- Posted April 15, 2014 by
Fighting for a Memory: A Man's Journey to Save a Car
Rick Kelpinski, 44, not only has a story behind his 1967 Chevy Impala, but many memories and emotions. “The Chev” was bought by his grandpa, Merlin, in 1971.
It started with his grandpa’s dream of owning this car and after years of saving, that dream became a reality. This car was driven everywhere. It accompanied him, his wife, and his four children to work, school, and up to their cottage in Waupaca.
That car was known to be like a member of the family. It went with them everywhere; it is even pictured in one of the kids’ wedding.
In order to keep it running like a charm, Merlin did a tremendous amount of work to it. He redid the engine, redid the convertible top, and did some body work. After 20 years of its companionship and joyrides, Merlin decided to park it long-term and get a more practical car to drive around.
After Merlin’s death in 2012, his four children debated long and hard on what to do with the car. Three wanted to sell it because it did not work from lack of use, but one held on to the memories and tried to stop it from being sold.
Merlin’s children had initially intended on selling the car because of their lack of interest and the amount of work the car would require.
When Rick, the son of one of Merlin’s children, found out the potential of it being sold, he stepped in and said, “I want this car because it means so much to me. I remember going out for ice cream and all the memories with him. I’ve wanted it since I was 14.”
After a few months of continued debate on the car’s outcome, Rick finally convinced his aunts, uncle, and father to let him buy it and keep it in the family.
By buying this car he took on its immense problems that needed to be fixed. The transmission was falling out because the cross member- a mount for the transmission- was rotted out, there were rust holes in the floor and the body frame, the trunk was rotted out completely, and the motor would stall out. Some of the less serious problems to be dealt with included the malfunctioning power windows, radio, clock, and the convertible top motor pump.
This was a winter project. With the help of his brother-in-law they rebuilt the carburetor and the engine, then, ran flawlessly after that. Rick ripped out the seats and upholstery to get at the frame of the car so he could weld metal back into the frame where it was rusted through. Anything and everything that troubled this car was fixed over that winter. Today, it is still a work in progress, but it runs smoothly and was well worth the memories it saved.
In honor of Merlin, once the car was up to working order, Rick took it to Culvers for ice cream with his wife, Lynn. He is excited to get it out again now that spring is finally here.
Later on, Rick dreams of getting the body professionally painted and to one day show it off at car shows. He has already started on that dream by entering it in local car shows.
Through his journey of buying the car, fixing it up, and reliving the memories, Rick decided to give the car the best fitting name he could think of: Merlin.