By Michele Dotson
When Doug Pressley was a youngster growing up in Mint Hill, he liked to tear things apart and put them back together again. But it wasn’t until he was in high school and started spending time with his future father-in-law that he began to see that his talent for fixing mechanical things could lead to a lucrative career.
“As a kid, I liked to take my bike apart and put it back together,” says Pressley. “I didn’t think much of it, but when I started working with my future father-in-law on his ’54 Chevy truck, he encouraged me pursue it as a vocation.”
Pressley credits Doug Sloan for encouraging him to pursue training in automotive repair; a career that spanned 30 years.
Pressley worked at the bus garage from 1973 to 1996, when he was called upon to take over the automotive technology class at South Mecklenburg High School.
“I knew the teacher from the bus garage,” says Pressley. “He called me up and encouraged me to apply for the position he was leaving. I felt in my heart it was the right thing at the time, and I applied and got the job.”
“I got to come home in 2001 to Independence,” says Pressley, who is a 1972 graduate.
He finished out his career at Independence, retiring in 2011.
Throughout his years working and raising a family, Pressley acquired and began slowly working on a 1968 Impala Custom 2 door hard top.
“It had been David Sloan’s first,” says Pressley. “He’s my wife Jody’s uncle. He bought it new. Then my father-in-law bought it from him, and I bought it from my father-in-law.”
Eventually Pressley sold the car and it was out of his possession for seven years.
But at his father-in-law’s funeral in 1995, right in the receiving line at the funeral home, the new owner asked Pressley if he’d like to have the car back.
“That almost never happens,” he says. “Getting back the same car you sold to someone else years before, but I wanted it.”
Pressley says he drove the car almost daily. It was his intent to restore it, but he didn’t want the car to sit.
“I didn’t want to put a lot of money into it,” he says. “My family came first and it looked pretty rough for a while.”
Pressley remembers going to Walmart to buy cans of flat white paint to keep the rusty spots from showing.
“My wife Jody used to say that it looked good going by at 45 miles per hour,” he says. “People would say that it would look really good when I got it painted.”
Eventually the kids grew up and he had some more time and money to put into it, so the complete restoration began in 2007.
Pressley’s good friend Rick Thomas, who died in 2009, did most of the body work.
“Once we got the motor out, we moved the car to his place, and stripped it down to the metal,” he says. “We used air craft stripper, and that’s when we discovered some of the rust had eaten through the metal.”
Thomas repaired holes by welding fabricated pieces where needed and then painted it.
Then the car came back to Pressley’s house where he reinstalled the motor.
“It’s a joy to me when people walk by and have a story to share about the car,” says Pressley. “I was showing it one time and a couple walked by and laughed about how they fit an entire kid’s pool in the back seat without any trouble in the Impala they owned years before.”
In 2010 Pressley’s oldest son drove away with his bride on their wedding day.
In 2012, the youngest Pressley son and his new wife did the same.
Impala’s of this state of restoration regularly sell for upwards of $26,000.
Doug Pressley wouldn’t take a million dollars for his.
It stands in tribute to his father-in-law and the talent he recognized and inspired.