ShareThis Page
Valley News Dispatch

Classic car stars in Highlands version of 'Grease'

| Thursday, March 8, 2018, 4:18 p.m.
Bill Mangerie poses with his 1955 Chevy Bel Air and cast members from Highlands High School's production of 'Grease: School Version.' (left to right) Justin Moser, Braden Goldberg, Cole Bergquist, Kohl Casella, and Jake Arvay.
Courtesy of Michael Zeiler
Bill Mangerie poses with his 1955 Chevy Bel Air and cast members from Highlands High School's production of 'Grease: School Version.' (left to right) Justin Moser, Braden Goldberg, Cole Bergquist, Kohl Casella, and Jake Arvay.
Bill Mangerie had his father's Army dog tags customized into a keychain for the 1955 Chevy Bel Air he and his father restored. Jim “Jaggers” Mangerie passed away in 2014.
Courtesy of Bill Mangerie
Bill Mangerie had his father's Army dog tags customized into a keychain for the 1955 Chevy Bel Air he and his father restored. Jim “Jaggers” Mangerie passed away in 2014.

A vintage car is one of the stars this weekend at Highlands High School.

The completely restored 1955 Chevy Bel Air, owned by Bill Mangerie of Richland Township, will be front and center during the high school's musical.

Michael Zeiler, musical director at Highlands High School, was searching for the perfect 1950s car to grace his stage for his 2018 spring musical production, "Grease: School Version."

A car show held last fall at the Pittsburgh Mills mall with Mangerie in attendance ended Zeiler's search.

"I saw Mike (Zeiler) walking over to my car," Mangerie said. "He said he had a weird question for me and asked if I would lend my car for his musical production."

Sporting a vibrant color combination of 1956 Corvette Cascade Green and 1969 Mustang Mach I Wimbeldon White, the Bel Air coincidentally is an exact match to the car featured in the "Grease: School Version" musical promo materials.

Mangerie drove his car on stage last week, utilizing a side stage door. The car is rolled onto stage while in neutral by stage crew for the iconic "Greased Lightning" musical number.

The car is valued at $75,000 and boasts a Chevy V-8 engine with a 383 Stroker motor, 4-speed stick shift and 452 horsepower.

With the vintage car stored in a garage full time at home, Mangerie's current modern vehicle is parked outside. The odometer on the Bel Air was turned back years ago.

"That wouldn't happen now," Mangerie said. "I can't tell you how many miles was on it before, but I have put about 5,000 miles on it since."

Mangerie gets a kick out of seeing the younger generation react to his car when cruising around. "The younger kids see me driving and they look like they are seeing a space ship. The older folks often say they remember the Bel Air model, which was a popular model during the 1950s."

"I knew I would never be happy with a fake cardboard car on stage," Zeiler said. "I really go above and beyond by finding one 'must have' item that the audience will really give a 'wow' and 'ohhhhh' factor when it is revealed on stage."

Father-son project

Mangerie's beloved Bel Air wasn't always this shiny.

Mangerie and his late father, Jim "Jaggers" Mangerie, began a father-son restoration process on the car in 1992, after purchasing it from a relative in 1984.

By 1995, the car was roadworthy.

Father and son frequented car shows and cruises together in Beaver Falls, New Castle and Butler until the engine failed. Hectic lifestyles got in the way of repairing the car, and it sat idle from 1998 until last year.

The memories of bonding over all things mechanical with his father now comfort Mangerie since his father's death in 2014.

"I have so many fond memories of researching parts, modifying this and that, and deciding on the paint color. My dad let me pick," Mangerie said.

His father's death motivated Mangerie to get the car running again.

"To honor my dad's memory, I said 'I am going to get this car back on the road,' " Mangerie said.

After performing the majority of restorative work himself, Mangerie reflected on how the process has brought him closer to his father.

"The day it (the car) was done and ready to go, I cried," Mangerie said. "I feel that my dad is with me in the car. I would talk to my dad as I worked on the car."

Mangerie hit the road again in 2017 in his Bel Air. He enjoys occasional car rides with his family and frequents car shows and cruises, and the car was featured in a national Chevrolet magazine.

To honor his father, nicknamed "Jaggers," for being such a "sharp" man, Mangerie added some sentimental touches, such as incorporating his father's Army dog tags in the car's keychain.

"Every time I drive the car and see the keychain, I have that memory of my dad," Mangerie said.

An empty cutout space above the steering wheel will soon feature a metal cutout that will read "Jaggers," Mangerie said. "That is in the works right now."

Mangerie credits his family, including his wife, Marina, and daughter, Gemma, and extended family for their continued support during the restoration process.

"My daughter says she is going to get married to a boy who loves cars and that we are never selling grandpa's car," Mangerie said.

A fitting tribute

Mangerie said his father would be thrilled to know their car is prominently showcased this weekend on Highland's stage.

"I get enjoyment when other people enjoy the car," Mangerie said.

The Bel Air arrival caused a stir on campus at Highlands.

"It was like a red carpet welcome when I brought the car to Highlands," Mangerie said. "The entire cast greeted me and the car outside, and they were all cheering and clapping as I pulled up. They all flipped out."

Mangerie plans to attend two performances this weekend at Highlands, with front row seats reserved.

"There are good people in the world, and Bill Mangerie is that "all-American dad" and I am so blessed and happy we were able to connect and make this (musical) dream a reality," Zeiler said.

Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me