Uncle's Malibu beachcomber finds new home
In the summer of 1966, Eric Haslow's uncle, Bill Townsend, had the hots for one thing: a Mustang convertible.
As it turns out, the sun-lover wasn't alone. "Uncle Bill looked at many dealerships but couldn't find one," says Eric, who lives in Crystal Lake.
While his uncle planned to buy a droptop Mustang to cruise around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, he really wanted the open-air cruiser for trips up to his family's summer home at Wood Lake, Wisconsin. Yet after a fruitless search, he ditched the pony car pursuit and purchased a 1966 Chevelle Malibu, finding one readily available.
"He ended up liking it better," Eric says. "It was bigger and could comfortably fit the whole family."
While growing up, Eric experienced the droptop annually on vacations.
"I have fond memories of my parents having me ride the bus up to Madison and being greeted by Uncle Bill and Aunt Barb in the Chevelle," Eric recalls. "I'd hang with them for a week at the lake and remember vividly cruising around in his open car."
In addition to summers, Eric also got to see the car each November. "Uncle Bill always invited everyone over for Thanksgiving," he says. "All of the Townsends would be there and I'd sneak out to the garage to admire the car."
After more than 30 years of regular use, Uncle Bill finally came ready to part with his classic in the fall of 1996. He didn't have to look far for an interested buyer.
"I'd always ask, when he was ready to sell, for him to call me," Eric says. "When I finally got the news, I was at his place that afternoon. After paying him, I put the top down and cruised home."
Over the next couple of years, Eric started refreshing his new ride. He installed new upholstery, along with carpeting and door panels.
After more happy miles, the engine finally threw a rod. The drum brakes also went out, prompting Eric to perform a more thorough overhaul. A full teardown commenced and during the bodywork phase, memories of the lake started flooding back.
"As the body panels came off, I kept finding buildups of sand," Eric laughs.
He had the Chevelle repainted in its factory Tuxedo Black color. During his many years of driving, Uncle Bill was content with the factory-installed 283-cubic-inch V-8 but his nephew wanted more power. Eric installed a 396-c.i. V-8, along with a five-speed manual transmission and new disc brakes.
While Bill and Barb Townsend both passed away before seeing the final result, memories of the car continue to surface at every family gathering and event.
"Anytime Townsend relatives get together, Uncle Bill's Chevelle always comes up," Eric says. "So many people have similar happy memories, as I do, of cruising with him."
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