A classic car 'love story': Englert's shiny Chevy a draw at Rosemount High School centennial
The classic 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible glowed while parked at Rosemount High School, with its custom red paint job and show-stopping chrome bullet grill.
Every classic car carries a backstory. This one is a story about a young Rosemount grad and his love for his first car.
The story began more than 50 years ago when Marlyn Englert purchased his first new car, a 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible, from a Rosemount car dealer on Highway 3. He bought the red car in June before he graduated from Rosemount High School and it was love at first sight.
"I saw it when it was brand new when he bought it at the Rosemount dealer — it is a real love story and the best story here," said John Wiederhold at the car show Saturday, Sept. 16, during the school's centennial celebration.
Englert, 79, bought the Bel Air for $1,800. His sports car ran like a hot rod with bright, fire engine red paint and wide whitewall tires.
"I bought this car with coupons or a book of payments where I wrote out a check every month," Englert said.
A short time later, he was involved in a head-on collision while driving under the bridge on Highway 3 that connects Rosemount and Farmington. Fortunately, he was not injured and neither was the driver who hit him.
"If this car could talk, I would have to take it to the crusher because I did some crazy things and my wife married me, knowing she was not going to change me and I really respect her for that," Englert said.
The car was nicknamed Chop Chop.
"I called it Chop Chop because the top of the roof is chopped off two inches lower," Englert said.
Englert decided it was time to sell his first love when he devoted himself to the love of his life, his wife Connie. The young couple had a daughter and Englert remembers his father had just died and they needed to live with family until they could get on their feet.
The sale was a hard one for Englert. This was the convertible car the couple rode in on their first date and sat inside while gazing under the stars together.
Chop Chop was later vandalized and roughed up by youth; the back window was knocked out and it was covered with dents. Englert knew he could not afford to fix it up and that was also part of the decision to sell it.
"For 10 years I didn't care because I was married and we had a child and I could not afford to play with it anymore, so I sold it to a guy with big intentions of making it nice," Englert said.
Life went along as the couple raised three girls and a boy.
"We have another daughter who adopted my wife and I," Englert said. This young woman was a friend of his daughter who as a youth was hit with drugs and alcohol and who left her home.
Over time Marlyn thought about the whereabouts of Chop Chop. Years later, he came across it at a St. Paul car show. The new owner bought the Chevy for $250 and fixed it up from junk, painted it black and it did look nice, Englert said.
"I told him if he ever wanted to sell it, to call me," he said.
Year later he discovered his car was owned by a Farmington man, Norm Baltes.
"Norm took such good care of it for 30 years," Connie Englert said.
In 2004, Baltes sold the Chevy Bel Air convertible back to Englert for $17,000.
"To me, it was worth anything and I would have paid $25,000, and he knows it and he treated me fair," Englert said.
Wife Connie said it was a happy day when her husband was reunited with Chop Chop.
Englert decided to completely redo or customize Chop Chop from top to bottom.
Today the red car is a show stopper with brandy wine, apple red paint.
"It has gold, mega jewel base and the paint is translucent when the sun hits it," Englert said. Three auto body workers from Rosemount completed the custom paint job. Englert installed Chrysler tail lights and took off the car's exterior door handles to beef up the cool factor.
"Everything you see here is new," he said, giving a tour of Chop Chop.
The daughter they adopted ended up marrying a machinist who built and designed quite a few engine parts.
"I put in the bucket seats and the bullet grills," Englert said. The interior bucket seats and back seat are covered with a pearl ivory vinyl with red piping and there is a shiny red interior panel.
The Chevy runs with a 348 engine like it ran was a new car.
"I have never been clocked at top speed but back in 1960 when I was following a Corvette that was traveling at 150 mph and I was going 143 mph, I could not see and I was running a vapor trail," Englert said. "No cop ever caught me — I was hell on wheels."
The couple took the car as they reunited with classmates from Rosemount High School at the school's 100th anniversary celebration and reminisced with one another.
Englert graduated from Rosemount High School in 1956 and Connie graduated in 1962.
The couple will pass down Chop Chop to their children and grandchildren.
"My kids won't ever sell it, and I do have some car nuts for great-grand kids," Englert said.
When asked what the car's value is today, Englert said it's priceless.
"I would not sell it for $10 million and I could build 10 of these for $10 million, but I don't want more — I just want this one," he said.