Back in high school, Ron Gehling traversed across the countryside with his 1961 Plymouth Fury. He later traded it in to purchase another vehicle. A few years later, he found it again. PHOTO COURTESY OF LANNA GEHLING
Back in high school, Ron Gehling traversed across the countryside with his 1961 Plymouth Fury. He later traded it in to purchase another vehicle. A few years later, he found it again. PHOTO COURTESY OF LANNA GEHLING

Some people have fond memories of the first car they ever owned. They took that road trip out of state or had their first date in that car. There are always memories attached to cars, good and bad, but sometimes the first car stands out in one’s memory and each car is compared to that first one.

Two couples in Preston have particularly delightful and interesting stories to share about their first cars.

Don and Dorrie Besse

As high school sweethearts, Don and Dorrie Besse could often be seen cruising down the road and around town in a '64 Chevy Impala convertible on dates or having fun with friends.

"We have lots of stories with that convertible when we were kids. There are lots of good memories," Dorrie said. "Don would drive by my house lots of times every day, sometimes even 12 times."

Even in high school, Don spent a lot of time around cars and tinkered with his Impala convertible.

"I pumped gas at the DX gas station for under 10 cents per gallon in the gas war. And I loved playing bodywork back then. I ended up painting the car several different colors," Don noted.

As a source of his tinkering, the convertible started with a white body and black interior.

"Back then, they put in a black interior for most convertibles," he commented.

Later on, the convertible was converted to a yellow-bodied car. Eventually, it became a black convertible as well. Let’s just say, a black convertible with a black interior during the summer easily spells out some discomfort for any riders.

In fact, cruising down the road with the top down in any color convertible during the summer is not a good idea. That's when they want the top up. Good times for driving with the top down were spring, fall and even winter.

"We didn't need the top up in the rain. Those who were in the back seats just scrunched down," Don related.

The convertible had been about six years old before Don got the car, but it had plenty of memories in store for them. One of the most poignant memories though was how the couple got rid of it.

After having the car for about four or five years, the couple was beginning their family. Back then, people didn't have insurance to pay for hospital bills. With the birth of their first child, Don and Dorrie needed to pay for the bill. So they sold their beloved convertible that held so many memories, without much thought of obtaining another in the future.

Fast forward to 1990.

For several years, Don and Dorrie had been looking for another '64 Impala convertible to replace the one they sold.

"We had looked at a lot of cars," Dorrie noted.

Whenever they heard reports of a convertible, they would drive down to take a look at it. Finally, a friend found one near Madison, Wis. They finally found their replacement.

"We wanted to replace a memory," Don said.

"And make new ones," Dorrie added.

This second convertible has a white interior and yellow-body. In a reverse of his bodywork on the first convertible, Don is going to transform it from yellow to white in the future.

"Many people want the same car they had in high school, and we didn't think of doing anything else," Dorrie shared.

Eventually people around the area will see a '64 Impala convertible driving anywhere and everywhere the Besses can possibly go, making new memories and more stories to tell.

Ron and Lanna Gehling

Similar to Don, Ron Gehling owned his '61 Plymouth Fury all through high school. Also, he and his wife, Lanna, would go out on dates in it.

"I bought the Fury, a black, two-door hardtop with golden commando, when I was 16," Ron stated.

The car was about two years old when he bought it and Ron added white wheel wells to the mix. After driving it through his high school years, he traded it off later for another car, the summer after his graduation.

Years later, somewhere around 1983, he began looking for another Fury.

"I thought it would be fun to have (a car) like it again," he explained.

When his search began, he approached his friend, Stanley Torgerson from Arizona, to keep his eyes open for a Fury. Little did he realize what he had started rolling.

After Ron came to him, Torgerson remembered a Fury much closer to Ron than Arizona. As it happens, it was in a barnyard and field near Spring Grove.

At that time, Ron recalled there had only been three of these cars in the area. He knew one was totaled and another sat near Austin. Both of these he never owned. He drafted the help of Steve Trende to go investigate this lead.

"I thought there was a good chance it was mine, but my car had white wheel wells. When we got there, one of the wheel wells was not white," Ron described.

This led him to doubt whether or not it truly was his old car. But then he saw the other wheel wells. They were all white. Adding to the evidence the car was his old car, Ron found the very 4-H keychain that had belonged to him while he drove the car in high school.

"The wheels on the other side were white. Then I crawled in and saw my 4-H keychain," he continued.

He purchased the car again, and if there had been any doubts about the car, they were cleared by documents from his mother regarding the 1961 Plymouth Fury he had driven around the area in high school.

"Mom was a collector. She still had the insurance papers, serial number and VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number). They matched," Ron declared.

From there, the problem was restoration. By sitting abandoned in a pasture for so long, there were some problems that needed to be fixed and it was not necessarily a short process either.

"It took about two or three years to fix it up. It was restored by Rex Fisher," he noted.

The Fury needed the engine overhauled, a new clutch put in, new upholstery from a company in Washington State and chrome from Oklahoma. Before using tabs on license plates for the year, people received a new plate every year. This car had a stack of plates not removed, possibly leaving the original license plate there as well. This has been replaced by a collector's plate. In addition, the fender was replaced, as was the dash with its own side story.

Ron bought another car from a priest in Spirit Lake, Iowa. This he planned on using for parts for his own Fury. Several of this car's parts, like the dashboard, found their way into Ron's Fury.

At the end of several years of restoration, the 1961 Fury he owned in high school looked as good as new.

"I did not expect to get the one I had in high school. I was very glad to find it — tickled even. I thought it was junked or crushed," Ron expressed.

Everyone has memories and stories about their cars and it's always fun to hear of how cars impacted lives of couples who loved them, like Don and Dorrie Besse and Ron and Lanna Gehling.