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Tracing the parentage of a 1957 Chevy is not easy, but for Earl Swift, author of “Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream,” it became an obsession.
“I met Tommy Arney in 1993 when he was running a go-go bar in Virginia,” says Swift.
Swift was, at the time, a newspaper reporter for The Virginian-Pilot. Swift went to Arney’s go-go bar to interview him about a court battle he was involved in. Swift says he walked out of that interview very impressed with Arney.
“He had an intelligent humor that stayed with me for years afterwards,” says Swift.
He met the 1957 Chevy 11 years later.
“Having driven a succession of beaters in college and throughout my twenties, and wondering often back in those days what the cars had been like when they were new and actually functioned as intended,” says Swift. “I decided it would be an interesting newspaper story to find an old car and try to trace it back to everybody who had owned and try to tell a bigger story; something about America or about the region or the state through this one car and this otherwise unconnected fraternity of people who had shared it.”
Swift tracked down the 13 individuals who owned the ’57 Chevy, and uncovered the story of Tommy Arney, the thirteenth owner, whose mission was to rescue the car from ruin.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.
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