Holy hot rod! Father Matt Keller of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, New Mexico has a passion for muscle cars that is nearly as big as his devotion for the Lord.
When he’s not tending to his flock, chances are you can find the padre working under the hood of a Chevy or, these days, wrenching a donated red 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible that will be raffled for charity next month.
The sweet Firebird had only one previous owner and just 79,000 miles on the clock prior to its restoration. It currently sports an original cream interior, new top, power steering, and power brakes. Father Keller is personally refurbishing the 350 cubic-inch V-8 engine that’s mated to a three-speed Hydra-Matic transmission.
If you are feeling lucky, it will be auctioned on June 17 for $25 a ticket — and 10,000 will be sold. You don’t have to be Catholic to enter, but a few Hail Mary prayers might not hurt you chances of winning, either.
“The Gallup Diocese is the poorest in the country and one of the best places to serve,” Father Keller tells us via email.
“Many who want to attend seminary simply can’t afford it. We wanted to find a way to help them and create a fun, community-building project in the process.”
Keller grew up in New Mexico and was a trained mechanic who loved cars prior to his even higher calling. He sold his own 1964 Chevy Malibu SS prior to joining the priesthood, believing his car days were behind him, but Someone clearly had other plans.
This Firebird is the second car Keller has restored. Last year, he restored a donated black 1972 Chevelle, the raffle for which raised $140,000 to help five Gallup students attend seminary.
“This car is a numbers-matching original with a fantastic factory interior and a newer convertible top. We’ve worked with a team of men from body shops from all over the state of New Mexico to restore the car to mint condition,” said Father Keller.
“Rico Motors here in Gallup also donated a new paint job for the car.”
Raffle tickets can be purchased at www.V8forVocations.org through June 16 and participants don’t need to be present to win.
Photos courtesy of “V8s For Vocations.”