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Make-A-Wish, IMS Combine To Create Unforgettable Moment For Teenager

As JR explained to JD, he too was a fan of 1960s and ’70s American cars. The distinctive big-bodied, horsepower-heavy cruisers that you just don’t see much anymore on the road.

Actually, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 runner-up said while walking from pit lane, you would be interested to see what is over here in Garage 36.

And with that, JR Hildebrand knocked on the garage door and it opened, revealing a restored 1974 Pontiac Grand Ville convertible – JD’s car, finally street-worthy.

JD Casper smiled and teared up, and soon a garage full of friends and family followed suit.

JD, a 19-year-old Indianapolis resident battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was treated to an unforgettable morning on Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Through Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, he was treated to laps around the iconic 2.5-mile oval with Hildebrand and then, to great surprise, presented with his own restored car.

“I’m in a state of shock,” JD said. “It’s so cool to be a part of this.”

JD has long been a car buff, but didn’t have a ride of his own after his previous car was in a crash. So his uncle gave him the Grand Ville, which had languished in a family barn for years. It had rusted through in several areas, had holes in the floorboard and had been inhabited by chickens.

He saw it as a restoration project but one that would take several years and plenty of money.

But none of that was on JD’s mind when he arrived at IMS on Tuesday, under the guise of a track tour and the making of a promotional video for Make-A-Wish.

Instead, JD found Hildebrand waiting with a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Indianapolis 500 Pace Car, ready for a few hot laps, while the IMS scoring pylon read “Welcome JD.” After that, Hildebrand parked at the Yard of Bricks on pit lane and walked JD over to the MotoGP garages for the surprise unveiling of the car.

Reynolds Body Shop of Indianapolis refinished the interior and exterior of the Grand Ville, replaced the convertible top, provided new wheels and tires and gave the car a fresh coat of paint.

“I never imagined the car would be able to look like this,” JD said after sitting in the driver’s seat and taking it all in.

Hildebrand, himself an owner of a 1960 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, shared in JD’s appreciation of the work and drove it first, again with JD riding shotgun around the IMS oval – albeit a little slower than the “140 mph and some change” that Hildebrand had done a few minutes earlier in the Camaro.

“It drove great,” Hildebrand said. “I can’t wait for him to drive it.”

A few minutes later, JD did.

His lymphoma is in remission and he has new wheels.

It was a very good day.
 

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