Hard work and commitment have fueled Floyd Clouse’s personal and professional passions.
His work life began at age 16 when the Seymour native was hired as a stock boy at Brown’s Grocery, the city’s first grocery store. He worked 30 to 32 hours a week after school on weekdays and every weekend. Although such a schedule cut into the high school student’s social life, it did provide a paycheck — at 90 cents an hour, generating $25 to $30 a week.
That’s not much today, but in the early 1960s, it allowed Clouse — now 73 — to come up with $250 to buy his first car, a green 1954 Chevrolet convertible.
“It was a car, but not a cool car,” Clouse said. “It didn’t run very fast.”
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Six months later and still stocking shelves, Clouse earned enough additional money to address the speed limitations of his first vehicle.
Clouse replaced it with a red 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hardtop with a 283-cubic-inch engine and three-speed transmission. This one was a cool car for sure — an iconic vehicle during the era with its sleek lines and pointed tail fins and today a classic car collector’s dream.
“I loved it,” Clouse said.
“Dad wanted me to buy an automatic, but I wanted a straight shift. If you’re going to drag (race) somebody, you’d better have a straight shift” — as well as horsepower, said Clouse, who installed a 307-cubic-inch block into the Bel Air.
As depicted in the musical “Grease,” set in the late 1950s, many high school boys of the time had a fascination with fast cars — not just driving them, but racing them.
A quarter-mile stretch of Lower Rockford Road southwest of Rockford attracted high school students during that era from Seymour, Columbus, North Vernon and Scottsburg to either race or watch on weekend evenings, Clouse said.
“We’d be uptown and cruising around, then go out there,” he said.
It was an expensive hobby for a high school kid, as Clouse went through a lot of tires, three new transmissions and two new rear ends on the Bel Air, not to mention a dangerous one.
“When you’re 16, 17 or 18 years old, you don’t think about that,” Clouse said in retrospect.
Although no one in his group ever got seriously hurt from racing their cars, a few young drivers did spin out and landed in a cornfield, damaging their vehicles, he said.
By the time he graduated from Seymour High School in 1965, Clouse was still a young man in a hurry but by then more grounded as he considered his future.
Even though he had taken college prep classes in high school, Clouse was anxious to start his adult life and picked work over college.
“Cummins was close, paid the best and had good benefits,” Clouse said. “Cummins was the place to go. It was a good, reputable company that kept growing and growing with good leadership.”
Working for Cummins "became something I was proud of. I stayed and helped make it bigger and better. The more responsibility I took, the more I liked it,” Clouse said.
His 44-year career with Cummins began in 1965 as a shop diesel worker at the Columbus Engine Plant. Thanks to his hard work and commitment, Clouse rose through the ranks. Named a supervisor in 1973, more promotions would follow over the next two decades.
In 1995, Clouse accepted his first executive position as director of materials for a new joint venture, Chongqing Cummins Engine Co. in Chongqing, China.
Returning to Indiana after his two-year assignment abroad, Clouse finished his career with Cummins as an account executive for distribution and industrial customers.
“Anything you’d want to do in your life, they offer it,” Clouse said of Cummins.
And during the economic downturn of 2009, Cummins had one more offer for Clouse — a chance at early retirement. He took them up on that one, too.
With a financial nest egg thanks to his long association with the Fortune 200 Columbus-based company, Clouse had the opportunity in his retirement years to revisit a passion from his youth — owning and driving cool-looking, well-equipped cars with get-up-and-go.
Clouse decided on a hot rod for his first classic car. He found what he wanted in South Carolina, where another hot rod enthusiast had assembled a kit car.
A devoted “Chevy guy” like his dad, Claude, who died in 2006, there was only one make Clouse was interested in, and it had a bowtie emblem.
The 1934 Chevrolet Business Coupe, which Clouse purchased in 2016, is a replica of the original vehicle. Its fiberglass Outlaw body resembles a vintage car with a chopped roof.
The hot rod has a 383-cubic-inch stroker engine with a crankshaft that puts out more than 400 horsepower and a turbo 350 transmission. Built from scratch, the hot rod has Ford front and rear ends.
With the lightweight fiberglass body, the car is built for speed, but Clouse has learned a lesson from his youth. He’s not about to tear up this car by racing it on the streets.
With 10,000 miles on it at the time of purchase, Clouse has added just 1,000 more these past four years — driven mostly to display at nearby car shows.
“I want it to look good and be dependable,” he said.
When it moseys down the street, you’ll hear the Chevrolet before you see it, recognizing the roar and rumble of a loping camshaft from the V-8 engine.
“It just sounds real good,” Clouse said.
Although the Coupe has power windows and door locks, it has no windshield wipers, no heater or air conditioning and no spare tire.
“It’s not a practical car,” Clouse said.
The car builder wasn’t looking to save on expenses by going without certain parts, but instead wanted to enhance the classic car’s looks.
Installing wipers, for example, would have meant drilling a hole in the car body.
During the warm weather car show season, Clouse will apply Rain-X to the windshield when taking it to an event in the event it rains. And since he doesn’t drive it in the winter, not having a heater isn’t that big of a deal.
Since buying the hot rod, Clouse has added to his classic car collection with several Chevrolets from the 1960s.
He purchased a brown 1965 Custom C10 Chevy pickup truck last year.
“It was a mess” with a lot of things that didn’t work, Clouse said.
He replaced a 283-cubic-inch engine and three-speed transmission with a 350-cubic-inch engine and a four-speed transmission.
“It’s still a work in progress,” he said.
Last fall, Clouse bought another show car, a black 1966 Chevy II Nova — purchased from an estate auction in Elizabethtown, just 8 miles from his Reddington home.
The two-door sedan with bucket seats has a 327-cubic-inch engine and a turbo 350 transmission.
It has new side panels because Clouse is a stickler about the appearance of his show cars.
“I don’t like rust on anything,” he said.
Rounding out his stable of eye-catching classics is a silver metallic 2008 Chevrolet Corvette convertible with a 400-cubic-inch engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Lightweight and built low to the ground, the Corvette has the potential to go faster than 100 miles per hour but still get 28 miles per gallon of gas.
“It’s the nicest car I’ve had,” said Clouse, who takes it on vacation with his life partner of 20 years, Vickie Marshall.
Clouse’s everyday vehicle is a 2018 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup, which he can also use to pull a camper.
Floyd has five licensed vehicles and a 2003 Harley-Davidson Superglide 100th anniversary motorcycle. Vickie owns four vehicles herself, giving them nine between them.
“How dumb is that?” he jokes in self-deprecation.
With the Nova in like-new condition, Clouse was looking forward to participating in a dozen or so cruise-ins and car shows starting this spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a monkey wrench into such plans.
With event-gathering size limits increasing by late summer, however, Clouse was able to participate in several Seymour cruise-ins during August, two trips to Hope in September for cruise-ins there and two more southern Indiana excursions in October to Salem and Sellersburg.
“Floyd has really good-looking cars,” said Dave White, 69, a friend and neighbor.
“I’m a Chevy guy, too,” said White, also a Cummins retiree who has owned his 1978 Chevrolet Corvette for 35 years.
His wife, Marlene, has a fully restored 1939 Red Studebaker Champion, which has a Chevrolet engine.
Sometimes, Floyd and Vickie attend car shows with the Whites. A handful of times this year, the couples have caravanned with others to the Suds restaurant in Greenwood for the well-attended Saturday cruise-ins, held April through October.
Like-minded people don’t have to wait for the next cruise-in to share stories and tips about restoring and enjoying their automotive hobbies, however.
Classic car enthusiasts from the Seymour area get together every Tuesday for breakfast at Larrison’s Diner downtown. Anywhere from 12 to 25 of them gather in a back room at 7 a.m., an hour before the restaurant opens to the general public.
When the dining room was closed due to the pandemic, the diehard car lovers temporarily moved their weekly gathering across the street to the new Crossroads Community Park under the JCB Pavilion.
Clouse and White are regulars in the breakfast club.
“If guys have a problem with their vehicle, we give them different ideas and hope something works. With old cars, you’re working on them all the time. It’s just part of life,” White said.
Clouse has become a respected and trusted member of the group.
“If he can help you with something, he’ll do it,” White said, reiterating a work ethic that Clouse has embraced from his first job at the grocery store through his career-long stay with Cummins.
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Meet Floyd Clouse
Immediate family: Life partner of 20 years with Vickie Marshall. Adult children: Bridgett Wetzel of Columbus, Indiana; Stephanie Clouse of Columbus, Ohio; Jon Marshall of Crothersville; and Ginger Marshall of Plainfield
Hometown: Born in grandfather’s house south of Seymour
Residence: Reddington since 2014
Education: Graduate of Seymour High School, 1965; associate degree in business administration from IUPUI, 1986
Career: Started with Cummins in 1965 as a shop diesel worker at the Columbus Engine Plant and became a supervisor in 1973; team adviser, production planning administrator and unit manager, Seymour Engine Plant, 1979-1995; promoted into first executive position as director of materials for a new joint venture, Chongqing Cummins Engine Co., Chongqing, China, 1995-1997; account executive for distributors, Columbus Engine Plant, 1997-1999; account executive for industrial, Columbus Engine Plant, 1999-2009, when he retired after 44 years