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updated: 8/20/2017 9:40 AM

A whole lot of attraction going on at Indian Uprising Pontiac show

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  • 1977 Pontiac Can Am

    1977 Pontiac Can Am
    Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • An advertisement for the car in Hot Rod magazine's March 1977 issue.

    An advertisement for the car in Hot Rod magazine's March 1977 issue.

  • The Can Am was only made for a few months during the spring of 1977.

    The Can Am was only made for a few months during the spring of 1977.

  • Chuck Wilson ordered the tan interior while Nick Chelf's Can Am has black seats and dashboard.

    Chuck Wilson ordered the tan interior while Nick Chelf's Can Am has black seats and dashboard.

  • Chuck Wilson ordered the tan interior while Nick Chelf's Can Am has black seats and dashboard.

    Chuck Wilson ordered the tan interior while Nick Chelf's Can Am has black seats and dashboard.

  • Both couples still possess the cars' original window sticker price lists.

    Both couples still possess the cars' original window sticker price lists.

  • Arnie Goldstein of Palatine and his 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, foreground, and Bob Bruzek of Mount Prospect with his 1968 Pontiac GTO were part of Matt's Original Owner Showcase at the show.

    Arnie Goldstein of Palatine and his 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, foreground, and Bob Bruzek of Mount Prospect with his 1968 Pontiac GTO were part of Matt's Original Owner Showcase at the show.

 
 

Happening upon one original owner at a car show or cruise night marks a rare find. But find two with the exact same make, model and year -- and on top of that, the owners are related and live close by -- now, that's a remarkable discovery.

At this year's Indian Uprising Pontiac car show held last weekend at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, there was not one, but a pair of original owners of matching 1977 Pontiac Can Ams.

Debbie and Nick Chelf, left, and Chuck and Pam Wilson, all of Iowa, are original owners of two 1977 Pontiac Can Ams.
Debbie and Nick Chelf, left, and Chuck and Pam Wilson, all of Iowa, are original owners of two 1977 Pontiac Can Ams. -
Debbie and Nick Chelf, Iowa City, Iowa

In the late spring of 1977, Nick was at work when his phone rang. A buddy down at the local Pontiac dealership in Iowa City called to tell him "You have to come see this new car." Joined by his wife, Debbie, the pair raced over to check out the Can Am, buying it on the spot without bothering to take a test drive.

"It was unique, different and something you didn't see," Nick says. "Instead of the Trans Am, it had the LeMans body but was still sporty with the spoiler."

Ditching their 1973 Charger, the couple put the Pontiac to use, commuting and vacationing in it, too. That first summer they motored to Chicago, staying downtown within view of the lake.

"Every time we pulled back into our hotel garage parking lot, the tires would be squealing the whole way," Nick says with a chuckle. The family went farther in the car, driving to Minnesota and Omaha, Nebraska, on occasion.

"If we had vacation plans, that's what we drove," Debbie says.

When their son was born in 1979, a car seat was installed in the back and the Can Am became the family hauler. After a few more years, the Chelfs pulled the Pontiac and stored it. "It didn't get around that well in winter," Nick says.

The couple held onto it and in the 1990s had it fully restored.

"It's real nice driving down the interstate," Nick says. "Everyone, from the young to the old, likes it."

The gathering of 24 Can Ams was a celebration of the model and its 40th anniversary. Vehicles came from as far away as Texas, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa.
The gathering of 24 Can Ams was a celebration of the model and its 40th anniversary. Vehicles came from as far away as Texas, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa. -
Pam and Chuck Wilson, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Chuck was thumbing through a Motor Trend magazine that spring of '77 when a full-page ad caught his eye. There in full color and glory was a Can Am, with the text "Remember the Goat" in large letters underneath it.

Chuck had to have it and put his name on several waiting lists at area dealers for when one became available. When the first dealer called, Chuck was there in a flash.

The young man was able to order the car on his 21st birthday, specifically requesting a tan interior. After four months, the car was delivered and ready for pickup.

"I had another vehicle so I didn't drive it a lot," Chuck recalls. "I drove it off and on for the next six years."

He, too, made vacation trips to the Windy City, as well as Milwaukee on occasion. "I learned there was only 1,300 or so made so I put it away, deciding it would be a future collectible."

Perhaps the wildest part of these two stories is that the Debbie and Pam share common cousins.

"Our families knew each other for years and would get together often," Pam recalls. "Who would have thought that in our family the two of us would marry guys with the same type of car?"

These weren't the only original owners on-site at the Pontiac show. I partnered with the show to host my Original Owner Showcase, which spotlighted several other original owners, their Pontiac vehicles and of course, their stories.

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com.

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