Round America – The Impact of a 55 Chevy Police Car

The idea for our trip Round America was encouraged in part by a trip from Dallas to Orlando in December 2001.

The following article was written for the HOTTIES web site:

Dallas to Orlando in a 1955 Chevrolet Police Car

by William M. Windsor, Founder of the HOTTIES Donut, Coffee, and Dessert Restaurants

December 7, 2001….

I have just completed one of life’s great experiences!  HOTTIES bought the newest addition to the HOTTIES’ fleet of police cars on December 4, 2001 on the Internet auction site, eBay.  The seller was Steve Jobe of Southlake, Texas.  Steve told me that I would be missing out if I had an auto transporter ship the 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air Police Car from Dallas to Orlando.  He convinced me to drive the car, and I did.

I flew from Atlanta to Dallas on December 7 on a one-way ticket; Steve picked me up at the airport in the car (lights flashing at the American terminal), and we went to his beautiful home in Southlake where I inspected the car and closed the transaction.  I really liked Steve, and the police car is in spectacular condition.  It purrs; the exterior is in fantastic shape, and the interior is even nicer.  Barbara Gray Windsor faxed the semi-final version of the Altamonte Springs Florida store lease for HOTTIES to me there at Steve’s home, and I was off.

The odyssey begins….

We passed the Grapevine Krispy Kreme on the way to Steve’s house, so it took me just a few minutes to get back there.  Click here to see how inconspicuous I was at the Krispy Kreme —

Bill Windsor, on a secret spy trip to Krispy Kreme in Grapevine, Texas as he started the trip from Dallas to Orlando.

The Krispy Kreme folks got a big kick out of the police car…little did they know that the founder of their big competitor, HOTTIES, was hiding behind the badge on a spy mission.  (Then again, maybe they haven’t even heard of HOTTIES yet, but they will soon!)  I was forced to buy a few donuts for tasting purposes.  I also did my normal reconnaissance work, pacing off the measurements, writing down prices, etc.  I then sat down in Krispy Kreme’s table and chair area with a grande Pepsi and called the landlord in Orlando to finalize the last two issues on the lease for our HOTTIES store there.  I think it adds a lot to this deal to have done that important piece of business right there in KrispyKremeLand.

Every customer who walked in Krispy Kreme had a big smile on his or her face from seeing the police car out front, and they all wanted to talk about it and ask questions.  It is AMAZING the effect antique police cars have on people!

I then drove to North Dallas to see my mother and father-in-law, Hayward and Janet Gray.

Hayward and Janet Gray with the car in front of their Dallas home.

Mimi (Janet) seemed embarrassed when I had the flashing lights on with the siren blaring as Papa (Hayward) and I took a spin around the block.  The car is fully restored; even the cigarette lighter works.  It has a working siren, working bubble gum machine flashing lights, working spotlight, and working police radio.  This baby has been juiced up, though, with a 350 cubic inch engine with 425 horsepower and a Hurst four-speed shifter on the floor.

Jackie Moravcik, a fraternity brother and our real estate Dude, called when I first arrived in Dallas, and he told me that five of the Black-Eyed Pea restaurants in Dallas were closing.  Mimi, Papa, and I discussed where the best locations were, and I decided to drive by all of them as I spent a few hours touring the areas that I feel would be the best location for HOTTIES in North Dallas.

As I drove up Preston Road, people smiled, pointed, waved, etc.  I went to the closest Black-Eyed Pea at Preston and Park, where I was literally mobbed with people.  One lady stopped with the back half of her Suburban sticking out into Preston Road to gawk and talk and ask questions.  The employees at Black-Eyed Pea were equally animated!  I explained that I was in the donut business (always gets big laughs), that we are looking for a great location in Dallas, and that we heard some of the Black-Eyed Peas were closing.  One of the folks there was obviously in management, and she gave me the complete scoop.  She suggested that I drive straight to Belt Line, as she felt the best Pea for our purposes was there, and it had already closed.

When I finally managed to get away after the Black-Eyed Pea-ers took a pile of Polaroid snapshots of various employees with the car, I raced over to Belt Line.  There was a Black-Eyed Pea all closed up — fantastic location.

I saw a street person begging at the corner of Midway and 635.  I gave him $5.00.  He wanted to know if I was the sheriff.  I just smiled.

After doing a little more location scouting in Dallas, I hit the road.  1,000 miles, 50 gallons of gas, and 16 hours and 50 minutes of travel time later, I made it home to Atlanta.  The car ran like a top!  I always drew a crowd at every gas station and fast food stop; several people took pictures.  One lady even took a picture at 60 miles-an-hour as we drove side-by-side down the Interstate in Louisiana.  I got a kick out of a few (very few) people who were afraid to pass me or threw on their brakes when they saw it was a police car.  Most people either realized it was really old or didn’t feel they were driving fast enough to be worried.  Several people kind of swerved off the road from looking.

I drew a big crowd when I stopped at the donut shop that prompted us to start HOTTIES!  A man named Lanny talked my ear off about the various old cars he had owned or still owned.  One nice gentleman came over from a block away as he saw the car and owns a 1955 Chevrolet, too, though not a police car.

In Ruston, Louisiana, two police officers pulled me over.  I knew I wasn’t speeding.  They offered to trade cars.  They were really nice.  I asked them if the siren on all police cars was a switch on the floor like the dimmer switch for the headlights, and they said that was standard.  I gave them a little demo.  They chuckled as I peeled out to get back on the highway.

I spent the night in Monroe, Louisiana.  I couldn’t resist pulling into the registration area of the Marriott Courtyard with the lights flashing and a little shot of siren.  The two desk clerks told me that Shipley’s Donuts are really good there.

I left bright and early Saturday morning, December 8.  I almost immediately had a long caravan of fans of the “Rebels” football team who were going to the state football tournament.  There must have been a hundred cars, and every one of them honked, waved, and laughed.

I saw a hippy-looking hitchhiker in Mississippi.  He pulled his sign down when he saw me coming by.  I guess he didn’t want to take any chances.

Down the road, two good old boys from Alabama, Billy and Glenn, were especially talkative when I gassed up in Heflin, Alabama, so I took their picture with the car.

A lot of truckers came over to talk at gas stations.  One looked under the hood and was surprised to see that big 350 cubic inch, 425 horsepower engine.  He asked me how many rpm the car was running at when I was going as fast as I could go, and he said he bet the car will go 100 or faster if we change out the rear end.  I don’t know that we need our police car to do any faster than the 65 or so I was driving, but all feedback and conversation was appreciated.  No one ever talks to me when I am driving our Jeep; it’s interesting that a little thing like an unusual car will get people to open up and warm up when they would never talk to a plain old stranger.

I got literally hundreds upon hundreds of thumbs up, honks, and waves as I drove down the highway.  And best of all, I saw THOUSANDS of smiles from people passing by.

There aren’t enough smiles in the world, and very few of us walk around or drive around smiling.  And there has been far less to smile about during the last few troubled months.  That made it especially gratifying to see so many people who had their day brightened by an old car with an even older driver.

Joe repaired the brake lights for the last leg of the trip.

Three young painters took a lot of pictures with the car.

That’s me (Bill Windsor) waving as I depart our driveway in Atlanta — headed for Orlando.

Sheriff in Georgia laughing with a man at a gas station — both LOVED the police car!

Lisa, who recently moved back to Altamonte Springs from Saudia Arabia, had her picture taken with the car.

Pizza Hut employee poses with the police car.

The 1955 Chevrolet police car arrives at its new home in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

Marty Windsor and Carolyn Bazzo in the police car.

1955 Chevy — Left Front  |  1955 Chevy — Front  |  1955 Chevy — Right Front  |
1955 Chevy — Rear  |  1955 Chevy — Left Rear  |  1955 Chevy — Right Rear  |
1955 Chevy — Interior Front  |  1955 Chevy — Interior Back  |  1955 Chevy Engine

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