- Written by webmin
I have in my files a copy of a newspaper clipping from 1981. It shows a lanky, blurry guy identified as Churchill Hill next to a ‘62 Greenbrier which he’s turned into an Elvis shrine. According to the writeup, it was painted with 65 airbrushed Elvis-themed images: movie bills from all 33 of Elvis’ movies, album covers, scenes from his life, etc. The inside had an extensive memorabilia display protected by scale Graceland gates and a Rock Ola jukebox. Also along the outside were also 120 small reproduction gold records, each one identified with the title of one of Elvis’ hits. Push a button in the middle, and the Rock Ola would load up and play the corresponding 45. As Elvisiana goes, this was good stuff.
But aside from this single article in the Sun, I could never find another reference to this gem from the Vanning age. Surely, if it had survived, it’d have been mentioned at least once during the succeeding 29 years, right? So with no news, I assumed it had been forgotten, scrapped or otherwise lost.
But this was one of those things that just stayed in my mind, I have no idea why. So one day, I spent some time with White Pages for Elizabethton, Tennessee, and ultimately left a message on a machine for one Churchill Winston Hill.
He called me back the next day. Not only was he the guy, but the Greenbrier was still in his garage, in working order.
Churchill came up with the idea of a rolling Elvis tribute at the time of The King’s death in ‘77, with the jukebox as the central feature. As he was already a Corvair guy and car customizer, when he saw the ‘62 van for $300 in 1978 or so, he had his canvas. Oddly, he wasn’t really a huge Elvis fan; he just thought it would be a popular theme.
He started with a full restoration of the van, with 10 wet sanded coats of lacquer and in magnificent Disco era style, a gold trimmed, blue velvet interior with seats from a Monte Carlo and Cadillac tilt wheel. He spent seven months on the exterior art, then three straight weeks wiring up the jukebox. At the same time, he was accumulating memorabilia for the van, including a copy of every Elvis single ever released.
After taking the northeast Tennessee vanning scene by storm, the Elvair faded into semi-retirement, although Churchill says he still brings it out for local shows from time to time. So if you’re ever up near Johnson City and see the rolling black leather jacket, give the U.S. Male button a press for us.
And just in, more photos from Churchill, including the interior, which is even greater than I could have imagined.