isn't any more than a buying club now. I was president of the Long Island chapter for a few years. Loved the conventions. Hampton Virginia, Cherry Hill NJ, Chicopee Mass etc. Still have my 55 and 56. Restoring the 56 now.

Phil W. Hendrix Date 6/18/2015

Good to trip up on Southeast Chevy and you Danny. I joined in the 70's, member 1889, enjoyed many 57's, conventions, got a 1st place in Orlando,'83 was it? was on the Superdome floor, was president and co-founder of River City Classics Chapter in Decatur, AL but most of all just enjoyed the car I could never afford when a teenager. Eventually moved in my career and on to faster, sexier early vettes, rear engined dragsters, etc but always kept a 57 wagon that we started 40 years ago and kept pushing into the corner when we needed $$ to race, kids to go to college, etc. Finally, last year a friend approached and offered to buy the 80% finished NOTAMAD. I told my wife who promptly said "No way, we need to finish that car, I have pictures of our 3 young daughters playing in it and sanding on it" (they are now late 30's/early 40's of course). So, I tell her "You do realize this is a quick way to spend another $30/40k to have a hotrod worth $10-$15k do'nt you. I don't have to print her reply... So a quick call to my friend currently restoring and about ready to paint our all original unmolested '62 vette WE DATED IN as we are trying to get ready for a NCRS Gold Certificate we think and said to him, "move it back down the the line, she wants the wagon finished first" So just put the correct luggage rack on the fresh 2 ton green paint this week and scheduled at interior shop for Sept 1. Of course this is 2 months after the west coast boys made HOTROD with their green wagon so forever more I will have to endure the question "Is this the one in HR? " to which I must reply, "No this is the one with the nicer paint, interior, ammenties, and an old school non LS motor We also have an all steel, all red, 150 Sedan big block drag car we are putting back Pro Street, after the 62 Vette of course. This is too long but found out about Danny and SECP chasing parts for the wagon! Hope to see you soon ole friend and will make it to the TRI % gathering in Bowling Green in AUG if the health "creek" don't rise.

Pete Knudsen Date 9/3/2015

Good to hear Danny and Doug are still haunting the Classic Chevy world. My best to Vicky.

Jerry Masters Date 1/24/2016

I joined CCI in 1988. Member #92828 (still have it committed to memory). My '55 sedan have traveled with me from two homes in Atlanta, down to Florida in a garage and then in storage, to it's current resting place in my own warehouse in Port Orange. I've had the car for 28 years and never have driven it. Started trying to "restore" it in 1988 when I bought it as the third owner, and pretty much ruined what there was to work with by leaving it outside for seven years, partially disassembled. I'm finally at a point in my life where I have the time, money and space to work on my dream, and I'm having a great time! It's been 15 years since I last turned a wrench on the car, so I was a little disappointed to find that CCI was no longer--at least I think that's the case? I know where you're located--I've been by there in the early 2000s, so I'm super happy to see that you're still there. It's Sunday night as I write, but I'll be calling first thing tomorrow morning!

Greg Thomas Date 5/12/2016

Loved LGC and all the Chevy info. Started the LA LGC Chapter in 1988. Lost interest when Ecklers bought interest. Still have my 64 Impala SS convertible , that I have owned for the last 42 years and doing the HRPT next month with two of my grown daughters in tow. Getting back into cars as I took a hiatus for motorcycles the last 10 years. #MYHSCAR

Chuck MacDonald Date 6/5/2016

Had the pleasure of meeting Doug in the infancy of CCC. My dad had an auto parts business in Fern Park Fl in 1973-1977. I had a very nice 56 Belair convertible at the time and Doug stopped by to see it. I became an early member of CCC, don't remember my #. Was also a memb we og the GLC, when I had a 60 vette. I remember driving from fl to Columbus OH for the CCC Convention in 77, to get NOS trim parts for the 56. There was very little repopulate stuff then which made the hunt fun for those unique parts like the little top of fender birds for the 56. It w as a fun time back then meeting peeps persobally. Now everything is done by internet.........

Raymond Petreshock Date 8/20/2016

60 bel air ,65 biscayne and63 impala Ss. I was a nail all member until Ecklers took over and joined LGC in 1984 at 14 years old and a member of the Jersey late great crew. My 63 was featured in 1994 LGC magazine .At a lit of Jersey cars were Cover and feature cars around this time my member number was 9508. And the convention in Reading ,Pa was truly great. I actually was the auctioneer for many donated items to benefit our members that were victims of the Okkahoma city bombing .As well as the announcer for the drags at maple grove . Just sharing some memories of some great people with the love of chevrolets.

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