This ’57 Chevy was parked in 1985, but it only took a day to get running.
Taylor KempkesWordsMar 20, 2020
Ever wondered what it would look like if a pristine one-owner 1957 Chevy were parked in a barn for 35 years? Wonder no more. This 1957 Chevy 210 Townsman wagon was driven into a barn in 1985 and hadn’t moved until February 2020. What’s even cooler—spoiler alert—it only took a single day’s work to get this barn find Tri-Five wagon 100 percent roadworthy once again.
All right, let’s get back to square one with this amazing story. The new owner of the ’57 Chevy is Danny Rathe of Rapid City, South Dakota. Danny is a small-town car dealer who specializes in older classics, collectibles, and hot rods and, as such, he has some connections in the area. One of his connections is Greg Wick, who had a client trying to sell his father-in-law Donald Russell’s 40-acre property after his passing.
“My friend Greg called to see if I was interested in looking at the vehicles needing removal from the property in order to close with the new owners,” said Danny. Of course, he had to go check it out. They drove out to the property with Donald’s son-in-law, Neil, and a couple of Danny’s buddies, Brett Sargent and Cody Peterka, who run a local restoration and hot rod shop called Sargent Garage.
“There was a red gate locked and shut that Neil opened,” Danny began. “We then walked a couple hundred yards down a rutted easement between two barbed wire fences, into a field at the base of a beautiful tree-filled hillside. We seen the old barn in the distance with a couple cars under a lean-to roof on the side of the barn.” Those ended up being a 1977 Chevy El Camino and a 1952 Buick Special, and behind them a 1937 Ford ½-ton truck and a 1961 Apache pop-up camper. Then Neil slid open the barn doors. There were even more cars inside including a 1965 Buick Wildcat and a two-door 1975 LeSabre, but then Danny saw the 1957 Chevy wagon. “Next to those we seen the ’57 front end…we got excited.” Continuing on, Danny said, “The cars have been in the barn since 1985. Don was in the United States Air Force. He and his family lived in Rapid City, and he had bought the wagon new from Rapid Chevrolet.”
After that day they had seen all they needed to see ,so Danny made a call to Neil to make an offer. “We knew we wanted the wagon and would make a run at all of them in order to help the family liquidate in time for closing.” His offer was accepted. “I met Neil at his office in Rapid City. I paid him and was in shock to get original titles for most cars,” said Danny, “including the 1957 Chevy 210 Townsman V8 car.” The car was also an original three-on-the-tree manual with overdrive, according to Danny.
That Saturday they headed back out to recover the 1957 Chevy wagon. After moving a couple of the other cars, Danny said, “We finally got our first good look at the wagon. It was a beautiful, rust-free ’57 in black and white.”
This wasn’t Danny’s first experience with the Tri-Five, though. “I had heard of this car,” he told us. “No one ever knew where it was or how to buy it except for some guys that had lowballed the old man years prior and refused to give the car’s location after getting turned down.”
After finally pulling the wagon out of the barn and into the sun for the first time in 35 years, they were all elated. “The excitement grew into high-fives and hell-yeahs.” That night they trailered the 1957 Chevy to the shop, ready to go to work on it Sunday morning.
The process of getting the ol’ wagon running and driving was literally this easy: “We drained all fluids, pulled gas tank, blew out fuel lines, changed oil, trans, and rear end fluids. Pulled wheels and ran to Walmart—only place to get 14-inch tires on a Sunday—got a battery, carb cleaner, Sea Foam, tires, and bug bombs. Got back to shop, checked brakes, bearings on hubs, put car back together, and set it on the ground. After pulling the top off the two-barrel carb to free the check ball and allow fuel to flow, we hooked a gas can to the fuel pump, poured a prime down the carb, and the 35-year sleep was over! She fired up and blew the cobwebs from the tailpipe—literally. 35 years in the barn and 24 hours after it reaching the shop, I was driving a one-owner, original titled, ’57!”
As Danny continued to learn more about the 1957 Chevy 210, he found out that its original owner, Don, had used it back in his college days. It had taken him from South Dakota to California and back, towing the 1961 Apache camper. The car was mostly original except for a single repaint in the ’70s. It also still has its original V-8.
Toward the end of our correspondence, Danny said, “Sorry for the long email, we just really wanted to share a one-owner-car. I hope this story is worthy of a read—I know we are truly excited to share it.”
Danny, if there’s one thing you should never be sorry about, it is sharing an amazing story of something as cool as a 1957 Chevy 210 barn find that is finally hitting the road again after 35 long years.