Yale resident Mike Lavens purchased the 1965 Dodge Custom 880 as a replacement for his dad’s 1967 Dodge Polara, which Lavens crashed as a teen.

Yale resident Mike Lavens purchased the 1965 Dodge Custom 880 as a replacement for his dad’s 1967 Dodge Polara, which Lavens crashed as a teen.

Photo provided by Mike Lavens


Behind the Wheel: Son replaces dad’s car that he crashed as a teen more than 30 years ago

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published April 30, 2019

 he late Vince DeCarlo, a lifelong Eastpointe resident, shows off the 1965 Dodge Custom 880 that his son bought for him.

he late Vince DeCarlo, a lifelong Eastpointe resident, shows off the 1965 Dodge Custom 880 that his son bought for him.

Photo provided by Mike Lavens

 Original features can be seen inside the Custom 880.

Original features can be seen inside the Custom 880.

Photo provided by Mike Lavens

 Here's a look under the hood of the Dodge Custom 880.

Here's a look under the hood of the Dodge Custom 880.

Photo provided by Mike Lavens

When Yale resident Mike Lavens was 16, he crashed his father’s ’67 Dodge Polara, but he promised that he’d replace it someday. 

Two years ago, Lavens had that chance. His uncle happened to have a 1965 Dodge Custom 880 — a pretty close replacement for the Polara — that had been sitting in his barn for more than 15 years. The uncle was willing to sell the car, so Lavens purchased it for his dad. 

“It took me over 30 years to replace it for him, but I finally did it,” Lavens said. 

Lavens’ dad, Vince DeCarlo, a lifelong Eastpointe resident, had been more of a motorcycle guy up to that point, but the Custom 880 piqued his interest in classic cars. Lavens and DeCarlo spent the next few years fixing up the car, taking it to local shows and cruises, and learning about its history. 

Lavens explained that the Dodge Custom 880 was sometimes referred to as one of the “Dependables,” as it was often used as a police cruiser for high-speed chases. Although the car that Lavens purchased wasn’t used for law enforcement, it did have its own interesting backstory. 

“What was cool was, we opened up the glove box, and there was the original registration,” he said. 

Lavens and his dad learned that the original owner lived in Port Huron, so they tracked him down, took the Custom 880 to his house, and listened to him tell stories about his adventures with the car, which included many trips up north. 

“It was neat to hear his stories about how his family enjoyed it,” Lavens said. 

The Custom 880’s good times continued with Lavens and DeCarlo, who “had a blast together going to all the shows around town the last couple of years.” However, their time enjoying the car together was cut short when DeCarlo died March 30. In light of his loss, Lavens noted that “if there could be any perfect ending,” it was the time that he got to spend with his dad, working on the car, in the last few years of his life. 

Now, Lavens has taken ownership of the car, which joins his family’s current collection of Dodge vehicles. Lavens owns a Challenger and his wife owns a Ram — both painted in hard-to-miss “Sublime” green. 

Lavens is also trying to find ways to keep his dad’s memory alive through their shared love of cars. 

“He really enjoyed the Gratiot Cruise, and I hope to have a car show at Cloverleaf Pizza in his honor this year,” he said. 

And although it’s not quite cruising season yet, Lavens has already taken the Custom 880 out for springtime cruises with his granddaughters. 

“We’re creating new memories,” he said.