The great motor mystery

Son searches for dad's first car for retirement gift

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By Jyllian Roach

Staff Reporter

In the 1970s and '80s, a cherry red 1972 Chevy Nova SS raced the drag strips in Wisconsin. The racecar was driven by former Forest Park police officer George "The Candy Man" Webber and sponsored by the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. After every race, Webber would hand out Ferrara Pan's signature Lemonhead candies to children in his trophy-winning Nova.

But before its time in the spotlight, the car had been painted silver with black flames and was owned by Larry Edwards, an 18-year-old with a pregnant wife and a stronger need for money than the car he raced in South Chicago. When Webber made him an offer, the father-to-be sold his beloved car and prepared instead for his first child.

That child, Chris Edwards, said he grew up hearing stories of that Nova, which had been his dad's first car.

"He'd always say, 'I wish I still had that Nova; it was the best car I ever had,'" Edwards recalled.

Now his dad is one of the head mechanics for United Airlines and just three years away from retirement. And Edwards said he's on a mission to find his dad's old Nova and restore it as a surprise retirement gift for his father. 

But that's no easy task.

"It could be sitting in a junkyard for all I know," he said. "I don't have the VIN number, so that's the hardest part."

Edwards began the search about three months ago and the cold trail has been tough to follow.

Webber, the Nova's second owner, died in the '90s, and Sal Ferrara II, who had approved Ferrara Pan's sponsorship of the racecar, passed away in 2014. 

While a representative for Ferrara Candy Company said no one at the company had information about the car's whereabouts, they did have a picture of it hanging in the office.

There is little more information about the car's life after racing. Edwards said he's learned the Nova was traded for a Camaro in the '80s, and that the new owner lived in Oak Park. That owner sold it in 1985, but he couldn't recall any details about the buyer, Edwards said.

"It's a very, very long shot if I find it. But if I do, I'd like to make it look like it did when my father sold it."

Edwards said this has so far been a solo mission, but he hopes to find more people who remember the car and have any bit of information that could lead to finding it. He said anyone with morsels of information can send them to edwardschris77@gmail.com.

"My father gave up a lot for me and my brother," he said. "I hope I can find it."

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