About three years ago, my e-mail inbox suddenly overflowed with copies of an e-mail readers wanted to share.
Complete with photos, it told the tale of a 1950 Chevy Club Coupe with only 437 actual miles and the original tires. The story had Modesto roots, as the first three of the Chevy's four owners lived here in the valley.
Since the original owner was long deceased, I contacted the second owner. Octogenarian William Wilson detailed the Chevy's unique history or what he thought he remembered of it. Facts can blur over the years.
Car buffs read anything and everything about classic cars. That column drew huge readership from all over the country.
Three years later, the story of the '50 Chevy Coupe bears retelling for a couple of reasons. First, it was so entertaining, if inaccurate. And though the real and actually better story emerged, I'm still receiving the original from readers who think it would make a great column topic.
The recap: Wilson told how Jessie Trueblood accompanied her husband, Harry, to an outing at the Old Fishermen's Club west of Modesto shortly after they'd purchased the Chevy new in 1950. When another woman fell into the river, Harry dove in to rescue her. Later that day, Harry suffered a heart attack and died. The widow garaged the car for more than a decade before Wilson received it in a trade.
Jessie Trueblood's niece, who lives in Southern California, was among those who read the column online. She e-mailed me to set the record straight. Pretty much everything Wilson remembered actually happened, the niece told me just not at the same time.
She said Jessie and Harry, a Modesto city councilman, attended a party at the home of state Sen. J.C. Garrison in Empire. Some of the guests went swimming in an irrigation canal, and one of them found herself in distress. Harry Trueblood jumped in to rescue her. Later that night, as he and Jessie drove back toward Modesto, he told her the car's headlights had gone out. No, she told him, they worked just fine.
Moments later, he slumped over the steering wheel, dead of a heart attack, as detailed in a story in The Modesto News Herald, now The Bee. But that episode happened in 1932 18 years before widow Jessie bought the 1950 Chevy coupe.
After Harry died, the niece said, Jessie continued to run his plumbing supply business in downtown Modesto, and bought the car for an employee. For whatever reason, the employee drove it only briefly. The car went into storage in Trueblood's garage with only 413 miles on the odometer.
Wilson said he swapped a brand-new $1,600 Rambler for the Chevy in 1962. Wilson put only about 30 miles on the Chevy before selling it to a Hilmar car collector, Jerry Morrison, for $60,000. Morrison later sold it to an Oregon collector, who sold it for $28,000 at the auction in Arizona in 2009.
Because the original e-mail continues to float around the Internet, readers keep seeing it and forwarding it to me.
In fact, it's happened three times in the past couple of weeks, including a call from reader and Modesto resident Sam Turner, who owns a nearly identical 1949 Chevy coupe with just the opposite history.
He, too, bought his car from an elderly Modesto woman. She advertised it in The Bee's classified section in September 1972. But unlike the 1950 Chevy, which still has its original paint and upholstery, Turner gave his '49 a new paint job, seats and rebuilt the engine. It has 115,000 miles.
"It's sitting in my garage," Turner said. "I try to drive it every week or two. I've washed it only five or six times in all the years I've owned it. I keep it dusted. This one has been used and enjoyed instead of stored away for no one to see."
And e-mailed about, over and over again.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.