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Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Car Named ‘Savannah’

Brad Byrd's 1953 Buick Super Riviera drives his love of history.

Brad Bryd believes cars are an often-overlooked part of U.S. history. Well-known as the longtime weeknight anchor at WEHT-TV’s Eyewitness News, Byrd also is interested in history and historic cars.

In 2004, Byrd and his wife, T.J., bought a Sequoia cream-colored 1953 Buick Super Riviera from a seller in Flint, Michigan. The car was brought to life by Harley Earl, a major auto designer for General Motors. The Byrds also own a 1959 Chevy Impala designed by Earl.

“I have a serious love of history, and these were a part of that history,” Byrd says. “Someone designed this. Someone had to make a clay model and sculpt something like this.”

Photo by Zach Straw

During World War II, U.S. auto manufacturers produced materials exclusively for the military, leaving hardly any new vehicles rolling off assembly lines.

Chrome was rationed during the war, and when the rule was lifted after what Byrd calls “the gray ‘40s,” it caused an explosion of color in automobiles. The postwar baby boom increased the population, leading to a jump in auto manufacturing.

Cars also were one of the main ways people would go on vacations, Byrd says. Families would get in a car and explore the country for weeks at a time.

“There used to be millions of cars like this. Now there are very few,” he says.

The Byrds have met “a lot of great people” in Evansville who also collect vintage cars through Cruising for Hearts, a fundraiser that Byrd organized in 2003 and 2004 in Henderson, Kentucky, as then-president of the local American Heart Association board. Area cruise-ins and car shows also have been a perfect spot for the couple to meet other auto enthusiasts.

Photo by Zach Straw

The 1953 Buick Super Riviera is really T.J.’s vehicle, Byrd says. She nicknamed it “Savannah.”

“This is her baby. She did the leg work on this,” Byrd says. “We just get it out on the weekends, roll the windows down. It’s been a real joy for T.J. and me.”

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