Behind Every Great Car Collector Stands a Devoted Spouse

Leon “L.W.” Helmly was “a Chevy man all of his life,” as his wife Carolyn recalled. He taught himself to work on the vehicles in his spare time. Mr. Helmly served in World War II and spent his entire career serving his country: he taught for forty years at the United States Signal School at Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia (and was one of the highest-ranking civilians on the base), and commuted to work every day in a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS, which he bought brand new.

In 1972, he acquired a rare 1957 Chevrolet Belair Nomad, one of four Helmly Chevrolets included in our upcoming Important Spring Auction. After driving it for a few years, Helmly commenced a major restoration. Carolyn thought he could use some help; in short order, she was in the garage with him, day after day, helping in any way she could.

It took the Helmlys five years to restore the Nomad to show condition. It proceeded to win prizes all over the US, one of the most glorious examples of the model, says Mark Terry, Leland Little’s Estate & Collector Vehicles Director. “And it’s real,” he marvels, “one-hundred percent correct.” For every part that needed replacing, Helmly sought out and purchased scarce new-old stock, “Original glass, original mirrors, original markings, original stickers,” Terry notes. Even original nuts and bolts, Carolyn Helmly hand-polished twenty-seven bags of them herself.

That kind of attention to originality is what gives a specimen like Helmly’s Nomad its award-winning rank and reputation, of course; but it was the couple’s assiduous care and custody of the vehicle that maintained its outstanding condition and value. Upon receipt, Terry and his staff made a careful inspection of the Nomad, which has just sixty miles on its engine, and further prepared the vehicle for auction. “What’s important when people bring us vehicles is not just the car itself,” Terry says, “but the condition it’s in.” A boutique auction house can give a careful assessment of each vehicle and one-on-one attention to its consignor, just as the Helmlys did to their Nomad.

In 2012, after Helmly was released from the hospital, he purchased one last Chevy: a 2010 Camaro in which he drove around town daily. Helmly continued to be active in his community, and a Chevy man, well into his ninth decade.

"We are proud," Terry adds, "to represent the vehicles of this dedicated, life-long collector, along with other fine vehicle offerings in our Important Spring Auction."