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A One Owner Car Survives and Tens of Thousands That Did Not

One Car Saved Tens of Thousands Crushed

We have not abandoned the popular Five Fun Kodachrome Images Series that now contains over 200-photos. Instead, a break is needed for a week or so after a forty-two episode run to seek out more of same type photographs that have been featured in the past.

In the meantime, today we are featuring two interesting videos that are related to the 1950s and ’60s period. Juxtaposed together, the pair show a one-owner 1957 Chevrolet Belair and a wrecking yard filmed in 1961 showing some of the ones that did not make it and were scraped.  

The first video features a West Bend, Wisconsin woman, Grace Braeger, who tells the story of buying a 1957 Chevrolet salesman’s demonstrator from Mike Balistierri at King Braeger Chevrolet in Milwaukee on October 15, 1957. She explains her old-fashioned values that include taking care of things, learned during the Great Depression from her family. This attitude and a late-1980s restoration have kept the Belair four-door hardtop in excellent shape over the years. The video courtesy of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel was produced by Michael Sears in 2o11.

In total contrast to the Grace Braeger Chevrolet story, this second video filmed in 1961 might be a bit distressing to many car collectors. The production by an unknown filmmaker at an unidentified location, shows an engaging visual story of junked cars upon arrival at a scrapyard. After being processed the automobiles are crushed into bales and stacked up like firewood before entering the US steel supply once again.

As always, let us know your thoughts and anything you can add to either story.

22 responses to “A One Owner Car Survives and Tens of Thousands That Did Not

  1. Perhaps in 55 years people will look at video of today and cringe at all the old Chevy Cavaliers, Ford Escorts, Chrsler mini-vans and Toyota corollas being crushed! (sniff)

  2. For many years, I knew a car collector who had married into a family that owned a large scrap metal operation, which he eventually inherited and ran. The story was he often had nightmares about all the rare cars the company had scrapped in the past.

  3. Kudos to Ms. Braeger for keeping her 57. I remember in the 60’s a local man had a 20’s Reo closed car that was his only and daily ride. It appeared to be in average condition for a car of its age. He said he intended to keep it as his primary transportation for as long as he lived.

  4. A ten year old car in the crusher today will often strain the hydraulics of the machine and you can hear the change in tone. These old babies just folded right up. Good grief. If you’re gonna play bumper cars, give me a newer one any day. Re, the five-seven Chevy… That is the best. Find something you like and take care of it. I think the original owner in the preservation class is a hands down winner every time. It’s my favorite category. Nice feature this week, thanks.

  5. What a great story about Ms. Braeger! She made an interesting comment about Turboglide. I wonder how rare that is, and how many cars are still using it. I didn’t even know there was such a thing until recently. I learn a lot of stuff on this site..

  6. Wow, great video’s. It’s amazing when you consider how huge a part of our lives and society automobile’s actually are. I have owned a couple dozen cars over the years. I do have one, that’s been with me over 30 years. I grew up in it, dated my wife in it, taken my kids for burgers in it, and still enjoy it as much as ever. One of my son’s want’s it, but since I still drive it, he will have to wait a little longer. My car may not be super rare or expensive, but the memories are priceless. Thanks David for this great site that can be shared by all.

  7. Yes, God bless Ms Braeger! I think that ’57 Belair is more stylish than a whole showroom full of current cars, especially the beautifully preserved interior.

    Thanks, David!

  8. Being from Wisconsin, I remember the story of Grace Braeger and her Chevy. ( West Bend is a medium sized community about 20 minutes north of Milwaukee) In the 60’s, Braeger Chevrolet was one of about a half a dozen Chevy dealers in Milwaukee. He always had the corniest commercials, with a stupid crown on his head claiming to be the “King” of Chevy deals. Not sure if that was true, but he did move a lot of Chevy’s. I think a bigger dealer was Humphrey or Holz, with Holz being the only one from the past still around today. I think it’s neat, Ms. Braeger continued to drive her old Chevy, even though elderly drivers comprise most of the accidents today, 2nd only to young women.
    As far as the scrapyard with the old cars, and someone may correct me, but I believe, our rusty 60’s scrap metal was sold to Japan, and repurposed into Toyota’s and replacement body parts and such, one of the reasons for the premature rusting of those items. As someone said ( possibly on another site) cars were meant to be used and discarded in favor of a newer car, and it’s only now, we cherish those that survived, because no one ever thought of saving a ’64 Falcon ( or whatever)
    (side note: I was disappointed to not see the 5 Kodachrome photos on Friday. I’m sure “Old Motor” has limited resources depicting those scenes, but I’m sure, tucked away in a box somewhere, we all have a treasure trove of family photos of our youth, and the cars, albeit in the background, that our folks and grandparents depended on, but have limited access on getting them here. I know for a fact, after my parents passed away, my brother took “the box of photos” home, and is going through it, slowly, and calls me on occasion to remind me of “that ’61 Plymouth wagon dad had pulling a travel trailer”, and would be right at home with the Kodachrome Friday’s. I hope that feature returns soon ( like next week?) It really sparks a lot of interest, as many relive memories of forgotten cars and destinations, so prevalent in our youth. Thanks again for a great site.

    • A steel guy is welcome to correct me if I am mistaken, but I believe all new steel includes several percent of scrap steel. I once thought, when I collected licence plates, that 1957 was a year with much premature rusting, and was difficult to find with good paint in those years. I wondered if the nuclear testing that was going on then might somehow have affected the steel. Probably my imagination, but it did seem that, regardless of state, the 57s were prone to rust.

  9. It amazes ME sometimes, how certain cars or model variations of cars are “SEEN IN PUBLIC” at Nationally Televized Auctions. There are no rules for “supply & demand”, sometimes. Of course, we also have FADS, such as a cheaper two door car having more antique value than a four door car (that doesn’t require a Chiropractor after getting in or out of the rear seat!) I am impressed with later Corvairs and German – engined Pintos, — many of which got “PRESSED” ” before their TIME”, by adverse publicity from DO-GOODERS with a warped mission !!! When the Thunderbird Sportscar MORPHED into a WHALE — I thought that it was “an answer to a question that no one asked” , — and a good candidate for being PRESSED! Well, I was wrong!!! THERE they are, — going across the auction block and bringing a respectable price! GO FIGURE!!!

  10. Well, if everyone had the delightful Grace Braeger’s approach to looking after things and not constantly buying new our economic system would collapse! I can’t imagine that many of the electronics-laden moderns would survive over 50 years, even with such careful maintenance; the electronic components will rapidly date and become irreplaceable, according to a restorer I know here in the UK. And, he tells me, that applies even more to those dreadful hybrids!

  11. Congrat’s to Grace Braeger. I couldn’t watch the scrap yard video as it’s just too painful. We used to visit friends in the Boston area, and their son was my age. He and I shared a love for old cars so when we visited them, he would take me to new junkyards he had found. Of course we had to jump fences, or literally break in. Never came across a junkyard dog, but sure saw some great old cars. Thanks to Ladybird Johnson, and her clean up America campaign we lost iconic architecture, great history, and the best junkyards.

    • In 1970 I went to FL. to visit my brother who was stationed at Pensacola (so were the Blue Angels, back when they flew the F-4) What a summer!
      We went to a junk yard and I lost count of all the Hemi engine cars with trees growing through them…that still bothers me today……..

  12. There was an old lady in Tampa who had a ’57 in our n’hood.She said she practically couldn’t drive down the street
    without someone asking to buy it,sometimes at a ridiculously low price.They figured since she was old she didn’t know the score so they would try to cheat her.She said auto mechanics were the worst offenders.

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