Stellarton – Gary Stewart may have found love at first sight – twice.
The first was his wife Trisha who passed away 10 years ago and left a void in his life that he now fills with the love of his family and friends.
The second is his 1965 Chevrolet truck that he says a high power had a hand in helping him buy.
“I swear to God I got someone up there,” he said. “Trish is up there seeing it.”
Stewart was casually looking for a side-step truck a few years ago when his son spotted a photo of a 1965 Chevrolet for sale on Internet. The owner was from New York and when he called to ask about it, a neighbour of the owner said it was already sold, but he took his number anyway.
The next day, Stewart said the owner called him and said the sale had fallen through and asked if he was still interested in seeing the truck.
“He said the guy backed out,” said Stewart who engaged in a long conversation with the truck’s owner and soon found out they had a lot more common than just their love for Chevs. “He met his wife the same way I met mine. You wouldn’t believe the similarities. There are a whole bunch of things we did the same.”
He travelled to New York with his sons and when he arrived there was another potential buyer waiting with money in hand to purchase the same truck.
“When I went to get it, I see this cowboy hat, cowboy boot, feather and I hear this cattle call sound. The boys are smiling. They call me cowboy and trail boss up home,” he said.
Although the other potential buyer from Texas was offering more money, the owner gave Stewart the first chance to purchase the vehicle.
“I told him I was taking it,” he said. “I trailered it home because I didn’t want there to be any chips in it.”
He said the 1965 Chevrolet, 283 automatic is in original condition with the exception of the hubcaps.
The original owner was a North Carolina farmer who purchased it in 1965 and he died in the winter of 1969-70. The farmer’s sons never settled the estate so the truck sat for 16 years until they had it professionally painted in 1986. The New York owner purchased the truck during an estate sale and took it home to his six-car garage in upstate New York.
“It had one paint job in 49 years,” said Stewart. “There is no body fill in it all. The tires on it are the same ones from 1986 when the new owner bought. It has 73,000 miles on it. It’s all original.”
Stewart said he had the vehicle professionally appraised and was told that it is one of a kind.
“He said he has never seen anything so original and in such nice shape,” he said.
Stewart kept all of the original trinkets inside the truck, including the feather and cowboy boot, but added some of his own embellishments that show off his love for country and western. One of his daughter’s made him western printed covers for his seats and mirrors while he also installed a one of a kind cup holder out of Mason jar lids, wood and stir ups.
A set of bullhorns sits in the back window of the vehicle underneath the name, “Trail Boss.”
It is evident after a short drive around town that the truck gets a lot of attention. Its shiny baby blue exterior is the first thing people probably notice next to the low rumble of the engine.
It definitely catches the eye of passersby and other motorists as Stewart waves to many people he passes on the street.
Stewart said he decided at the last minute to take part in Westville’s Canada Day parade and although he never registered it, he won first prize in one of the parade categories.
“I kept playing the cattle call,” he said. “Older people loved it and the kids loved it.”
He also participates in about 10 car shows a year and is a regular at the A and W gatherings for the Pictou County Antique Car Club.
Stewart says he is usually out every summer evening for a drive with family or friends for an ice cream or a coffee and when he returns to the yard, the Chev is given a quick once over to make sure it is in good shape for the next run.
“I wipe it down every time I take it out,” he said. “I never put wax on it, but use wash with wax in it. You don’t have to wash it as much because once you keep it clean, it stays clean.”
He said he plans on passing it on to his sons when he isn’t able to enjoy it anymore.
“When this truck was new it was worth $3,000 and now it was appraised at $30,000, but it’s not for sale. It’s going down to my family,” he said.
Until that day comes, Stewart says he will continue to drive it on sunny days and store it in his “man cave” during the rainy and winter ones.
It’s a good fit for his garage that also gives visitors a trip through memory lane. Stewart is an avid collector of anything old fashioned, from business signs, to radios, to irons, to ice boxes and more.
All of the items are sorted with a purpose so that a visitor feels like they are stepping back in time and will no doubt catch a glimpse of something each time they return.
“I love having it so other people can enjoy it,” he said. “I enjoy it because I am a history person.”
Stewart said his many grandchildren enjoy spending time in the garage and seeing smiles on their faces is what life is all about.
“I am so blessed. We struggled, but I am so blessed. I don't look at the struggles,” he said. “I try to love life.”
This is why he never turns down an opportunity to help a fellow man out and is well known in the community for participating in local organizations and performing at local benefits for those who are suffering.
He is a recent recipient of the Caring Canadian Award from Governor General David Johnston that recognizes Canadians who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community in Canada or abroad.
Stewart is pleased with the recognition, but he said the real reward comes from being surrounded by friends and helping others in a time of need. He said he often gets goosebumps when he performs and looks out to see people smiling and dancing during some of the darkest times in their lives.
“There is something here that we don’t understand,” he said. “I am so thankful and so blessed. Same with this volunteer stuff. I was humble in a way and proud in a way to accept it.”