Updated: Dec 22, 2020
“The End of An Era”
This news came as a sudden surprise today, forcing me to punt my scheduled Ride of the Week post ahead into 2021. My apologies to Mark Bennardi and his ’68 GTO, but I had to write something about this ride, “Clyde”, and, more importantly, his owner Tom Henry.
I awoke this morning to a Facebook message from my Camaro Club’s President who forwarded the Facebook Live video announcement that Tom had sold his Suburban Pittsburgh Chevrolet dealership and was retiring. This hit me, and many of his enthusiastic customers like a ton of bricks. More about that in a moment.
Tom is the third generation Henry in the car business and the second generation to run the dealership. It all started in the 1920s with his grandparents who operated a Gulf Service station in Callery Junction, PA. In 1958, Tom’s Dad, Thomas B. Henry, signed a sales and service agreement with Chevrolet, purchasing Marshall and Marks Chevrolet in Bakerstown, PA. Tom took over the business from his dad and ran it with his sister Sue, until her recent retirement. Along the way, Tom’s daughters, Kate & Rachel began working there.
The reason why we Tom Henry Chevy faithful are reeling is because, when you bought a car or had your vehicle serviced there, you were treated like family. On top of that, Tom was just like us, an enthusiast at heart. He is a Corvette & Camaro guy. He supports the local car clubs and hosts an annual car show at the dealership. He also had his own line of dealer prepped performance cars under the banner of Tom Henry Racing.
Buyers would come from all over to purchase THR Camaros, Corvettes and Silverados. Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, New York, Illinois, New Hampshire are just a few of the license plates I can recall adorning THR Camaros at shows. These cars are recognized in the Camaro White Book along with Yenkos, Nickeys, Bergers, & Baldwin-Motions for their collectability. It's too soon to know if THR is now a thing of the past or something Tom will do in his retirement.
My first experience as a dealership customer was having my Colorado serviced there. It was the middle of winter and I hadn’t seen Tom since the previous autumn at the NEOCC Fall Classic. While I was waiting, I texted to see if he was around and not too busy to say ‘hello’. Well, sure enough, he came out to the waiting area, greeted me, and invited me back into the service area to show me what projects he was working on for the spring. That’s when I met “Clyde”.
Now, I have a special place in my heart for Chevys of the early ‘70s because my mom had a ’71 Camaro Rally Sport in Citrus Green. So, when I saw this truck in the same color green, I was immediately smitten. Tom had recently acquired this 1972 C10 and was in the process of making it into a rat rod. The paint was worn and faded, and it had a bit of surface rust. It really fit the bill to be a cool shop truck. They lowered it, added torq-thrust wheels, warmed up the engine, added headers and refinished the upholstery. Apparently there had been some sheet metal damage too, and the body shop at Tom Henry Chevy matched the patina perfectly!
Adding to the charm, Tom put a rusty toolbox and some old rusty parts to the bed. The finishing touch was an old “Rusty Jones” rust-proofing barrel, which had the bottom rusted out, ironically.
One cool detail was the name. Someone in the chain of ownership had “Clyde” hand painted on the dash. Tom was going to get rid of it, but his daughters protested. Thanks to their intervention, Clyde lives on.
I had hoped that in 2021 I’d be ordering new Camaro from Tom Henry Chevrolet and joining the THR club, but sadly, I don’t think that’s to be. But I can take solace in the fact that our friend Tom Henry will be around, showing his Corvettes, Camaros and trucks at car shows and hopefully sharing his love and enthusiasm for cars and history with a Vlog or a podcast from his Bakerstown Garage.
So here’s a virtual toast to you, Tom, upon your retirement…may the wine be sweet, the whiskey be neat, and long may THR cars rumble up and down your street!