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Nudie's car returned to family

• Auto owned by Nudie Cohn sold for $1 to his granddaughter

Posted: May 12, 2008 2:18 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The interior of this 1964 Pontiac Bonneville Safari Wagon was designed by Nudie Cohn. The car was returned to the home of Cohn's granddaughter, Jamie Lee Nudie, on Sunday.

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Most women would love to wake up to find a new car in the driveway on the morning of that special Sunday each May, that one day we designate to honor everything a mother does for us during the other 364 (or 365, this year) days of the year.

For Jamie Lee Nudie, she found a whale of a car in front of her house just after lunch on Mother's Day, delivered to her in a trailer all the way from Canada.

As Nudie stood alone just inside her opened garage at her home in Canyon Country on Sunday, her eyes were affixed down her small, hilly suburban street as she anxiously awaited Dick Koetsier to arrive from Calgary.

A few minutes past noon, she saw a large, maroon Chevy pickup truck turn the corner, with a 10-foot trailer attached to its rear hitch.

Inside that silver trailer was a long, classic, 1964 Pontiac Bonneville Safari Wagon, complete with alloy rifles along the side of the vehicle, a set of horns on the front grille, and the interior suited with rattlesnake hide.

The custom car, designed by her famous grandfather, Nudie Cohn - celebrity "Rodeo Tailor to the stars" - arrived on schedule to her Canyon Country home, as part of an international journey that started on Friday morning in Calgary, Alberta.

"It's a real part of Calgary History," said Koetsier, who bought the vehicle at an auction more than one year ago and personal delivered the vehicle to Nudie's home.

Koetsier, who purchased the custom vehicle for $26,000 and had it appraised for $60,000, sold it to Nudie for one dollar.

Koetsier added that the vehicle fit in perfectly in Calgary, itself a "cowboy town," as it hosts an annual rodeo stampede and is home to several self-proclaimed Canadian cowboys.

As he opened the trailer to drive the wagon out of the wagon, he tried to hand the keys over to Nudie, a gesture of respect and honor.

"I'm not going to pull it out of the trailer," Nudie said, moments after she saw the trailer door open, seeing her grandfather's jewel. "I'm so overwhelmed."

Koetsier agreed to reverse the wagon out of the trailer for her, as he jumped into the driver's seat and tried to start the vehicle.

After a couple of clicks, the vehicle would not start.

Ironically, just one day earlier, the vehicle easily started as Koetsier and his two friends, Darrell Corcoran and Trevor Affeldt, drove the famed wagon down Las Vegas Boulevard, or "The Strip," in Las Vegas.

"Maybe it wants to stay in Vegas," Nudie said.

"Oh, come on Poppy," she then said, as Koetsier eagerly tried to turn the engine. The ‘Poppy' reference was Nudie's attempt to channel her grandfather's energy into the Bonneville.

As soon as she uttered those words, Koetsier was able to start the wagon and reverse it out of the trailer.

"Woo-hoo, I knew it," Nudie exclaimed.

As soon as the vehicle was on asphalt, Nudie hopped into the car for a quick spin around her block.

"Dick just has a heart of gold for doing this," Affeldt said of his friend.

Two of the 18 custom-made "Nudie Cars" were purchased by Koetsier, a Canadian oil man who recently sent Nudie an e-mail saying he wanted to give her the Safari Wagon when he learned how much she loved and respected her grandfather after reading her 2004 book, "Nudie The Rodeo Tailor." He also bought a 1966 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible, also custom-made by Nudie's grandfather.

He purchased both vehicles from Stockman's Foundation at an auction.

Both vehicles were donated to the foundation by the estate of its original owner, Bill Herron, a Calgary resident who was in California when both Bonneville's were completed.

Herron instantly fell in love with them and immediately bought them from Nubie's grandfather.

For Nudie, left parent-less in 1985, and who has struggled raising three kids and looking after her grandmother until she died two years ago, the homecoming of her grandfather's custom car marked a positive new beginning in her attempt to preserve the name and history that her grandfather made for himself.

"I am all about preserving history," Nudie exclaimed as she popped open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the wagon's homecoming.

To watch the 1964 Nudie-customized Bonneville Safari Wagon arrive at her doorstep - via Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Palmdale - could not have arrived at a better time. As she attempts to preserve her grandfather's legacy, she is on the verge of welcoming a new generation to her family.

"This is such a heartfelt time for me," she said, pointing out that her grandfather designed the Safari Wagon for her grandmother to drive a young Jamie Lee Nudie to school

Kelilani Nicole Valedez is expected to be born to Nudie's daughter Desiree on June 17.

Her other daughter, Yvette, is scheduled to be married on Oct. 24.

"Now I'm going to be the one driving my granddaughter around," she said.

Nudie's 18-year-old son will also have the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of the Safari Wagon, but only when she is in the car with him.

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