Out with the old, in with the new
by The Press and Standard | November 22, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: November 20, 2018 at 11:29 am
George McClure gets a surprise in a 1955 Chevy Bel Aire.
George McClure’s first race car was a 1955 Chevy Bel Air. That car is long gone now, but Saturday Nov. 3 McClure got a surprise from family and friends: a freshly restored 1955 Bel Air, configured to look exactly like his original race car.
A crowd gathered at his service station on Jefferies Boulevard to watch the 87-year-old as the car pulled in the parking lot on a trailer towed by Tim Pye. When he pulled in, Tim said George remarked, “That’s a pretty car. Wonder where it came from?” Then he looked at the doors emblazed with the lettering with his name and went silent. His wife, Eloise, said in all their years of marriage, “she’s never seen Mr. George go speechless,” Pye said.
For years McClure drag-raced his first 1955 Chevy at tracks in Walterboro and Columbia. “I was top dog. Everybody wanted to beat me,” he said.
His daughter, Sherri, said, “He raced it on Saturday and drove it during the week. It wasn’t a race car — it was our regular car.”
Eventually, he blew the engine and realized that racing was an expensive hobby, so he gave it up.
The “new” car has been a race car since 1960, said Tim Pye, who helped with the purchase and restoration. It raced until the 1970s, when was retired and stored in a barn in Virginia. A man found it in the barn in 2003, and returned it to the drag strip.
A group of McClure’s family members and friends bought the car from a New York man and restored it to look exactly like the one he once raced.
McClure’s grandson, Dean McDonald, helped with the bodywork; his son-in-law Ralph Watson painted it; and Ed Crews did the lettering and pin-striping, Pye said. Pye and McClure’s son Andy McClure bought the car.
Born in St. George, McClure left school after the fourth grade, striking out on his own with $1 from his mother, spare clothes in a paper sack and a passion for cars. His first job was at a Columbia gas station, doing everything from pumping gas to washing windows. After six months, he started repairing engines at Pulliam Ford Motors, then got a job at the Walterboro Chevrolet dealership on Washington Street.
He married Eloise Hiers, spent two years in the Army, then got his big break: he started running a Shell station on Jefferies Boulevard owned by Don King. “All I ever wanted to do in life was run a service station. That was my dream,” he said.
That dream expanded in 1967 when he bought his first wrecker. Now he owns a fleet of wreckers at McClure’s Garage and Wrecker Service on Bells Highway.
And he has a shiny “new” 1955 Bel Air to go with them.