Shop Life Repairer Profiles

A Classic Taxi

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The black 1957 Chevy Bel Air wagon sat in the back lot of Certified Automotive Specialists for nearly a decade before becoming one of the hottest and most memorable customer shuttles in town.

Gene Morrill had tried to get the ’57 out of his lot for years after a long-time customer left it there post repair. As the years went by, continued maintenance and tuneups kept it running for the day it would finally be picked up for good.

Morrill called the customer and made him an offer. After all, his kids needed a car for high school.

“It was my customer’s dad’s car that he had bought new,” Morrill says. “After he died, my customer didn’t have room for it at his house. He finally told me he didn’t know what to do with it, so I bought it from him.”

After the deal was made, Morrill’s kids rejected the Bel Air that had endured years of weathering.

“I wanted them to have it for high school and neither of them wanted it, believe it or not,” Morrill says. “Then it hit me: what a great advertising piece.”

Morrill’s shop began the process of turning the forgotten classic into a pristine shuttle for the shop. New paint, upholstery, transmission and air conditioning all turned the Chevrolet into a rolling billboard.

“That car drives all day, every day,” Morrill says. “We found an old taxi meter and sign for on top, so we call it the taxi service for our customers.”

A switch from the original two-speed automatic transmission to a four-speed overdrive has allowed Morrill’s shuttle driver to take the Chevy out on the highway, while updated disc brakes and A/C have given it a more comfortable and safe ride.

“What kills me is the gas mileage,” Morrills says. “It only gets about 10 miles per gallon. But it’s just too good of an advertising piece. As technology moves forward, maybe we can make it a greener car.”

The advertising doesn’t stop at the car’s window sticker. Morrill uses social media to spread the word and engage customers by posting pictures of the ride near local landmarks, asking customers if they can recognize where the classic shuttle sits in each photo.

Beyond its traditional duties, Morrill’s customers have even asked to have the shuttle make special pickups. For one of his customers, it was a chance to send loved ones down memory lane.

“Their parents’ first car was a ’57 Chevy, so they asked us to pick them up from the airport,” Morrill says. “Everyone has a story about something that’s happened in a ’57 Chevy.”
Morrill says he’s put almost $15,000 into the shuttle while trying to keep the car looking as stock as possible. Morrill added that one of the best rewards is hearing many people’s past memories about owning or riding in a ’57 Chevy.

“It seems like everybody had one at some point,” Morrill says. “Making out, hot-rodding, speeding and doing doughnuts, everybody has their story.” 

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