Authenticity of Buddy Holly vehicle under review

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Bill Clement of Lubbock stopped in Clovis last week with what he says was a Chevrolet Impala purchased for Buddy Holly in Clovis in 1957. He said he bought the car 25 years ago for $1,000.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

An auction company has launched an investigation into whether a car it’s planning to sell next week really belonged to Buddy Holly as claimed.

Scott Black, public relations representative for the Barrett-Jackson auction company, said the 1958 coral Chevrolet Impala is scheduled for auction during the company’s annual Scottsdale, Ariz. sale.

On Saturday, the car was listed on Barrett-Jackson’s Web site as one purchased for Holly in Clovis in 1957 by record producer Norman Petty and then given to Holly’s father as a Christmas gift. The listing has since been removed.

The musician died Feb. 3, 1959, in an airplane crash.

Bill Griggs of Lubbock, a Buddy Holly historian, says the car is not the restored original as touted by its owner, Bill Clement, also of Lubbock.

“If it’s sold as a reproduction, I have no problem with it, (but) in my opinion, he (Clement) never had the original car,” Griggs said in a telephone interview with CNJ.

Clement could not be reached Monday or Tuesday for comment regarding Griggs’ allegations.

In a Jan. 8 press release, Barrett-Jackson claimed Holly purchased the car from Meadors-Stewart Co. in Clovis.

“After enjoying the car on the streets of Clovis and a trip south of the border with friends in search of Mexican guitars, Buddy gave the Impala to his father as a belated Christmas gift,” the release said.

“The Impala became the … family car; Buddy’s sister even learned to drive in it.”

The Impala was later sold and abandoned at a West Texas body shop. More than a decade later, Clement purchased the Impala after researching the car and confirming it had indeed belonged to Holly, the release continued.

‘“It’s important to note the authenticity of this Chevy Impala,”’ said Steve Davis, president of Barrett-Jackson. ‘“Bill Clement, a collector and dealer of top-level Chevrolet collector cars, did his due diligence to make sure that this car was the real deal. In fact, copies of the original order form, title and deposit check issued by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty are included with the car. Now that’s documentation.’”

Griggs claims the documentation is real, but not the car. He’s based his allegations on an interview he did with Clement in 2000 and an unnamed source he claimed told him there were two different vehicle identification numbers on it.

Rick Bigham of Lubbock said Griggs came to his auto repair shop, where the car was being restored, about 2000 with similar allegations.

“He came down and we looked the car over and neither he nor I could determine anything,” Bigham said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Bigham said he’d not heard any more about the allegations.

Black said Barrett-Jackson first heard of Griggs’ claims over the weekend.

“Barrett-Jackson did a lot of due diligence (with this car) and everything seemed to match up,” he said.

The car was in Clovis on Thursday.

That’s when Clement, of Lubbock, told a CNJ reporter he stopped off en route to the sale because, “This is where it was born. I wanted … everybody to have a chance to see it before we sell it. I wanted them to see all the paperwork we collected over it too, for history’s sake.”

Barrett-Jackson has celebrated the sale in the national news media. Starting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 40 hours of the auction will be broadcast live on the SPEED channel. No specific time is set for the sale of the car.