The story of Doorthy begins in 1986. Joe and his family owned a condominium in Purgatory, CO, that they frequented very often from Dallas. TX. They usually drove from Dallas to Purgatory in an old Ford custom van that Joe hated. After several years of frustration with the van and because there was not enough room in the van for the family, Joe got the brilliant idea that what was needed was a used limousine so each of the kids would have their own seat. After thinking about this for awhile, Joe got an even more brilliant idea that it would be better to get an old Chevy limousine since he was fond of old cars and already had a 1962 Chevy Impala SS Convertible. In February 1986, Joe sent a note to the Late Great Chevy Association in Orlando, FL, asking that the following ad would be published in its next monthly magazine:
Wanted: Late Great Airport Limousine, preferably 1962
He included his name, address, and phone number. The ad ran in the March 1986 issue of the organization’s magazine. In late March 1986, Joe received a note from Jay Davidson in Boston, MA, with an ad from the March 1986 issue of Hemmings Motor News. The ad with picture read:
Joe immediately called the number in the ad and finally talked to the seller after a few days of playing phone tag. He told Joe that the car had a little bit of rust, was straight, and that it had sat for quite awhile with no motor and they put in a 350 motor. He also said the brakes were okay, good exhaust, fair rubber, new paint, and it was complete except for some door chrome. He also said it needed shocks. After discussing price, they came to an agreement for $4,500.00 for the car, including shipping it to Dallas by Auto Movers Inc. On April 8, 1986, Joe sent a wire transfer to the seller finalizing the deal. No mention of this was made to Sandy.
On April 17, 1986, Joe sent a note to Jay Davidson thanking him for remembering one ad when he saw the other and told him he bought the limo. He wrote back that he was glad he could help out, but he only wondered why Joe would want that “beast.”
A few days later Joe got a phone call from the auto transport company saying the car would be arriving in Dallas that evening some time around dinner. Joe took Sandy and their youngest daughter, Robyn, to dinner at their favorite Mexican restrauant. After serving Sandy two large margaritas, Joe told her what he had done and after dinner they were going to go to the transport terminal to see their purchase. Sandy was not amused.
After dinner, they went to the terminal and got there as the car was being driven off the truck. The car was so loud because it had no mufflers! After it was down, Joe noticed that one of the windows was down and asked Robyn to scoot across the seat and roll up the window. As she put her foot inside the door, her foot went through the floor board all the way to the ground. So much for the Seller’s comment that the car had a little bit of rust! Sandy was convinced that Joe was insane and she refused to ever been seen in the car. Robyn felt that it needed a name and with 7 doors, it was obvious that her name should be Doorthy.
Joe decided not to take the car home at that time, but would come back early the next morning so that the lack of mufflers would not be a problem. Early the next morning they went to the terminal to get Doorthy. It was at this time that Joe looked it over closely and found out the following about the car: First of all, it had a significant amount of rust — not just a little. The floor boards had rotted away in places and the rocker panels and other parts of the bottom had serious rust. The rear trunk pan had two additional layers of tin metal riveted to the rusted out pan so that luggage would not fall out the bottom. Already noted was that there was no exhaust system on the car. In addition, there were no shock absorbers on the car. The brakes were okay, but there was a rope around the steering column so that when you stepped on the brakes you had to pull the rope to release them. It was a three-on-the-tree column shifter, but the only problem was that the gear shift lever was only about four inches long. The reason was that it was so had to shift into gears that somewhere along the way someone broke the shifter off trying to shift. The engine was neither a “strong running 327 V8” or a 350. It was a barely running 305 V8 that smoked like a chimney. It was an embarrassment to be seen it (which Joe has only recently admitted out loud).
They determined that it would be best to take the long way home on the interstate highways so that Joe had as few times to start and stop as possible. You can only imagine what it was like with a car that smoked heavily, had no exhaust, was difficult to shift, was loud and bounced down the highway because of the lack of shock absorbers. Joe made it home without incident until he got to the alley behind their house. Doorthy died in the middle of the alley and would not start again. She had to be pushed into the driveway.
Over the next few months, time and resources were put into Doorthy to make her road worthy. They found a junkyard near Dallas that had a 1962 Chevy station wagon that could be used as a parts car. Needed trim parts and the 3-speed transmission were the first parts to be retrieved from the parts car. This new transmission, along with the transmission currently in Doorthy, was taken to a transmission shop to be combined into one good one. Next, a rebuilt 350-cubic inch engine was purchased from an engine shop and was installed in Doorthy. Also all new brakes, brake lines, shocks, dual exhaust system, 3 new carrier bearings, rear springs, tires etc. were installed. All this time and effort made Doorthy a good, safe and interesting vehicle that was certainly noticed anywhere she was driven.
Doorthy was never driven to the mountains in Purgatory Colorado, but she was used extensively for local car club activities, holiday parades, sporting events, birthday parties, car cruises, outings to the local drive-in restaurants, out of town swap meets for car part shopping and was even used for fund raisers for the local churches. All in all she had a pretty interesting and fun existence.
However, no action was taken all those years to get rid of the significant amount of rust. She looked good from twenty feet, ran good and was appreciated for being such a unique vehicle.
Finally, in 2005, Joe’s friends embarrassed him into finally doing something to improve the appearance of Doorthy. Many conversations were held with different paint and body people as to their interest in tackling her restoration project including how extensive it should be. Finally one of his friends put him in contact with Jeff Boyd of Boyd Aircraft Services in Justin Texas. Jeff’s preference is to restore small aircraft but in his free time he will work on old cars. He had restored some pretty nice cars in his facility and would make room for Doorthy. Jeff works out of a large aircraft hanger at a private airpark and had both the time and talent to attempt a complete frame off restoration. Jeff proved to be a magician when it came to working with a plasma cutter and his ability to remove bad metal and weld in solid metal. He is a perfectionist in making sure everything fit well and was correct. His first meeting in reviewing Doorthy and the parts car, which had been sitting around for twenty years, was to decide that the parts car was the better car to use for the back end of Doorthy. It had little bottom rust and the rocker panels and underneath panels were far better. Over the next few months Joe removed the engine, transmission and everything else that needed to be removed for the restoration.
In January 2005, Jeff brought his three-car trailer to my shop and loaded up Doorthy and the parts car for the trip to his shop. It was decided that Jeff and Joe would work one day a week on Doorthy and Joe would be his gopher.
The first activity was to remove the body from the frame. The frame was returned to my shop and work was begun on the body. Next it was determined what should be removed from the body in order to get rid of the rust. The first decision was to keep the roof and the upper firewall intact as it was since it was kind of a unique piece. This was accomplished by cutting all the windows and door jams through the middle of the posts. The top was then lifted to the ceiling of Jeff’s shop so they could work on the rest of the car. Since the whole bottom of the body had significant rust it was decided to replace it all in three sections.
First the front lower section was removed by cutting through the air boxes in approximately the middle. A 1961 parts car was found in a local junkyard. This was cut so that the air boxes would match the section removed from Doorthy. This section had little rust and had very good rocker panels for the front of the car. This whole section was matched to the bottom of Doorthy and welded in place.
The next section to be manufactured was the rear part of Doorthy since the whole back end of Doorthy was extremely rusty. The decision was made to use the whole back of the parts car and to stab it into the back end of Doorthy.
The last section to be tackled was the middle section of the car. A 1964 parts car was used to supply the additional rocker panels needed to complete the connection between the front and back sections. These rocker panels were measured, sectioned and installed so that the overall length of Doorthy was correct.
It was at this time that a decision was made to make Doorthy an eight-door limousine instead of a six-door limo. Originally, the two middle doors on the drivers’ side of the car were false doors that were welded in the door jams and were not functional. A 1962 parts car was located that had an acceptable door jam. The jam was removed and installed in Doorthy in the proper location. The next action was to manufacture working doors for the new door jams. It was necessary to make the doors by welding the back half of a front door to the front half of a back door twice. After they were made, door hardware was made and installed in order to make the doors functional. This included stalling the necessary door handles on the new drivers side doors.
Almost all the doors had rust along the bottoms. In order to repair these, new twelve inch high patch panels from a 1960 Chevy pickup were purchased. Pickup panels were used because they were inexpensive, readily available and a little longer than normal patch panels for a car. This allowed for the proper fit to be made to the existing doors. You can imagine that working with eight doors and a tailgate that it seemed like there would never be an end to working on doors. For several months it was working on doors and doors and doors.
After most of the bodywork and doors had been completed, they lowered the roof from the ceiling and placed it properly on the body of the car. The door jams and window jams were then welded in place to basically complete the car. Then considerable time was spent on the top of the car. All the areas above the doors were extremely rusty and had to be repaired. New clean metal was purchased that had the correct angles to replace these areas. This included new rain gutters along the major length of the roof. When Doorthy was originally constructed, a considerable amount of lead was the normal filler material where areas had to be filled in. To repair holes in the roof, old lead was melted off and new lead-solder combination was used to repair the roof and to make it flat. Bondo was then used to complete the roof before primer and paint was applied.
With all the bodywork done they began the painting process. Early on Joe had decided to paint the car 2004 millennium yellow, which was the new color for Corvettes that year. Little did he know that yellow is a difficult paint color to work with. However, the painting went well and in January of 2009, Doorthy was brought back to Doorthy’s Place and Joe proceeded to reassemble the car. Except for a few minor items, he was able to complete the restoration of Doorthy with the considerable help of a bunch of his friends.
The first outing of Doorthy 2.0 was at the National Impala Association Annual Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in August 2009. She was well received and enjoyed by everyone there because she is such a unique vehicle. These days she is a frequent star at the Autorama Show in Dallas.
During the almost twenty five years that Joe has owned Doorthy, he has only seen or heard of three other 1962 Chevy Airport limousines.
Doorthy’s Body Restoration
Doorthy’s Engine Restoration