In the spring of 1993, a friend of a friend had an interest in purchasing this '71 SS Chevelle convertible. Upon seeing the car, he decided it was too far-gone for him to repair, but asked John and Cathy Figuracion (known as "The Figs"), if they would be interested? Well, to make a long story short, Uncle Leo (John's Brother-in-Law) and John Fig went for "just a look", and wouldn't you know it, they brought it home for the low, low price of $200.
It sounds so simple, yet it was really so complicated. The Chevelle was about 2 miles from home, so one would think that this would be an easy trip. NOT! Borrowing a tow bar was the easiest part of this escapade. While retrieving the car out of the woods, several small trees lost their lives and their truck got stuck. After a call on the cell phone, they were rescued by a friend with a 4x4. After dragging the truck out of the way, the car was pulled to safety to the top of the hill. Now they just had to tow this wonderful thing across a major highway (Rt. 5 in Brandywine, Maryland). Now for those of you not familiar with the area, Rt. 5 has become one of the busiest highways in this area. Besides, what kind of a trip would it have been if the Figs didn't invite Mr. Murphy along? A most welcome one I bet! But this was not to be the case. As luck would have it, the tow bar let loose right smack in the middle of Rt. 5! After some quick scrambling, they got her hooked back up and eventually home to the warm welcome comments of their dearly loved daughter, "That's a hunk of junk!" Well, so much for her getting the car, it was Mom and Dad's now!
Over the next couple of years, parts were acquired from numerous flea markets and swap meets to accomplish the restoration. Does this sound familiar to anyone? In the meantime, the Fig's were also working on a '65 SS HT. In their spare time they would fix a little here and a little there on the convertible. The frame was sand blasted and painted. New suspension, fuel lines, brake lines were added and the rear was rebuilt and installed. Yet, somehow the '65 continued to be the main focus.
In the Spring of 1997, while traveling to the Ocean City Cruise, in their daily driver '72 SS no-less, a family meeting was held to determine which car was to be finished first, the '65 or the '71, for the following years OC Cruise. The '71 won. Everyone agreed it would be so cool to drive in OC with the top down!
That summer the '71 was sent off to Wilson's Body Shop. Two new quarter panels, fenders and spare parts off their son JJ's wrecked '72 Chevelle helped to complete this phase. Poor Mr. Wilson, Cathy almost drove him crazy! Then came the big problem! The quarter filler panel above the trunk was accidentally damaged by the body shop. Of course this part is available for hardtops, but NOT convertibles. While on vacation in Myrtle Beach the Figs scoured local junkyards in hopes of finding one. Lady luck was with them this particular day. Down in the depths of an enormous junkyard they located one half of a '68 Chevelle convertible. Unfortunately, it was the wrong half. Through the weeds, sand, bugs, snakes and locale critters running wild, they found the back half of the car, perched on top of another vehicle. With hacksaw in hand, John and JJ climbed up to cut out the needed piece. Six laborious hours later, they left with their prize!
In October, '97, they picked up the '71 from the body shop. Now the real work began! Every weekend and spare hour was spent out in the garage. All the chrome was lovingly shined and polished. The 402 motor (purchased from Jim Russell), transmission and windshield were installed. Now she had one seat, no interior, but Hey, they could actually drive it!
The old black interior was cleaned up as well as possible (basically disinfected) and reinstalled. Fuzzy seat covers were added to help with appearance. In April '98, with duck tape holding the top together, the Figs were off to attend their first show, the Coming Out in Southern Maryland. They survived the trip. Enough so, that they ventured to the OC Spring cruise that year with the top down (It looked too bad to put up). They attended several other shows and even won a trophy or two. They saved their pennies and ordered the top. Once on, what a difference it made. She was now beautiful. The new top made the interior looked really bad. In the spring of '99, they ordered the interior and had it installed by Z Upholstery. Finally she was complete, interior, top and all.
Let the fun begin! The Figs attended a car show almost every weekend during the '99 season. They picked up the finishing touches; new bumpers, emblems, and stickers for their love. With their new friends, Fred and Evelyn Gillis, they drove to the ACES Chevell~Abration in Tennessee. A 14-hour ride each way and NO problems!
The Figs were very surprised to win so many trophies at the local shows. The honor of winning a First Place in Class at the 12th Annual MCC Show and an Editors Choice Award at Super Chevy in Dinwiddie, VA left them speechless. They're having a blast, meeting really great people and seeing new places. All the time, effort, and money invested was definitely worth it!
Special thanks to JJ and Leo Paugh. JJ for bearing the brunt of his father's frustrations, his endless time, effort, knowledge and love. Leo for his help, parts support and technical advice.
John & Cathy Figuracion (#016)
Click Here to view Previous Features of the Month