The 1989 Chevrolet G20 Custom Starcraft conversion van has been in my family for twenty years. I guess you could say it is a MEMBER of my family. My father in law, James B. Rollman, bought it new and sold it to me several years later when his health started to decline. Jim was an absolute perfectionist and extremely meticulous when it came to maintaining and caring for his vehicles. The blue and white Chevy was his “pride and joy.” We called it “JB’s Girl.” Since I am such a racing fan, I liked to think that the 350 Chevy V8 was essentially a NASCAR motor…but with about 650 less horsepower. I suppose, in reality only the blocks are similar. The interior featured four captain’s chairs and a rear bench seat that folded down into a double bed. It was our transportation to and from and sometimes our “Hollywood Hotel” at many races, including:
- The Inaugural US Grand Prix at Indianapolis
- Several Indianapolis 500s
- “Night Before the 500” at IRP
- “A.J. Foyt Hulman Hoosier Hundred” Silver Crown at Indianapolis Fairgrounds
- “The Little 500” Sprint Car race at Anderson, IN
- NCTS and Busch races at IRP
- CART and Trans Am races at Mid Ohio
- “The US 500” at Michigan
- Sharon Speedway World of Outlaws
- Late Models at Raceway 7
- “The Bobby Isaac Memorial” at Hickory
- Lake Erie Speedway
- NASCAR Trucks at Martinsville
- NASCAR Cup and Busch at Bristol
- “The Coca Cola 600”
- “The All Star Race”
- “The Southern 500” at Darlington
- “Night Under Fire” drag racing at Norwalk, OH
My son drove “JB’s Girl” to three Bonnaroo Music Festivals in Manchester, TN from our home in Northeast Ohio. She transported him to the “John Lennon Song Writing Workshop” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, several Cleveland Indians, Browns and Cavs games, state Cross Country meets and Little League tournaments. “JB’s Girl” was also tireless in her transportation of my daughter to her gymnastics and ballet recitals and school plays.
“JB’s Girl” moved me from Ohio to North Carolina when I began working at SPEED. She was “loaded to the gills” and tirelessly carried hundreds of pounds of cargo as we moved my son into his dorm at Appalachian State and my daughter to her residence at UNC Wilmington.
Every time my wife drove her, she was reminded of her father who passed away in 2002. Wonderful memories.
Twenty Ohio winters with all the snow, ice and salt had begun to take their toll on “JB’s Girl.” Terminal rust had begun to set in. It invaded the body and the underside. Last year I had to replace all the transmission lines and although she passed inspection this year the mechanic said I would soon be needing to replace brake lines and ball joints and the rear end and transmission would probably be needing work soon. Coworkers at SPEED kidded me that the “Shaggin’ Wagon” might be eligible for the “Cash for Clunkers” program. I laughed, then began considering the possibilities. I hadn’t had a new car for twenty years AND “JB’s Girl” would be worth $4500 trade in on a new more fuel efficient vehicle. If she had one downside, she WAS a little thirsty. 14 MPG, Hmmm.
I bought the latest “Consumer Reports,” NADA, Kelley Blue Book and went on the Edmunds website. I’ve always owned American cars: Plymouth Fury, Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Caravan, Mercury Cougar, Jeep Cherokee. The more I researched I narrowed my search down to Ford, Chevy, Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Mini Cooper. I decided to drive down Independence Boulevard in Charlotte. That stretch of road has nearly every type of car dealership known to man. My first stop was Hendrick Mini. I drove a Mini Cooper “S” with 6-speed manual transmission. I was hooked.
I had studied in England in 1975 and fell in love with the Mini Cooper. If I was going to get something other than an American car, the Mini fit the bill. It had the iconic British styling, the engine is from this year’s Le Mans winner-Peugeot and the engineering is precision German BMW. It gets 34 MPG. It is British Racing Green. I feel like Jim Clark or Graham Hill without the talent. “JB’s Girl” made it possible.
I much prefer the “CARS” program name- rather than “Cash for Clunkers.” “CARS” brings to mind the fun, animated Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson. There is no way that “JB’s Girl” is a “clunker.” She is a member of my family. I took a number of pictures of her…inside and out…before I started her up for the final time for the short trip to the Mini dealership. As usual, she fired up almost instantly. A little more blue smoke than usual came out of her tailpipe. Brad Paisley’s song, “When I Get Where I’m Going” came on the radio. It was hard to drive with tears in my eyes. I’m misting up again as I write this.
“Yeah, when I get where I’m going
There’ll be only happy tears…
Yeah when I get where I’m going
Don’t cry for me down here.”
When I parked her for the final time, “JB’s Girl” had 201,903 miles on her odometer. The Chevy V8 had never given me a moment’s trouble. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Rust in Peace.