For Chevrolet enthusiast Leroy McMakin, the shiny, white 1961 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hardtop in his garage is not just a car--it's part of his family. Since the 71-year-old president of the Tarheel Chapter of the Late Great Chevy Club bought the vehicle brand new in 1961, the car has been there for all of the major events in his life--the honeymoon with his wife, Brenda, his wife's first day and last day of teaching after 40 years at Carlisle Fosters Grove Elementary School, and his children's weddings.
"My daughter was married and left her reception with her husband driving this car, and my son was married and again left the Church driving this car," said the resident of Boiling Springs, South Carolina.
To keep an automobile like McMakin's running smooth for so long, one has to show complete dedication to maintaining every facet it. For his dedication, Pennzoil is honoring McMakin this weekend with the Pennzoil Platinum Prize. The prize honors local auto enthusiasts nationwide who have made the ultimate commitment to keeping their most prized possession running strong with a clean and responsive engine. McMakin will receive a lifetime supply of Pennzoil Platinum motor oil and two tickets to the NASCAR All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 16. He will also be inducted into the Platinum Hall of Fame located at Pennzoil.com
The Ermine White Bel Air, which has only 118,000 miles, is now used primarily for car shows. Power comes from a 283/Powerglide combo. But the car was professionally restored with original lacquer paint and a new interior. The original radiator and gas tank are in place, and the original 1961 license plate is still on the vehicle.
McMakin has been a dedicated member of the Late Great Chevy Club since 1980. He has served in many positions on the executive board of the club, and he has been club president since 2008. His club travels all over the nation for shows and conventions, and the members hold meetings at each other's homes.
McMakin also has three other '61 Chevys--including a two-door bubbletop Impala he bought 33 years ago for $85. McMakin owns seven cars in all, stored in his garages at his home. His favorite story about his favorite white '61 Bel Air involves his wife, Brenda. She started teaching the third grade at Carlisle Elementary School in '63, and drove the '61 Chevy to work that day. In 2003, after 40 years of dedicated service at the same school, Brenda drove that same car home from work.
The car owner and his car club also give back to the community. Every Christmas, the club raises money to donate to a local charity. Last Christmas, the club donated money to Shriner's Hospital in Greenville.
"Our club is like family," he said. "Everyone considers each other family."