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It’s early Friday evening in the Mendenhall Valley and Doug Harris stands next to his 1958 Chevrolet Delray Sedan Delivery, parked in front of the Napa Auto Parts store. He, his wife Arlea and son Mason have arrived early for a “Dipstick” gathering (affectionate name for the local car club he belongs to) and he’s engaged in casual conversation with a dozen or so of the “auto-addicts” surrounding his black-with-red-flames showpiece.
Rare car reunited with owner 060717 AE 1 Thomas Kellar, For the Capital City Weekly It’s early Friday evening in the Mendenhall Valley and Doug Harris stands next to his 1958 Chevrolet Delray Sedan Delivery, parked in front of the Napa Auto Parts store. He, his wife Arlea and son Mason have arrived early for a “Dipstick” gathering (affectionate name for the local car club he belongs to) and he’s engaged in casual conversation with a dozen or so of the “auto-addicts” surrounding his black-with-red-flames showpiece.

Doug Harris sits in the 1958 Chevrolet Delray Sedan Delivery. Photo by Liz Kellar.


The 1958 Chevrolet Delray Sedan Delivery in front of Napa Auto Parts. Photo by Liz Kellar.


Airbrushed images on the Deliver's side panels by artist Carl Avery. Photo by Liz Kellar.


Interior of the 1958 Chevrolet Delray Sedan Delivery. Photo by Liz Kellar.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Story last updated at 6/6/2017 - 3:05 pm

Rare car reunited with owner

It’s early Friday evening in the Mendenhall Valley and Doug Harris stands next to his 1958 Chevrolet Delray Sedan Delivery, parked in front of the Napa Auto Parts store. He, his wife Arlea and son Mason have arrived early for a “Dipstick” gathering (affectionate name for the local car club he belongs to) and he’s engaged in casual conversation with a dozen or so of the “auto-addicts” surrounding his black-with-red-flames showpiece.

Delray Deliveries are rare; only 4,700 left the Chevrolet assembly line. The one owned by Harris is stunning. The car proves a great conversation starter for the man who works as Chief Integrated Services Officer at the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc. He never tires of describing the details of the Delivery, its paint job and engine specs. Even better is the backstory of how he came to be its proud owner, a classic boy-gets-car, boy-loses-car, the-two-are-reunited-decades-later story.

Decades past

The tale begins when Harris’ grandfather, Norman Harris, decided to homestead near Powell, Wyoming, in the mid-1930s. He would eventually move his family into town after WWII to start a carpentry business. Needing a new work vehicle, he purchased the Chevrolet Delray Sedan Delivery in 1959.

“The 58 Delivery was ideal for him,” Harris said. “He used it to carry tools and haul wood.”

As a boy growing up in Powell, Harris remembers seeing his grandfather often, Sundays when the extended family gathered for dinner, or during one of the many times he mowed his grandfather’s lawn. He recalls clearly the two of them chatting often about family history and their mutual love for books.

“He had the Delivery up until he signed it over to me just a few months before he passed away in 1986,” Harris said. “He knew I loved the vehicle and had dreams for it.”

It was the summer before his senior year in high school and Harris kept the car for only a short time, eventually giving in to his parents’ desire that he sell it and use the money for other purposes including his education. Harris admits that at the time, the Delivery needed work and he was in no financial position to have it restored.

Harris knew of a local man who lived near his grandfather’s house, who was said to have a passion for restoring cars, so fulfilling his parents’ wishes, a price was agreed upon and the car sold. He believed it was going to a good home, but cashing out his grandfather’s gift left Harris uneasy. He had a bad case of seller’s remorse.

“I almost instantly regretted the decision to get rid of it,” Harris said. “It took about a year for me to build up the courage to go back to the guy I sold it to, to tell him that if he ever wanted to sell it, I wanted it back.”

But Harris was in for a shock. His buyer no longer had the car. It had been sold yet again, this time to a buyer in Casper, Wyoming, about five hours south of Powell. At the time, it felt to Harris like the end of the story.

“I had thought that he loved the car like I did, that he had been eyeing it himself,” Harris said. “It hit me pretty hard that he had turned it around in a fairly short time.”

Fast forward: Five years ago, through the magic of social media, Harris reconnected with a friend that he had gone to college with, who’d grown up in Casper and eventually returned there. Harris remembered his grandfather’s Chevy.

“I told him ‘Dude, you’re back in Casper? That’s where the car I got from my grandfather ended up. If you ever see something that looks like it, let me know.”

On a Sunday afternoon in April 2016, Harris was sitting alone in his office, “doing paperwork,” when he received a text from Larry, his friend in Casper. It seemed, the Delivery may have been found and was possibly for sale. Harris immediately contacted the owner.

“When I asked him to tell me the history of the car, he said that he had gotten it from his dad, who had gotten it from a nephew who had bought it from a guy in the Powell area about 30 years ago.”

Harris was floored, becoming in his own words, “quite emotional.” He called his wife to give her the news: The Delivery was in excellent condition and for sale. A deal was struck, a bank loan secured, but it was months before Harris and family were able to take the trip south to pick up the vehicle. In July, Harris was back behind the wheel, family road-tripping to Seattle for the barge ride to Juneau. Harris gets “goosebumps” when describing what it was like to see the car again after more than two decades.

“I nearly broke down” he said. “The way the sun was shining on it, pictures can’t do it justice. I was ecstatic to say the least.”

To personalize the car, Harris has had the Delivery’s side panels airbrushed with images expertly rendered by artist Carl Avery, whose work he describes as “world class.” Freemasonry is an important part of Harris’ life and the symbols depicted are an “homage to the fraternal organization.”

Happy endings

At The Dipsticks annual car show in early May, Harris’ Chevy received both the Sponsorship Award and the People’s Choice Award for Best Car in Show.

What would his grandfather think of his being reunited with the Delivery?

“Well, granddad was pretty frugal,” Harris laughed. “I would never tell him how much I paid for it and the mural. But I see it as an investment too. It’s going to be 60 years old next year.”

Second chances can be a beautiful thing. Few of us ever get the opportunity to rewrite a story more than 20 years old.

“I really only have had one true regret in my life and that was getting rid of the car,” Harris said. “It will stay in the family, unquestionably.”