2009-02-04 / Front Page

"... this car is systematic, hydromatic, ultramatic ...

Why, it could be Greased Lightnin'!"
By Anne Marie Kyzer annemariek@thetruecitizen.com

"... this car is systematic, hydromatic, ultramatic ...
Why, it could be Greased Lightnin'!"

Staff - Anne Marie Kzyer Patricia and David Keefer inspect the 1953 Packard Clipper he plans to modify for Burke County High School's production of Grease this May.
The old Clipper looks rough right now with flattened tires and cracked windows.

But when David Keefer runs his hand across the bulky bumper and scans the length of the rusted factory original, he sees what will be after he's finished with her.

The 1991 Burke County High School graduate plans to turn this 1953 Packard Clipper into his rendition of "Greased Lightning," the famous car that graced the silver screen in the motion picture Grease. He's doing it all to give a little back to his alma mater and a teacher he said made a difference when he and his wife went to school there.

Burke County's drama club will present Grease to the community this May in place of their annual Kaleidoscope concert.

When Keefer and his wife, Patricia, heard their former teacher Victoria Price was tackling the huge project, they offered help.

"Grease was one of the first plays I ever went to," Mrs. Keefer said. "I always wanted to do it when I was in school."

A "car guy" from way back, her husband's potential contribution was obvious.

After a few phone calls and a trade with a friend, Mr. Keefer had a rough draft. Now, he'll spend his spare time converting the four-door, hard top Clipper into a two-door convertible.

Grease was first performed as a musical and continues its legacy on the stage in high schools and community theatres across America, but most of those stage productions don't have the luxury of a real car.

"Most use cardboard cars propped up with chairs or golf carts," Mr. Keefer said. "I asked, 'Why not have a real car?' It's kind of unusual for a theatrical presentation of Grease to have a real car."

His plans aren't to make the hotrod perfect but to make it look good from afar. The Clipper should turn out to look much like the 1948 Ford Deluxe "Kenickie" drove in the movie.

"It's not going to be a show vehicle. It will look very good on stage, but up close you'll see imperfections here and there," Mr. Keefer granted. "A lot of what you see on stage in theatrical performances is illusion anyway."

He's even toying with the idea of making one side of the car the clunker seen in the beginning of the story and polishing up the other side to be Kenickie's finished product at the end.

Removing the engine and mounting the car on special dollies will make it a lighter load on stage and easier for students to maneuver.

Mrs. Price couldn't be happier to have the Keefers' help with the production.

"It's an answered prayer," she said. "When Grease came up as the show we wanted to do, one of the first comments made was what to do about the car. I said that if we committed to do the show, the car will show up."

And it did.

"(The Keefers) volunteered immediately and were perfectly willing," Mrs. Price said. "I am just so tickled to have that vehicle. This is really going to be special."

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