Some experiences are so powerful that they become entrenched in memory. For Jeanie “Nonni” Pinto, one of them happened in the summer of 1964, when she took her first ride in a Chevy Nova.
She was at camp, and some friends of the family arrived in one of the new muscle cars to bring her home: “I rode home in the back seat and had a great time — the wind blowing in my hair.”
What she didn’t know was her father had died while she was away at camp. Her friends had used that car ride as one more joyful moment before she found out the sad news.
From then on out, a Chevy Nova was Jeanie’s dream car. She may have had to wait for than half a century, but her dream finally came true thanks to her husband and son!
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Her son, Donny, found a cherry red, 1963 Chevy Nova convertible online and bought it “sight unseen” for $6,500, and his dad, Tony, paid to have it shipped out from South Carolina to San Diego. But it wasn’t until the car, or rather, skeleton of a car, was unloaded that these fixer uppers realized what they’d gotten themselves into.
It should be noted here that Donny had just wrapped up another project, restoring a 1957 Chevy Bel Air for his dad. This surprise, he figured, would just be a matter of putting in some seats and a carburetor “and drive it down the road” to his mom at her home in Chatsworth. “But when we saw it we were (like), ‘Oh my gosh.’ We were missing almost every piece.”
But a Chevy Nova was Mom’s dream car, and that’s what she was going to get. Donny and his friend, Gregg Griebel, spent the next six years on the project, secreting it away at neighbors’ houses, with friends or in rental trailers whenever his parents headed down for a visit. All told, he spent about $30,000 to bring it back to its former glory. (Fun fact: The average price tag for a new car in 1963 was a little more than $3,000.)
Finally, on November 6, it was time for the big reveal.
Sitting in the car, Donny and Jeanie exchange a flurry of texts. Even after she reads this one, aloud, she remains skeptical:
This is a convertible 1963 Chevy Nova Dad bought you six years ago. Gregg and I have been fixing it up ever since. Open the gate.
There are no words to describe how she must’ve felt when she walked outside and saw this:
Check out the sweet surprise in the video below, and share with all your classic car-loving friends!
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