'51 Chevy has delivered 3 generations to graduation day

May 10—LIMA — On Saturday evening, Parker Judy will drive a 1951 Chevy to his high school graduation ceremony at Lima Central Catholic High School.

Arriving in a vintage car adds a unique twist to any senior's graduation day, but the generational history of this particular Chevy makes the day even more special for Parker.

The vehicle was purchased new in 1951 by George Wenger as a gift for his wife, Donna. Their son Steve — Parker's grandfather — owns the car today, bringing it back into the family fold after a 15-year journey through several owners in several states.

When Steve Wenger was a sophomore at Bowling Green State University in the early 70s the 20-year-old Chevy broke down. "I blew the engine and nobody in the family wanted the car, so dad sold it to a guy in Wapakoneta," he recalled earlier this week.

Some 15 years later George Wenger and one of his sons traveled to Auburn, Indiana, for an annual Labor Day car auction that traditionally attracted buyers from all over the nation. Steve recalled that as his father walked the rows of cars he spotted one vehicle that looked familiar.

"He told my brother, 'there's the old Green Machine.' And when he saw that a custom-made gear shift knob was still in place, he knew it his old car," Steve said.

A note left by George Wenger asking whoever purchased the Chevy to notify him so he could keep track of its whereabouts paid dividends. Owners in Pennsylvania and then New York honored his request. When the '51 Chevy ended up on a used car lot in New York, Steve Wenger made the leap.

"I called (the car dealer) and bought it back. That was 30 years ago," he recalled.

Several years ago Wenger had the car completely restored, including a new Chevy V8 engine and an automatic transmission.

The car was repainted in the light green hue of its heyday.

"I drove this 1951 Chevy to my own graduation at Shawnee High School in 1969," Steve said. "My son, Jay, drove it to his graduation from LCC in 2000 and now Parker will be the third generation to drive it to his graduation."

Another coincidence? The Green Machine is now 73 years old ... just like Steve.

"I have driven this car to several of my class reunions, including my 50th, and will soon drive it to my 55th reunion in September at Shawnee Country Club," he said, adding that his older brothers, Cott and Larry, also drove the Chevy to their graduation from Shawnee High School.