QUINCY — Bing Welper was sitting on the porch of his home on the morning of Father’s Day this spring when he looked outside and noticed a familiar car pulling up on the driveway.
“That’s my car,” he said as a huge grin grew across his awe-struck face. “That’s my car right there.”
“I fell in love with Pah-Paw because of that damn car,” his wife, Beverly, said as Bing got up to go outside.
Bing’s son, Vic, was behind the wheel of a Sherwood green and ivory 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hard-top. It was the same car his father bought when he was 20 years old.
“Oh, it was amazing,” Bing recently recalled about the Father’s Day surprise. “I mean, just blown away. It was so pretty and shiny, just like I remembered it. It was like a snapshot in time. You can’t describe it. It just appeared out of nowhere.”
Bing originally hoped for turquoise and white car
Bing, now 85, remembers hanging out with his teenage friends and their cars at Bartay’s, a gas station at 12thand Hampshire. At the time, he was driving a 1952 Oldsmobile Holiday hardtop.
One of those friends, Punch Disseler, went on vacation with Bing in 1956. They drove through seven states and kept noticing the new Bel Airs during their trip.
“Every time we saw one, we remarked how good looking they were,” Bing said.
Another friend, Jack Cosgrove, decided to buy a black 1956 Bel Air, and Bing rode along to a dealership in Palmyra, Mo., when the deal was made. That motivated him to drive to Martin Chevrolet in Canton, Mo., to check out a car of his own.
“I liked the turquoise and white two-tones because I had seen so many of them in our travels,” Bing said. “But when I got there, dark green was the only two-toned car they could get.”
Bing said Fords were the only cars with a V-8 engine until 1955. Chevrolet then added a four-barrel carburetor in 1956.
“That was one more reason I chose that car,” he said. “We’d seen the Chevys run at Camp Ellis (a dirt track used for drag racing near Macomb), and they were blowing the Fords off the track.
“It was a grand day when they delivered my car.”
While drag racing in Hancock County, Bing also met his wife
A year later, however, Bing was called into the U.S. Army Reserves in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for basic combat training for six months. He returned home in April 1958, and Bing remembers several of his friends showing off their 1956 Chevrolets nightly at the A&W Restaurant or the Dog & Suds restaurant near 12th and Locust.
“They were always clean and shiny,” he said. “Shiny was a must. We all knew how to take care of our cars. To have a new car was a very special thing.”
Bing said he and Cosgrove liked finding out how fast their cars could go to a 10-mile strip between Bowen and Augusta. He also had his eyes on an Augusta girl named Beverly Davis, who eventually married Bing in June 1958.
“We would go to Beverly’s house to show off a little,” Bing said.
Bing also ran his cars around Quincy. He admits he was fortunate his father, Ben Welper, was a detective for the Quincy Police Department.
“If I was going too fast at night and I got pulled over, I’d give them my driver’s license,” Bing said. “Naturally, they would look at it, and first thing they’d say was, ‘Are you Benny’s boy?’ I’d say, ‘Yes, sir.’ Then they would say, ‘You take that car home, and you park it and you learn to slow down.’ More than once did I get lucky on a deal like that.”
Car eventually wound up in hands of high school teacher, counselor
Bing eventually decided to trade his 1956 Bel Air for a 1958 Chevrolet Impala.
“Jack Cosgrove was a big influence on my decisions for some reason,” Bing said with a laugh. “When I came out of the Army, Jack traded his black two-door Bel-Air hardtop, just like mine, for a ‘58 Impala with 348 cubic inch tri-carbureted V-8 stick shift engine. When I saw what Jack did, I thought I’d like to have one like that. So I did.
“(The Impala) would do 60 in first gear and 102 in second gear, and then you’d slap that baby down in third gear, and it would do 120.”
Bing traded the Bel Air back to Martin Chevrolet. He later learned the car eventually was owned by two local men before it was eventually sold in 1961 to 18-year-old Bob Siebers, who later became a longtime coach, teacher and guidance counselor in the Quincy School District. Bing and Siebers eventually drove motorcycles together.
“I had seen it in his dad’s garage on 13th and Jefferson,” Bing said. “His dad kept the car all covered up and never drove it. One day I went to his house, knocked on the door and said I was the original owner of his ‘56 Chevrolet. I asked if it would be possible just to see it. He took me over and showed it to me, and I thanked him.
“It was as close as I got to the car.”
‘Man, if I could just get that car’
Siebers died in June 2014, and in his obituary, the family said one of his favorite pastimes was “cruising in his ’56 Chevy while listening to old rock ‘n roll.”
His son, Scott, kept the Bel Air. However, he contacted Vic on Facebook in April to ask if he would be interested in buying the car.
“His mom said, ‘You might want to check with Bing or Vic Welper, because they have something to do with that car,’” Vic said.
Vic hadn’t forgotten his dad’s stories.
“Here’s this pristine ’56 Chevy sitting in a garage, not being used,” Vic said. “When I was 18, I would go by the garage, look through the window and just drool about it. I’d think, ‘Man, if I could just get that car.’ I would have ruined it as a teenager for sure.”
Car now back in the family
He bought the car from Scott Siebers and drove to St. Louis with his sons to pick it up in early June. The car was still in immaculate condition, with power brakes, power steering, a new engine and mint green upholstery (replacing the original white) added in 2008.
“We drove it home on a hot summer day with no air conditioning and the windows down,” Vic said. “It was a fun day.”
Which led to an unforgettable moment for his dad.
“It was my first new car, and that was a very special car to me,” Bing said. “It’s Vic’s car now. It sits in his garage, but I tell him that I’ve only got two cars in my garage, so he can always keep it at my house.
“I’ve had a couple of chances to drive it, and it’s beautiful. Just beautiful. I was surprised I was still able to drive a stick shift. We all wanted stick shifts back then because they were faster. It’s still a nice, smooth car.”
And it’s back in the family.
“I knew if I passed on not buying that car, I’d never forgive myself,” Vic said.
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