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Nice wheels, a little chrome

Loy Wade parted with his baby - a '47 Chevy - a few months ago. Now he's looking for a new ride.

Published October 29, 2004

LUTZ - He didn't mind so much putting in the work back then, back in the days when he first bought the 1947 Chevrolet.

Back then, when Loy Wade was younger, it wasn't such a chore to slide beneath his cherry chariot and polish all the chrome down there, a necessary task every time he drove it through water.

Back then, all the effort to keep it pristine, to keep it not only street legal but reliable enough to drive cross country, all of that wasn't so bad. Back when he was younger. Back when he bought it.

Eleven years ago.

Back when he was 60.

Not that Wade gives any impression he's lost a step these days, at 71. But after all the care he put into the '47 Chevy, the Lutz retiree decided it might be time to offer it up.

A few months ago, Wade shook the hand of its new owner, Bill Nice, and waved goodbye as Nice took it to his home in Winter Haven.

But like Neil Sedaka said, breaking up is hard to do.

Which explains why a couple of weeks ago, Wade and his wife Karen took some time to visit with the ol' Chevy at the Southeast Street Rod Nationals show. And why Wade was keeping his eye out for a new ride. Wade, a member of the Tampa Knights Rod and Custom Club, claims finding a new street rod isn't all that important to him at this age. But Karen calls him out, noting her husband seems to miss the Chevy and maybe has a little too much time on his hands these days.

Said Wade: "I wouldn't say it's a killer" sense of loss, "but there is some feeling there."

Born in Savannah, Ga., but raised in Tampa, Wade always was mechanically inclined. He began his Air Force career as a mechanic and later moved into operations, serving in Alaska, before retiring after 21 years. He didn't stay idle long, taking a job with a federal railroad that kept him busy another 15. He and Karen moved to the north Hillsborough area permanently just over a decade ago.

Wade had owned a few vintage cars over the years, including a '35 Ford convertible. His brother, a longtime Tampa resident, invited him to join the Tampa Knights, which helped Wade scratch his vintage-car itch and help raise money for charity at the same time.

He bought the Chevy from a man in Crystal River, did some work on it and took it on the road. He and Karen joined car show aficionados from Syracuse to Dallas, from Louisville to Oklahoma City.

"You customize a car so you can take it all over the United States," Wade said. "That car had everything a regular car has except for a rear window defroster."

When he wasn't driving it, he was working on it. He'd replace integral parts - the compressor, alternator, water pump, fuel pump - well before they went bad. His handiwork was on display wherever he felt like taking it.

"The thing is, you can drive your hobby anywhere you need to go," he said. "You see (owners at the car shows) who bring their cars in a trailer. (I believe) you trailer horses and lawn mowers.

"If the title says "automobile' on it, you should (drive) it."

But now the Chevy is gone, though Wade knows his baby's gone to a good home. All the work was worth it, he said, "if someone can get as much enjoyment out of it as I did."

So now Wade needs a new vintage car, if only for something to take to the car shows he and his wife so enjoy.

"Just about every other weekend there's a cruise-in," he said. "We enjoy the camaraderie of it, the atmosphere of being in a club."

Perhaps Wade's search will end next month at the Daytona Turkey Run, which will welcome more than 7,000 cars to the Daytona International Speedway. More than 1,000 cars will be for sale at the 31st annual event, which runs Nov. 25-28.

Wade said he's not looking for anything in particular, though he prefers General Motors cars, and maybe an "off-breed" might be fun, such as a Nash or a Studebaker.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what's there," he said. "It's just whatever catches the eye."

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