NEWBURY — Wally Stamm was never much of a car guy. That all changed 30 years ago when he came across his prized vintage 1959 Chevy Bel Air.
“I bought it on a whim. To make a long story short, it’s my baby now,” Stamm said.
Stamm, 79, has been more than willing to share his baby with the community, lending it out for events such as weddings and proms. He also has had a brush with Tinsel Town and spoke about the time that Hollywood came calling for his car.
“They were doing a movie about the race riots in Detroit, they wanted my car. They were filming in Malden at a motel that hasn’t changed in that many years, so it looked like the 60s,” Stamm said.
The movie in question is 2017’s “Detroit,” featuring John Boyega of Star Wars fame and Will Poulter, who recently made his debut as Adam Warlock in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite the movie also featuring Stamm’s beloved Bel Air, his review was less than stellar.
“It was the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” Stamm said.
He said Hollywood has not yet come knocking again, but that he would be more than willing to lend it to another film.
“It’s bragging rights. I tell people it’s been in parades, it’s been in car shows, it’s been in advertisements, in different papers, it’s been in proms, it’s been in weddings, and then the last thing I say, a Hollywood movie,” Stamm said.
Local auto enthusiast and founder of Newburyport’s Cars and Coffee Bernie Casey, who used to own a NAPA Auto Parts store in Salisbury, shared his thoughts on a vintage car from the community making it on the big screen.
“I think it’s great. You know, I had a pretty nice finished hot rod that would’ve fit right in with ‘American Graffiti.’ I don’t own it anymore, and I never got a call, but that kind of stuff is very interesting,” Casey said.
He said that the area has always had a very strong appreciation for vintage cars, noting that his last Coffee and Cars event drew a record crowd.
“Last Saturday, we had 103 guys. That’s a lot of cars for 7 a.m. in the morning. It’s the most we ever had,” Casey said.
Stamm said in terms of sharing his prized possession for things like weddings and proms, it is not something he advertises. Instead, he frequently drive to State Street in downtown Newburyport where folks flock to him.
“People have come up to me and said, ‘Would you be willing to take my daughter to her wedding in the car?’ And I say, ‘Sure.’ And I don’t look for money. Like with the proms, I do it by the parents request, a neighbor, a friend, or whatever, and so that’s where that goes,” Stamm said.
He said he got his first Chevy while he was in the Navy after deciding his motorcycle at the time was too dangerous.
“One night at a gas station, I saw a ’59 Chevy. It turned out to be the best car I ever owned. It was incredible. I drove it everywhere,” Stamm said.
He said once he got out of the Navy and began a new job, a work buddy got him pointed in the direction of his baby.
“He didn’t want the one I bought because it was a Bel Air. He wanted an Impala hardtop. It was in nice shape, it needed work. But the body was good, the frame was good. Anyway, I bought it for $3,000, and the rest is history,” Stamm said.
Matt Petry covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: [email protected].