Former garage owner fixes classic cars, often back to stock settings
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 21, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.
OCALA - Jerry Gallery is definitely a car guy.
Gallery, 68, has restored and modified at least five special interest cars over the last four decades and keeps them as rotating daily drivers.
The former automotive mechanic completed his most recent project last month, a 1967 Camaro with a 327-cubic-inch V-8 engine fed by a two-barrel carb producing about 300 horsepower.
The car has a two-speed Powerglide transmission, power steering and power brakes, and is finished in Marina Blue.
The totally true-to-stock first-year Camaro even has the distinctive factory white “bumblebee” nose stripe used in the inaugural year of the Camaro.
Gallery, a Marion County resident since 1961 when his family moved here from Saginaw, Mich., grew to love the car scene when he cruised the popular 1960s teen hangouts in the Ocala area, like the Big D and the Chick-Inn drive-in eateries.
“Sometimes guys would ride around and look for races,” Gallery chuckled.
Gallery served in the Vietnam War while in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1967, including service with the combat engineers and was once stationed at barracks in the vicinity of the ones where Elvis Presley had been stationed a few years earlier at Fort Hood, Texas. He was awarded the Purple Heart during his service in the Vietnam War.
When Gallery returned to Ocala following his service, he went back to his former job at Ocala Volkswagen, where he remained until 1974, when he left to open his own business, Jerry's Garage, formerly on State Road 40, west of Ocala.
In 1999 Gallery went to work at the Marion County School Board bus garage and retired in 2008.
He started his specialty car collection in 1972 with a customized 1941 Chevy coupe, which he and his wife Nancy have displayed at various car shows.
“Jerry put a lot of work into the Camaro. My favorite is the 1966 yellow Nova; I recall that was a radical color at the time,” Nancy Gallery said.
A 1928 Model A roadster hot rod, 1966 Chevrolet Nova and 1985 Chevrolet Stepside Pickup built since the '41 Chevy now round out Jerry's fleet.
“I like to do these cars myself and a certain way,” he said.
The Camaro project is an example of Gallery's meticulous attention to detail. He does all the work at his northeast Ocala home, which has a fully equipped repair shop and car lift.
“The Camaro was owned by a friend in Alabama. He brought it nearly new and drove it to work for a number of years and then parked it. He had disassembled it with the intention to restore it,” Gallery said.
“He knew I had in interest in the Camaro for several years and called one day and said 'do you want to buy this car?' ”
Gallery pulled the mostly disassembled car back to Ocala on a trailer and soon began the year and a half project.
He started by sandblasting it, then removed essentially every nut and bolt and replaced worn and defective components.
Front and rear bumpers and other bright work were re-chromed or replaced and glass was replaced as necessary.
Many original equipment style parts, especially appearance items, came from National Parts Depot warehouse in Ocala.
Gallery rebuilt the engine with parts machined by Bi-Lo Auto Parts, rewired the vehicle and made the interior and exterior look like 46 years have been erased from the car's memory.
Period-correct thin red wall stripe tires from an outlet in Tennessee give the finishing touch to the car.
“On the Camaro I did all the work except for the transmission. It's an original factory two-speed. I rented a spray booth at Viking Cycle Art and did the painting myself,” Jerry Gallery said.
Steve Bray of Bray's Welding and Metals has known Gallery since the 1960s. He stopped by the Gallery home recently to see the finished Camaro.
“I had a 1962 Chevy Impala with a 409 engine back in the '60s and a 1966 Nova when we drove around to (the nightspots),” Bray said.
“Jerry's '67 Camaro is awesome.”