Memories have a way of coming and going, being stirred up by daily occurrences, familiar sights and specific calendar dates maybe years after an original experience. However, as we found out from The Kansas City Star, for one Missouri man, memories of his brother that died 45 years ago in Vietnam are never far away, etched into his mind and tied to the ‘67 Chevelle he now has parked in his garage. While some people have muscle cars for grownup toys and others keep them for memories of their younger years, Jerry Barham keeps his muscle car as a rolling tribute to his brother’s memory.
Growing up in Portageville, Missouri with a father who owned a service station, the Barhams were immersed in car culture. Larry Barham, Jerry’s older brother was known around the small town as “a bit of a hot rod,” Jerry told The Kansas City Star.
In addition to just being into cars, Larry was also rather skilled behind the wheel, sometimes racing three and four times a week with aspirations of being a NASCAR driver.
Around the age of 21, Larry went out and bought himself a ‘67 Chevelle SS 396. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to enjoy the car for long, being drafted into the Army in 1967. It was only a few month later that Larry was killed fighting in Vietnam at the age of 22.
After Larry’s death, the Chevelle didn’t get much use and was eventually put up on blocks and stored. Larry and Jerry’s father, Loren Barham would start the car every couple of months, but other than that, the car remained untouched.
After graduating from high school not too long after his brother‘s death, Jerry went on to enlist in the Navy, serving two terms in the military during the Vietnam war. But Jerry never forgot about his brother’s Chevelle sitting in storage. In 1995, Jerry pulled the car from storage and restored the car back to the condition it was in when Larry was drafted.
In order to return the Chevelle to its glory years, Jerry stripped and repainted the car as well as replaced almost all of the interior.
Today, the car is as pristine as ever, boasting its original 396cui engine, four-speed transmission, positraction rear end and AM radio. The car only has about 54,000 miles on it.
To help honor his brother and the other young soldiers that were killed in Vietnam, Jerry is helping to bring the Wall That Heals, the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall to North Kansas City High School this summer. Along side the wall, Jerry will display his brother’s ‘67 Chevelle to honor his memory.