I think it’s safe to describe Don Harvey as a creature of habit.
How else do you explain a fellow who’s been driving the same car for more than a half century?
It has nothing to do with economics. Don is not cheap.
It really has little to do with a love for antique cars. Don can take them or leave them, although he has displayed his vintage car at a number of antique auto shows.
It’s certainly not for creature comfort. His car doesn’t have a heater.
It goes a lot deeper than all those things — probably back to 1949 when his father purchased a 16-year-old Plymouth in Evansville.
“It was our family car,” the retired Cummins Inc. executive remembered last week. “When my brothers and I got older, it was the car that we drove back and forth between Evansville and our college dorms. It was the car that I drove to work when I started at Cummins in 1956.”
In fact, Don still has the same parking permit he was issued that first year when he pulled into the Fifth Street parking lot at Cummins’ Plant One.
Don’s attachment is both personal and emotional.
Others have a different view of the beautifully restored car.
It’s been nominated for a national award by the Antique Automobile Club of America. During the past week he’s been collecting materials and having the car photographed for the judging, which is expected to take place later this month.
The nomination came as a complete surprise to the Columbus resident.
“I had entered it in a show a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “It actually won an award, but a few days after we returned home, I got this letter from the AACA telling me that the car was up for a national award.”
Don is pretty sure the antique auto folks know nothing about the family history with the car.
“I think they’re just looking at it as a restored auto,” he said.
Actually, that’s a good way to look at it. Don began restoring it when he retired from Cummins in 1998.
“I’d never restored a car before, but I figured that I could get it done in two years and spend no more than $2,000,” he said. “I missed the mark on both of those goals — by a lot.”
When he did complete his mission, the finished product looked beautiful. It had the same paint color as the original, but it shone with a glow unlike anything he had been familiar with on the original body.
In fact, through much of its time with the Harvey family, the 1933 Chrysler looked pretty seedy. It also didn’t have heat.
“I remember when my brothers and I were driving back and forth between Evansville and West Lafayette, our mother would always make us wait before leaving so that she could bring out blankets to keep us warm during the trip,” he said. “She even personally wrapped them around our legs.”
Needless to say, once the car got out of their mother’s visual range the blankets were pulled off and tossed into the back seat.
Don inherited the car when he graduated from college and took a job at the engine company. If anything, the car’s appearance had gotten worse.
“I still remember a routine the parking lot attendant and I went through every day when I pulled into the company’s lot on Fifth Street,” he said. “He was a real character who lived in Brown County. He’d always pretend like I was a total stranger.
“One day he told me to park as far away from the front entrance as I could so that no one would see the car. The next day he’d pretend to be barring me from the lot, telling me, ‘You need to take this down to First and Jackson streets.’ That’s where Kroot Salvage Yard was located at the time.”
Other than show purposes, Don’s car doesn’t get much use these days.
“It would be pushing it if I drove more than 100 miles a year,” he said.
Nevertheless it’s been restored to Antique Auto Club standards, and Don fully intends that it will remain a part of the family.
“I really restored it so I could pass it on to my granddaughters,” he said.
He admitted that some adjustment might be in order. One of the granddaughters explored the vehicle recently and asked the location of “the button that pushes the windows up and down.”
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.