Butch Nelson and Jill Kessler have quite the story of how they first met, moved apart and then fell in love -- and it all centers on a shared love for cars.
Both grew up as kids just two blocks apart in Arlington Heights, where they both attended Arlington High School. Butch always had a passion for anything with an engine. At the time, he was cruising in a black 1966 396 Chevelle.
The muscle machine was Butch's daily driver and it readily stood out to Jill.
"I'd drive away from my mom's house and remember seeing his Chevelle parked outside his parents' house," she recalls. "It always caught my eye."
Jill herself was no stranger to hot rides. Her first car was a red and black 1970 Camaro that she paid for herself.
Jill's brief drive-bys were about all the time the two adolescents shared as they soon grew up and parted ways with the old neighborhood. Butch relocated to New Jersey and Jill headed for nearby Des Plaines.
In the 1990s, Butch moved back to the area, settling in Palatine. A few years later, Jill, too, decided to move to Palatine and, coincidently, she again ended up just a few blocks from Butch's house.
"He always had old cars out front," Jill says. "It was always exciting to see what he was working on."
Their paths merged into one when Jill brought a broken snowblower to Butch's shop in 2013. They ended up talking for hours. Butch had recently retired from a 30-year career driving trucks. Jill had recently completed her commercial driver's license training, and she was about to head off on a new career driving trucks.
"We hit it off right off the bat," Butch says. "Once we found out we grew up so close together and our shared love of cars and trucks, there was an instant connection." The two started dating not long after and have been together ever since.
One of their favorite pastimes is cruising together in classics. Butch, tending to his trucking roots, has overhauled a 1936 Ford Model 68 pickup in his home garage. He purchased it in 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area and completed all the work on it himself.
"I just love the fat-fendered, Art Deco look," he says. "Over the years I've had Chevelles, Nomads and Corvettes, but I just wanted a simple truck."
The handyman restored and repainted the bed, adding birch decking highlighted by polished stainless-steel strips. Other work included repairing the electrical system, brakes and bearings, and adding such touches as a dual exhaust, a right taillight and rearview mirrors. He even tracked down a transmission off a 1939 Ford from a seller in Florida before completing the overhaul in 2014.
Jill, on the other hand, likes to cruise in her 1937 Ford Business Coupe. They purchased it in 2015 from a seller in Des Plaines and set out to make some upgrades. The interior and trunk were redone with new carpeting and some electrical problems were addressed. Hoping to tone done the yellow paint and dress up the Ford, an armload of chrome parts and bits were installed up front.
Underhood is a 350-cubic-inch small-block V-8, which simply purrs going down the open road, Jill says. The wheels hide disc brakes up front and, in a nod to her first ride, the paint is a 1976 Butternut Yellow found on Camaros.
"It's a lot of fun to drive," she says. "I take a lot of pride it's all steel."
The car-crazy couple shares a lot of interests -- from hometown pride to heavy rig trucking -- but their favorite pastime is motoring together.
"It doesn't matter if it's his truck or my car," Jill says, "the best times are out riding together."
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