Backyard Survivor 1966 Chevelle SS396 4-Speed Original Owner – Found in Charlotte, North Carolina

How come amazing cars get parked outside for decades?

This answer is the same for John Graham as it is for anyone. “I was gonna fix it up, like everybody else does, put bigger brakes on it,” he says. “So many things got in the way. It never happened.”

Graham purchased the 1966 Chevelle SS396 in 1966 after he  walked into LaPointe Chevrolet in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, thinking of purchasing a new Super Sport. 

He had priced GTOs, which “were way too high.” He  test drove a new Oldsmobile 4-4-2, which was a 1965 model and “did not have the sail panels on the back,” a feature he liked better on the Chevelle.

After deciding to take the Chevelle, Graham then ordered a four-speed transmission over the standard three-speed, a push-button AM radio, the Astro bucket seats,    and a simulated wood steering wheel. As a preventive measure, he also added a tinted windshield and undercoating.

After eight months of purchasing the car he started dating Marilyn, his future wife. 

“Our courtship was in the car, and I really hated bucket seats,” she says. “I’m beginning to have flashbacks of different, uh, situations that we experienced.” John laughed, she joined too. They got married on October 5, 1968, and had three children.

Graham drove the car through the mid 1980s, when time to get something new came and he didn’t have a garage he parked the Chevelle in his backyard in Charlotte, where it remained for 35 years as a keepsake. 

After Graham turned 80 and the car was obviously deteriorating he agreed with his wife that he would never fix this vehicle so selling it would be the best.

The old man contacted Jonathan Large, an enthusiast of Chevelle cars that showed interest in the car; he lived 100 miles north of Graham’s home in Charlotte. They met and talked for a couple of months.

The two men waited until they managed to find a buyer that instead of flipping the vehicle or parting it out for a profit will restore it and then they made a deal.

When the car departed, Marilyn and John were in good spirits and smiling knowing the car found a new sweet home and will be restored instead of getting torn apart.


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