Frankfort Car Club, Inc.
P.O. Box 15, Frankfort. IL 60423 Members Stories of Frankfort Car Club
My First Car
So this is the way it came about. When I was twelve, I started to go with my dad to the Calumet Junkyard. I fell in love with the old cars that were being junked, for instance a Crosley and a Frasier. But because they were in a junkyard, you couldn’t buy them.
But there was a little old man, Mr. Richon. He was our garbageman when we lived at l05th and Wentworth.. My dad had gone to school with his son, Joe. One night my dad stopped at a travern after work , and Mr Richon happened to stop in for a drink too. Mr. Richon told my dad that his wife was sick and that his son was "healing" her. The son had made a tent with a wire frame and sheets and put flood lamps inside the tent in the living room. For days, his son had been rubbing motor oil on his mother’s body and giving her motor oil to drink.- what grade, I don’t know. There was no way Mr. Richon could not stop the son. He was much bigger and had a tendency to be violent.
The next day my father went to the Kensington police officers’ doctor, Dr. Carrabine. The two of them, my dad and the doctor, went to see Mrs. Richon. The doctor told Joe he was doing a good job, and he should keep up the good work. He then went back to his office and immediately filed a police report and returned with a couple of cops. Joe ended up in the Manteno insane asylum, for the rest of his life.
Shortly after this incident, Mrs. Richon died. Mr. Richon was so grateful for my father’s help that he offered my dad a pick of one of the three cars he had. There was a 1937 Ford two door sedan, 1937 four door, 1946 Ford two door. I picked the two door 1937, 60 horse -the older the better. We towed it home, and I had it running in no time.
Because I was only thirteen, I couldn’t drive on the streets so I use to run it up the alleys of Roseland with my friend Bill. And that is how I got one of my first cars and taught myself how to drive stick. By the time I was sixteen I had five cars in five different garages in Roseland. Eventually, I put the ‘37 on blocks. It burned oil and needed a valve job. Two of my uncles showed me how to do one. Then I pulled the front and rear axles, transmission, and motor out of the car, and I painted everything black. Once I got the car back together I did the body work. Then my dad and I took it to Earl Scheib’s to have it painted red for $29.95. Quite a few years later I sold it to a Chicago policeman.
My First Car
I must admit I always thought my first car was too new for this article until I did the math. That being said........
Let's rewind to the summer of 1974. I was tired of driving the family hand me down. It was a light blue 4 dr'65 Plymouth Valiant with 225 ci of rompin' stompin' power under the hood. I was 17, still in school, had a job and my own money. It was time!!
My dad was on board with the idea, but he had his rules. He preferred Chrysler products, but was open to others as long as they weren't foreign made.
After spending most of the summer looking for something "dad approved" I finally found it. One afternoon was at the old Ford dealership that was in the Ford City Mall and there it was on the used car lot. A'73 Plymouth Barracuda!
It was only a year old. All white, paint, top and interior. 318 ci V8, automatic trans, A/C, 8000 miles on the odometer and it was a Chrysler product. Price tag $2550. I had to work that night so I asked my dad to go take a look at it without me. I had gone over it enough to know I wanted it. I called him later that evening and got the "we'll talk about it later" answer, which I guessed was better than a solid no. When I got home I opened the garage and there it was. I couldn't believe it. I just bought my first car!
By the following spring I was ready to make the first few changes. Cyclone headers, aluminum intake with a 4 bbl carb, wide tires, and mag wheels was a good start. It had the light duty trans that didn't hold up very well, but a Turbo Terry rebuild and a shift kit took care of that. A 4.10 posi for Sundays at the track and I'm all set. Oh, I dyed the interior black too. That was after my brother said it looked like an ice cream truck.
For a small V8 the car was pretty impressive. Low 15's at the drag strip with open headers and the 4.10 installed. Not too bad for the time. When I got home from the track the 4.10 came out, the 3.23 went back in and I'm all set for city driving. Most people couldn't believe it only had a 318 in it.
I had a lot of fun and turned a lot of heads with that car. Three years later it was time to move on to something else, so I sold it. Put the car out in front of the house one Saturday morning and by Sunday afternoon it was sold. Selling price? $2500.
My First Car
IN THE FALL OF 1955 MY OLDER BROTHER TURNED HIS TRUSTY OLD BEATER OVER TO ME. IT WAS A 1949
PLYMOUTH, 4 DOOR, BLACK, 6 CYLINDER AND STICK SHIFT WHICH I STARTED DRIVING TO MENDELL HIGH SCHOOL (OLD PULLMAN TECH) AT 1IIth AND SOUTH PARK IN CHICAGO. I DROVE THIS OLD BEATER TO ALL SPORTING EVENTS AND ONE DAY IT WAS RAINING AND I HAD TO USE THE WIND I1LD WIPERS. TO MY SURPRISE, THEY ONLY WENT UP SO I DEVISED A SIMPLE SOLUTION. I HOOKED A HEAVY PIECE OF STRING TO THE WIPER ARM AND PULL IT BACK DOWN AFTER EACH SWIPE AFTER WHICH IT WOULD GO BACK UP; IT WORKED!
ANOTHER THING HAPPENED AROUND THANKSGIVING TIME. I WAS DRIVING TO DE LASALLE HIGH SCHOOL IN CHICAGO WITH MY FRIEND JOHN. IT WAS DURING A SNOW STORM AND WE TRAVELING FROM 83RD AND
ESSEX AVENUE IN CHICAGO. WHEN WE GOT NEAR THE SCHOOL, TRAFFIC GOT HEAVY AND STREETS BECAME REALLY SLIPPERY WHICH CAUSED ME TO SKID INTO THREE DIFFERENT CARS AT THREE DIFFERENT LOCATIONS! FORTUNATELY, I WAS GOING SLOWLY AND THE BUMPERS MATCHED UP SO THERE WAS NO DAMAGE. (REMEMBER WHEN BUMPERS WERE ON OUR CARS FOR THAT PURPOSE?). WE DID GET THERE ON TIME AND WON THE GAME. THE DRIVE HOME WAS A LONG RIDE, BUT THAT OLD BEATER GOT US THERE.
THE NEXT DAY I FOUND THAT THE BRAKE FLUID WAS LOW; A LEAK DEVELOPED IN THE REAR BRAKE LINE. I ALWAYS REPAIRED THE VITAL NECESSITIES AND DROVE "OLD FAITHFUL" FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS. THEN I TRADED IT FOR A NEW 1956 FORD, 2 DOOR HARD TOP, V8, STICK, RED AND BLACK IN COLOR FROM BURKE FORD ON 65TH & WESTERN.
GONE WERE THE GOOD OLD DAYS DRIVING THAT OLD BEATER.
P.S. - I DO MISS THAT OLD '56 FORD
My First Car
The year was 1954 and I was15 years old without a driver's license (you had to be 16 for a license). The bottom drawer of my dresser was filled with car books and magazines like Hot Rod, Rod & Custom etc. I had friends that we would cruise to drive inns and always be looking for cars. I had been driving for a couple of years (that is another story) and wanted a car even though I did not have a license.
One day while cruising South Chicago Avenue, a 1939 Ford Deluxe Coupe was spotted at a used car dealer. We stopped at the dealer at 85th and South Chicago Avenue and admired the 1939 Ford. To our discovery, we found that it had dual carbs, high compression heads and dual exhausts. The asking price was $99.00!! Looking over the 39 more closely, we saw that a bolt was installed in the number 8 cylinder spark plug location.
Now this gave us some negotiating ammunition with the dealer and after some discussion with the salesman, he said give me $85.00 for the coupe. Since I had been working a few jobs and had the $85.00, I said yes!
Off I later went to 85th & South Chicago Avenue with my Dad, paid the $85.00 and got a clear title. It was now for the drive home. Dad said you drive the Chevrolet (our family car) and I will drive the 39 in case we get stopped for no license plates (remember I had no driver's license). When we got a few blocks from home we changed drivers and my Dad said it was missing and only then did I tell him that I know about the bolt in the number 8 cylinder. We made it home alright and now home with my 39 and with no tools, it was off to Sears for some Craftsman tools.
I pulled the heads off and everything else was all right. Now I had to address the problem with the head with the stripped spark plug hole. In our neighborhood there was an alley garage machine shop. The owner was a car guy who owned a 1948 Lincoln Continental. I do not remember his name but we would hang out at his shop when he had the garage doors open. I told him about the damaged head and he said that was no problem and for me to bring it in. He repaired the head and said no charge and good luck with the 39. With the 39 now running properly wewould sit in it and dream about when I would get my license!
My First Car
It seems as though the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place was a bigger deal forty years ago than it is today. Even when it was held at the Amphitheater on 43rd and Halsted Street, it was always one of the premiere and not to be missed events of the year. The attraction was flashy cars, pretty models, and a look into the future via concept cars. That was back in the day when the foreign cars had small booths, usually located in the basement. It was at the 1968 show that I first saw a Plymouth Roadrunner. That was its inaugural year. Months before the show we had been seeing a lot of commercials talking up the "economy muscle car." Foremost were the cartoons with the beep beep roadrunner being chased by Wile E. Coyote and others that had Sonny and Cher singing "And The Beat Goes On." The auto show model was a beautiful two door with red pin striping along the entire length
of the car which complemented the red striped tires. I had to have one.
The next step was to check with local dealers for the best price. (I even saw the model from the show
at one of the showrooms. Cars from the auto show were often sold to the dealers instead of transporting them to the next show.) I ended up buying the car from Stony Island Plymouth on 71St and Stony Island Avenue.
Major options that I decided on included silver color with red pinstripes (there was a $22 additional charge for buffing silver), Posi (Plymouth referred to this as sure-grip), chrome sill molding, eight track tape player, and to class it up a little - a wood grain steering wheel. Total cost with tax and license was $3200. I'm glad I kept the window sticker. I had no idea I'd be writing this forty years later.` For some reason back then we kept the window sticker on the car for several days and then put it away for safe keeping.
Roadrunners came standard with the 383 with four speed and factory installed Hurst shifter. All 383s were modified with 440 heads, cam shaft, and cast headers, Carter four barrel with an unsilenced air cleaner and dual exhaust. This combo gave the engine a neat lope at idle and a roar when you got on it. It was rated at 335 horse power @ 5200 rpm and 425 ft-lbs torque @ 3400 rpm. It would also stop pretty fast having massive 11x3 inch front brakes and 11x2 % rears. The only other engine option was the infamous 426 hemi advertised at 425 horse power which was under rated for insurance purposes. It was a whopping $700. Putting it into today's dollars, it would be a $6000 engine option. In the end, the $700 broke the bank and I settled on the 383. Years later I discovered why this was such an expensive option. It included some other mods. For example, 426 Roadrunners started out with a convertible frame which had the extra gussets to withstand the enormous torque (490 ft-lbs @4000 rpm) and bullet proofing around the bell housing as a precaution against exploding clutches and pressure plates. My additions included Crager Mags on the front and chrome reverse on the rear and a column mounted Sun tach.
Great memories include driving around with Janice with her sitting next to me on the bench seat listening to the Young Rascals, teaching her to drive stick for the first time, and bringing all of our baby boys from the hospital. The Roadrunner was always a fun car to drive. It always got a lot of looks. At that time there weren't a lot of Roadrunners around and I think that I had the only silver one. Plymouth thought that they would only sell 2000 and end up selling 45000 in '68.
This was the car that I learned the most about auto maintenance. From the annual ritual of changing points, plugs and condenser to more complex things like carb rebuilds, changing brakes, shocks, u-joints, ball joints, tie rods, master cylinder, water pump, etc. Seems like the car would eat alternators. I must have changed five. I never got around to any major engine mods. I had an idea to install Hooker headers and a higher lift cam but never got around to it. The only minor changes was to reroute the plumbing for the vacuum advance (dealer mechanic told me how to do it) and lighter springs for the mechanical advance.
We eventually sold the car in 1978 with 160,000 miles. Janice always wanted me to keep the car and store it somewhere. I should have listened to her. The young guy I sold it to totaled it within a couple of weeks. I still miss it! Technically this was my second car but the first one was a 1941 Ford that I bought before I even had a driver's license. I bought this car in 1957 and drove it for the last two years that I was in high school. I bought it from the guy who did most of the customizing and I just finished the details on the car and enjoyed it. The car was a traditional lead-sled 1950 Ford convertible. All of the chrome had been removed and then a short chrome strip applied over the long "bubble" fender skirts. The door and trunk handles had been removed and the electric buttons that operated them were now under the edge of the convertible top. The car had 12 coats of black lacquer paint, a black top and red leather interior, a 1954 Pontiac grille, tunneled head lights and "frenched" tail lights, with Oldsmobile "spinner" wheel disks. The engine was the original flathead V8 with dual exhausts and lots of chrome for sparkle, "tranny" was a three speed standard. The car was very dependable and the one photo shows my brother, me and a buddy as we packed for an extended driving trip. Shortly after high school I left for Army boot camp and sold the car... for exactly what I paid for it two years earlier, $200. Oh, as we all like to say... to have that baby back today!
My First Car
Technically this was my second car but the first one was a 1941 Ford that I bought before I even had a driver's license. I bought this car in 1957 and drove it for the last two years that I was in high school. I bought it from the guy who did most of the customizing and I just finished the details on the car and enjoyed it.
The car was a traditional lead-sled 1950 Ford convertible. All of the chrome had been removed and then a short chrome strip applied over the long "bubble" fender skirts. The door and trunk handles had been removed and the electric buttons that operated them were now under the edge of the convertible top. The car had 12 coats of black lacquer paint, a black top and red leather interior, a 1954 Pontiac grille, tunneled head lights and "frenched" tail lights, with Oldsmobile "spinner" wheel disks. The engine was the original flathead V8 with dual exhausts and lots of chrome for sparkle, "tranny" was a three speed standard.
The car was very dependable and the one photo shows my brother, me and a buddy as we packed for an extended driving trip. Shortly after high school I left for Army boot camp and sold the car... for exactly what I paid for it two years earlier, $200. Oh, as we all like to say... to have that baby back today!
MY FIRST REBUILD PROJECT
A year or two after I built a Bradley kit car, I happened to notice an old Jeep for sale in Homewood, IL. It was a 1967 CJ made by Kaiser. I think Kaiser had purchased Willys in the mid 50’s. The Jeep had a nice V6 Buick engine, a plow and was in satisfactory shape, I thought. A deal was made and took it home.
It was sort of a third car and nice to drive in the summer. It was a basic Jeep with a 3 speed non- synchromesh transmission, manual locking hubs, AM radio and not much of a heater-defroster. After using it for a while, I started noticing the rust. The sides were pretty rusty but the floor was a complete mess and needed to be to be replaced.
I took the body off the frame and started cutting out the rust. I ended putting in a complete new floor! The job was pop riveted and screwed and all the new sheet metal was covered with bondo. While the body was off, I towed the frame and motor over to a shop for transmission work.
I painted the frame, the motor and then I sprayed the entire body in my garage. It actually turned out pretty nice. I re-assembled everything and started replacing stuff; then I put in a new windshield, radio and a new top. The original tires were okay so I just added new wheels. It was not a comfortable driver though; it road like, well, a Jeep. I once drove it 300 miles up to Michigan one summer and my two kids learned to drive it without - synchromesh, power steering or power brakes. They still talk about that experience today.
I do not remember how long I drove that Jeep but one winter I was coming home after running track at Governors State University. I was on Governors Highway and- the road was snow packed, my tires had no grip because they were wide and flat. I lost traction on a slight curve in the road and the Jeep went into a ditch causing me to wrap it around a telephone pole: There was not even one body panel that was not damaged. Unfortunately, I did not have any collision coverage. I was thinking that if I had any sort of "fender bender," I could just fix it. Never did I think that I would "total" it. It sat in my garage for a while and I finally sold it for $200.00 to a guy who wanted the motor. That was my last garage re-build project!!!!
MY FIRST CAR
In the summer of 1979 I was 16 years old and the only car 1 was permitted to drive was my parent's AMC Pacer...ugh. One day, while walking along a side street in my hometown of Defiance, Ohio, I spotted a turquoise 1962 VW Beetle sitting in a yard with weeds growing half-way up the doors and with flat tires. It had a leapard skin interior and more rust than paint! I saw the For Sale sign and I knew I had to have this sad looking little bug. The owner said that it did not run and he did not have a clue what was wrong with it. He accepted my offer ©f $100 and I was thrilled, not having a clue about how to fix cars, but excited about my first big purchase.
My Dad and I towed the car home behind the Pacer with a rope, somehow making it safely all the way across town. In order to determine what was wrong with the engine, we popped the car into gear while pulling it-...and it did start, but the engine made a terrible banging noise that sounded like a jackhammer. At least one of the connecting rod bearings was completely gone. We ended up removing the engine and split it open to replace all the bearings, piston rings, valve seats, etc. Dad, being a self-taught tailor, replaced the leopard skin interior with a nice white vinyl-
Some of the "special features" of my bug: no seat belts, no real heat (I scraped the windows on the inside to clear them of frost in the winter), a mechanical gas gauge that always bobbed up and down, retread tires (some whitewalls, some not), and a tiny 40 h.p. four-banger that often could not power the car up the smallest of hills (how I managed to drive this car for years and not be killed I cannot imagine). But boy did I have fun with that little car. It was not great for dates, for reasons that you can guess, but the girls did think it was cute (and I needed all the help I could get)!!
CURRENT COLLECTOR CAR STORIES
69 RAMBLER SC/RAMBLER
In another story I mentioned the compact car craze that hit America in the late 50’s. One of the first domestic companies to enter that segment with a new model was Wisconsin’s American Motors Corp. with their Rambler American. The timing was perfect and the car filled the bill for economical and durable transportation. Together with the firm’s less than full size larger car, the Rambler 6, American Motors moved ( though briefly) into an astonishing 3rd place among US auto makers. Its CEO was none other than George Romney, father of certain political figure you may have heard of.
The US auto market changes quickly; in the mid 60’s compact cars were falling from favor, while the market for intermediate sized cars and the pony car (read as Mustang) rose quickly. Big engines were “in” as well; the muscle car era had arrived. By 1969, AMC knew the Americans’ days were numbered, due to be replaced by a new model in 1970. What better way to close out a successful 12 year run than with a special model. Riding the wave of muscle cars, the formula was simple- take the biggest engine you make, stick it in the smallest car available, add a 4 speed trans with Hurst shifter, Posi rear end, outrageous hood scoop, white letter tires, and a can’t be missed red white and blue paint scheme. Oh, and just to be sure you got it right, collaborate with the Hurst Corporation- well known for high performance specialty models-and thus the SC/Rambler was born.
Only 500 were planned to produced, but the demand was stronger than had been expected. Attractive pricing- $2998, or a dollar a pound- made the car quite a performance bargain. Another 500 were built and quickly sold, so a 3rd batch of 512 rolled off the Kenosha line. Given the rarity of this model, I’m pleased to report we have an excellent example right here in Frankfort.
Fred Sears is a real AMC enthusiast, so I didn’t have any trouble finding him at a Frankfort Car Club event and getting him to tell me about his SC/Rambler. “I had only seen one of these cars in the flesh back when they fairly new. It was in 1971 at a drag strip when I came up against one. It blew the doors off my ‘70 AMX! I found out later that particular SC/Rambler sported all factory approved “dealer installed” race parts that could put the car in a 12 second ¼ mile time bracket and still be considered stock.”
Fred said he was actually looking to buy a 1969 AMX when he found his SC/Rambler (most folks today just call ‘em Scramblers). That was over10 years ago. “I bought it with the body as you see it today but had the transmission and carb rebuilt, and most of the interior redone. I upgraded to an electronic ignition but otherwise it’s the stock drivetrain. Oh, I also installed power steering because after all, I’m not as young as I use to be!
The car is a joy to drive and fast as ever. I’ve always liked AMC cars and you don’t see many of them anymore. Parts are harder to come by, but half the fun in restoring an AMC is the search.”
If you see a Scrambler parked on Kansas Street near Oak during the cruise night season, chances are really good it’s Fred & Laura- that’s their favorite spot. Or it might be Fred’s AMX, or the Spirit, or the Gremlin...like a potato chip, it’s hard to have just one!
CURRENT COLLECTOR CAR STORIES
1967 Plymouth GTX
The classic muscle car period in America began when Pontiac introduced the GTO option in 1964. The competition struggled to catch up, but Dodge and Plymouth fielded a 4 letter answer for 1966 that not only caught up, but surpassed the GTO and its imitators in most every respect- the Hemi. Available in Plymouth’s Belvedere, Dodge’s Coronet, or the brand new Charger, the 426 Hemi took the drag strips, NASCAR tracks, and stop light matches by storm, quickly establishing its reputation as the hottest machine an ordinary customer could buy off the showroom floor. But that setting- the showroom- was the one race the Hemi placed dead last- sales. While the Hemi may have been King of the Speed Hill, few buyers could afford the price of admission. The Hemi option added about $1000 to the price of the car. While that may sound like a bargain, in perspective it was equal to about $7000 dollars today, or put another way, cost 1/3 more than the base price of the whole car. Only 2729 Hemi cars were sold that year compared to nearly 97,000 GTO’s and 72,000 SS396 Chevelles. The following season found Chrysler intermediates with a new game plan and a new engine- the 440. While not as brutally powerful as the still available Hemi, the 440 was just as fast up to about 70 MPH, outsized the competition’s engines, and most importantly, was priced much closer to the top sellers in the class. Plymouth wrapped up the new engine in a new model they advertised as the ‘Gentleman’s Muscle Car”- it was named the GTX. We’re fortunate to have sharp example of a first year GTX right in town. Owner Ken Legno tells the story from here.
Growing up my dad always bought Chrysler products. Nothing too sporty mind you, no Chargers or Cuda's and certainly no 440's but I guess I caught the Mopar bug. I found this car in Michigan in January of 2012. My search had me looking for one of the better known Mopar muscle cars, but in order to buy one in really nice shape you have to pay top dollar. By no means was I looking for a 1967 GTX, but this one caught my eye sort of by accident. Originally a North Carolina car, it was Bright Blue Metallic, an original Plymouth color in 1967. Upon closer inspection I found it to be in really great shape, with a period correct 375 horsepower 440 cubic inch engine to boot. I had to have it.
She was delivered on my birthday a year ago, which was a bright sunny day. So I loaded up the family and we went for a drive. A drive that nearly resulted in an accident thanks to a driver with no brake lights, turn signal, or any idea of where he was going. Those period drum brakes strained mightily to slow us down faster than that old van in front of us. It didn't take long to realize the stock brakes would have to be replaced with modern disc brakes. Other than that she is pretty much the way she would have been delivered back in 1967.
The family and I enjoy taking the car to the Frankfort Cruise Nights; turns out it is also a great way to meet new friends and support the local business community. Part of the attraction for me to Mopars is that you don't see one around every corner, and for all the car shows we went to last summer, we never saw another 1967 GTX.
I have tried to get my wife, Dawn, behind the wheel but so far she has refused. It may have something to do with seeing me wrestling with the manual steering while trying to park or back out of the driveway! This is not a small car by any means and definitely requires a lot of steering effort. So far we have put about 2000 trouble free miles on the car but as with any antique, there is always something to do. I never considered myself a mechanic but have been taking care of some basic fixes. As I write this we are looking forward to spring so we can take some day trips together. I think Starved Rock may be first on the list. We are saving our pennies so that we can afford to quench her insatiable thirst for premium fuel!
After our"Big Snow" in early February 2011, FCC member Fred Sears wants to know if it's cruise night season yet.....
My First Car
It was a time when many of us can recall good times and a time of peace and prosperity. The year was 1956. I was now out of high school and of age to drive. My father never owned a car until 1954, but never drove it (my brother did), but I was determined that would have my own and use it as I wanted. Well, I saved enough money over the years as a kid with paper routes, grocery store stock boy and other jobs to buy a decent used car. With a love for any car that had all its wheels on and could drive in forward gear, I made it a point to shop for cars and what kind I really would like to own. I would cruise down Western Avenue in Chicago with my buddies where there were the most car dealers. This was in addition to any other spot that sold cars. Somehow I would always gravitate to the 49-52 Chevys. Really liked those and I still do. I finally spotted a beauty in a used car lot at Roseland Auto Sales on 103rd and State Street, Chicago. This beauty was a 1952 Chevy Bel-Air, Brown over Beige. The Bel-Air that year was a one only model in a 2 door hardtop, as it was for the 1950 and 1951 models. The Bel-Air name turned into a series with the introduction of the 1953 models. Now you will have to imagine my buddies driving these stick 46-49 Fords burning up the streets taking off from stop lights like a rocket while here was with a powerglide Chevy. The car looked so neat and in such fine condition that the powerglide was acceptable to me. Yes, I enjoyed owning this car which I bought on the 1st of November. It did get me to where I wanted to go, mainly to the pizza joint and dates with the girls, but finding that it had such a slow pickup from a stop, I knew I didn't want to keep this car. So what do you do when you face this situation? You go out and look at the new rocket 57 Chevy. This was the car my
friends were buying so I shopped for the best deal and with some easy persuasion to dad for a loan. I ordered a new one and took delivery on February 20, 1957. The car was a 2 door Bel-Air hardtop, Adobe Beige over Sierra Gold, purchased from Southwest Chevrolet at 9220 South Ashland Ave. in Chicago. My salesman was Mr. Henry Rooze. Total list price was $3121.87 which included Powerglide automatic, Heater, Radio (AM of course), Undercoating, Two tone paint, Whitewalls, Outside rear view mirror, and Tinted glass. No delivery charge, doc fee, county fee, outrageous taxes, or whatever else they can screw you with today. $1109.87 was given to me as a trade in for my 52 Chevy. Not bad because I paid $800.00 for the 1952. How do remember all these figures? I didn't, but I peeked at the original invoice which I still have. Not that this entire trivia should be important here, but to me it was a big deal at the time and is all a part of my first cars. I was 18 years old and had gotten a job as a draftsman for the Silex Company and making payments to dad. The fact that I owned the 52 Chevy for such a short period of time my better memories are of the new 57, so I am considering this 57 with my first car. The car had a 2 barrel carb 283 Cu. in. V8, with a single exhaust. The single exhaust didn't last long because I had to have duals like on the bigger engines. added the duals with mild smittys. Sounded good and what a difference between the old 52 automatic and the new 57 automatic. A number of friends also had 57 Chevys but in stick form. Even though I had the powerglide the car was fast. In addition I added dice because it seemed to be the rule more than anything else. Skirts because it gave the car a low and cool look. Twin spots because it also gave a neat look. Blue dots (tail light lens) because it was the fad. Don't think it would be legal today. Don't want to forget the 2" lowering blocks in the rear springs. That's contrary to what a lot of the young people have done today by raising the rear end of their cars. And oh, a change between a set of Plymouth moon or Olds flipper hub caps. These caps were in addition to the stocks which went on in the winter months. Even though it was a new car I still added switched amber lights under the dash and behind the grille. Why do this? I guess to be different. Also had
an artist paint an eyeball in the round dome light inside. Was this a chick magnet? Yes, did date a lot of gals in this car including one named Shirley. Come to think of it she was not so impressed with the car because it took five years and a graduation to a 1960 Pontiac 2 dr. Ventura Hardtop (that's another story) before we married. It took a total of 23 years from when I got the first 1957 Chevy to get another 1957 Chevy with my son Ken. Then another 23 years of owning the old 1957 Chevy to jump to a 1955 Thunderbird. Why a Thunderbird? Always thought they were cool but can't remember them on the streets in 1957 when most guys were driving Chevys. As the ads of the time said about the 1957 Chevys, they were Sweet, Smooth, and Sassy.......Chevy puts the purr in performance!
My First Car
At the end of my junior year at Mendel High School, I got a part time job at the National Tea Food Store on Ashland Ave. in Calumet Park as assistant produce mgr. I worked three evenings during the week and all day Saturday. As a result of working there thru the summer and fall, had a whopping $350 just burning a hole in my savings account. It was October 1966 and time to buy my first car.
My Dad and I kept our eyes on the lookout for a good used car. We checked out an ad for a 58' Pontiac, but the interior smelled like rotting fish, so we passed on it. A week later there was an ad in our local paper for a 1960 Chevy Biscayne 2-door sedan.
I made a call and said that we'd like to go look at it. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be mine. It was black with grey and black interior and in good shape. Under the hood was a 135hp. 235ci. Blue Flame Six with the mighty 2 speed Powerglide automatic transmission. We fired it up and other than a faint tapping, it sounded pretty good. We took it for a spin and I knew I had to have it.
The asking price was $450, so we offered $350(all I had). After what seemed like an hour of haggling, we agreed on $375. Dad came up with the additional 25 bucks. We went to the bank, picked up my life savings, and went back to pick up my first car. It was all mine!
I drove it to school, work, sports and dates for about 6 months, when that faint tapping began to get louder and louder and turned into a very distinct rod knock. It sounded like someone was trying to hammer themself out of the #4 cylinder wall. Soon afterward it went up in smoke. Getting it repaired would have cost as much as I paid for the car. Not an option! My Dad said that he knew a guy who worked with him at the steel mill named "Bullhead Rutzen" who recently totaled his 62' Biscayne, and he thought that it didn't have many miles on it. He talked to Bullhead who said that he would sell it, but it was a wreck. He had the car in his garage, so we went to his house to look it over. He wasn't wrong about it being totaled, but the Blue Flame Six and transmissii were untouched. The car had only 23,000 miles on it. I got it for 75 bucks. You could almost say that it was my second car. What a catch!
After getting it towed home, we yanked out the burned up six, and prepared to drop in the fresh six. I asked my Dad if we could leave the 3 speed manual transmission on the engine. He said, "let's check it out". After about a half hour of measuring and head scratching, we found that the clutch pedal linkage would bolt up with no problem. As a matter of fact, everything bolted up with no problem, except for the shifter linkage. I bought a Hurst 3 speed floor shifter kit, and that problem was solved. We replaced the stock muffler with a "Cherry bomb" and had a hot rod.
We double checked our ignition set up and all hose connections, and everything looked good. I got behind the wheel and when my Dad gave me the "thumbs up", I tried to fire it up. It turned over twice and came to life. Man did we feel good. After running it for a while and finding no leaks or problems, I shut it off. Things couldn't have gone better.
I drove that car for another 3 years. My Dad passed away a couple years ago, but whenever think about him I usually think about that 60' Chevy and the engine swap we did together. Boy,do I miss them both!
My First Car
In the fall of 1969 I was a junior at Bremen High School in Midlothian. I had a job at a factory in Alsip called Badger Custom Chrome Plating. They made accessories for cars like chrome lug nuts, tail pipes, baby moon hubcaps, etc.
It was around October and I had my license about 4 months but I was still without my own wheels. My parents would lend me their only car, a 1969 Chevy Impala 9 passenger station wagon on occasions to drive myself to work, but the desire to own my own car was eating at me.
I was working part time and only making $2.00 an hour, but there is no better time to buy a car than when you really can't afford one.
My parents were loyal customers of Jack O'Donnell Chevrolet in Midlothian, so I went there to buy my first car. I looked around the used car lot and picked a 1963 Chevy Biscayne four door 6 cylinder automatic for $700.00.
It was a car I was familiar with because my dad had bought one new in 1963, so if I needed mechanical help I could always ask dad. The car took me everywhere I could afford to go. The car was great, but there is always one better down the road, like my 1966 Chevy Impala hardtop, 283-3 speed.
My first car gave me my badly needed independence, thank you old friend, I miss you.
My FIRST CAR
1956 Ford Custom Fairlane 2-door coupe; all white with black skirts & headlight rim, bumper guards (was used as a gas station pusher); dented grill; rusted rocker pan, 292 V-8 engine, 3-speed stick shift; rear main seal leak.
Prior to owning this magnificent automobile I had access to my family home driveway full of various cars. These were thought of as "community property" shared
a baseball team of brothers. There were nine of us. There was never a shortage of vehicles to choose from when heading out on a Friday night cruise or that Saturday night date. Other cars in the driveway were a '53 Chevy, '54 Merc, '56 Olds 88, '56 Ford Crown Vic, '57 Chevy, and a '59 Chevy Impala. Now I had one of my very own! All $300 worth. It was 1960 and life was good... I went to work.
I removed all the chrome, sanded & repaired surface rust; removed & replaced the rusted rocker panels, welded back in place. I then added a new 57 Ford truck bumper. Ooops, no place to fasten the front license plate.... too bad!!! redesigned the grill by cutting out the bad parts.
A loose starter needed tightening.. .another oops... a slip of a wrench and I suddenly had a cracked front tooth. (#%#% happens)!!
Oh, of course there was that rear main seal causing those puddles to appear on my future in-law's driveway. "That car had better be parked out front on the street". The repair of that main seal took more than once or twice to finally get it right (at least for a while). The final chapter was the Apcoa paint job. Cadillac Midnight Blue or Buick York Blue....I went with Midnight Blue (good choice). I then added the white pinstriping. Now to install the vibrasonic reverberating sound system and some blue mood lights under the seat and dash. It was now ready to roll. Sharp, Cool and Perfect.
After a few years and probably a ticket or two I sold it to a young stud after telling him the main seal was leaking (again). He said "just don't tell my dad"... his plan was to put in a bigger engine. He didn't do it soon enough and burned up the original engine by running it out of oil.
That First Car was followed by a 1959 white Ford Galaxy. Then came the 1963 Black Riviera (really sweet). Now it was family time and we all settled into our 1970 Buick Estate Wagon. And life goes on.........
My First Car
The year was 1978 and I was getting Drivers Ed at Lincolnway Central High School. Dad also taught me a few things about driving by taking me out for spins in, of all things, his 1977 Lincoln Continental Town Car. Size didn't make a difference then, it was driving. Within days of turning 16, 1 got my license. Now I was trying to make any excuse to drive my moms 73 Dodge Charger with a 400 cu. in. engine. I didn't use her car much until I got a job at The Golden Bear Restaurant on Rt. 30 in Matteson. Then I was using it on occasion to go back and forth to our home in Frankfort.
Not long after starting to work at The Golden Bear, dad stopped in one day and asked me if I wanted to go with him to look at a new Mustang at Currie Motors in Frankfort. Would I say no? No, I was more than willing to go. There was this Bright Yellow Mustang 2 door standard coupe on the showroom floor and dad asked if I liked it and if yes, would I want it. No hesitation on my part. Here was a brand new car and it looked like a million bucks sitting there under those bright lights. Base price on this gem was $4,494.00. Price out the door was something like $5200.00. For this I got the 2.3L 2V 4cylinder, 88 horsepower engine, standard 4 speed transmission, radio, heater, sun roof and bucket seats, tax included. Next, one thing had to be done and that was to test drive the car. The sales people pulled it out of the showroom and dad said he would take it for the first drive since I hadn't driven a stick. I said no, I’ll drive it. Dad watched as I left on that first drive of this car. He tells me that he was amazed to see no hesitation or jerking of the clutch.
After saying that 1 would like to have it, dad said we could buy but with certain stipulations. He proceeded to tell me that I had to pay for it, I had to pay for insurance, I had to maintain it, and I also had to listen to what he said regarding restrictions on the car. Knowing that the Golden Bear job wasn't going to cut it (minimum wage, minimum hours), I got a job at the Jewel in Tinley Park. I never missed a payment, including all insurance because I knew it would be dads car after the second missed payment. No insurance premium paid it would be in the garage under lock and key.
I found every excuse I could in order to drive it somewhere and that included going to the store, picking up my brothers or whatever else. Loved that car and kept it for g years and it never failed me during the 100,000 miles plus that I owned it. During that time I added a number of optional after market accessories such as air dam, headlight covers, fog lights, rear window sun shades and American Racing aluminum rims with white letter radials.
The 1979 Mustangs had just come out with the third generation (TGM), and was a complete departure from previous Mustangs. The only styling Q reminiscent of previous Mustangs was the long nose and short deck. It shared the FOX platform with the Fairmont and Zephyr which debuted the previous year. Production of this TGM lasted for 15 years with improvements each year. Total production of the 2 door sport coupe was 156,666 out of a total of 369,936 for 1979. In addition to my car with the base engine, the 1979-1981 Mustang also was available with the optional 2.3L 2V 4cy1 132hp (Turbocharged), 2.8L 2V V-6 lo9hp, 3.3L iV 6cyl 85hp and 6.oL 2V V-8 14ohp engines.
MY FIRST CAR
It was in the spring of 1959 and I was 15 years old and had been depending on my 1958 Cushman Eagle that I purchased with the money earned from cutting lawns for the previous 3 years, to take me to the far off places that were beyond the city limits of my home town of Harvey Illinois.
Towns like Lynwood, Dolton, South Holland and Lansing, all were now within cruising distance for my two wheeled chariot that allowed me to escape and seek new adventures.
Plus, it allowed me to remove myself from the ever vigilant eyes and ears of the local police who by then knew my penchant for driving too fast and without the muffler that the Cushman Corporation had foolishly installed to quiet my mighty 8 horsepower beast.
I had found it safer when in my home town to confine most of my driving to the alleys as a chance encounter with the local constable was reduced.
It was on one of those alley trips that I discovered my first car, a 1934 Chevrolet 2 door sedan. The car was parked behind a garage on Kentucky Avenue half covered with the weeds growing around it but it was love at first sight!
I approached the house in front and inquired if the car was for sale and the kindly older (when you are 15 everybody seemed older) gentleman told me that it was but it was not in running condition. Undaunted, I asked the price and he told me $50.00 but I would need my father approval to buy it. I am not sure if my father even made it through our door when I pounced on him with my discovery and asked if he would go look at it with me.
My father being the wise man that he was knew that I was not going to let him rest unless he agreed to go immediately to look at the car. We took the family car and drove the several blocks to the where my find was waiting. Money quickly exchanged hands and with a chain we dragged my first car home.
I soon discovered the reason the car was not drivable was due to a large hole in the side of the transmission case where the cluster gear used to be.
I soon discovered the joys of scouring local "junk yards" (now known as automotive parts recyclers) and learned how to bargain with those seemingly always angry men who owned or worked in those junk yards establishing a first name basis with most of them within a 30 mile radius. Sometimes I think they remembered what it was like when they were a kid and they were actually kind to me in most cases.
Installing a new transmission on a car that had a torque tube instead of an open driveshaft was a learning experience that I would not soon forget as the taste of transmission oil became a staple in my everyday diet for about a week. My dad felt that was also a good time for me to install a new clutch while the transmission was out of the car. After the transmission was installed and a battery was "borrowed" from my dad’s car I attempted to start my car and discovered the starter was also kaput.
The necessity of finding more lawns to cut so I could feed my new found money pit took away from my idle time. Funny how some things have not changed in the last 50 years, "will work for toys" is still relevant.
After replacing the transmission, clutch assy., starter, battery, alternator, voltage regulator, and a carburetor rebuild I had it running.
Did I mention the seven lawns that I was now cutting each week to finance my project?
It was worth all of the sweat and labor I endured the first time my dad let me drive it down the alley on its maiden voyage with me as the new owner.
I kept that car for 2 years during which I continued to improve it. By then I sanded the entire car by hand and installed new fender welting on all four fenders after I finished sanding the body and fenders.
Naturally I painted it with Rustoleum spray can grey primer typical of a young persons car back in the day.
Now 17 and a seasoned automotive veteran, I sold my trusty Chevy to buy a 1954 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 with V8 power and a Hydra-matic tire smoking transmission that literally would melt the right rear tire on take off.
Three weeks after I had sold my Chevrolet I seen it at the local hardware store in town and it was sporting a new black paint job applied by the new owner using house paint and a 3" paint brush. He was proud of it and the fact that a person had to be real close to see all the brush marks and the sags in the paint from his painting techniques.
I felt sick thinking all of the time I spent hand sanding the whole car and each time I would see it I felt sad as if I had betrayed my "first love"
It is now 49 years and 58 cars later (and still counting) and I still think of that summer in 1959 and the thrill of the experiences and joy I had that still are with me today.
MY FIRST CAR
1957 Chevy Bel Air
t was the spring of 1965. I was in my first year of college at Purdue University at the Calumet Campus in Hammond, Indiana. Actually, it was my second year out of high school, but I had bombed out big time the previous year down campus in West Lafayette in the REAL Engineering curriculum and I was learning to walk with my tail tucked firmly between my legs, but I digress! I had enrolled in what was called Mechanical Engineering Technology in those days. I was living at home with my parents and commuting to college in our second car, a 1964 Chevy Biscayne, four door, six stick that Dad had bought new as inventory surplus. Dad’s drive was a Studebaker Lark wagon, six stick with overdrive that had been relegated to #2 when the Chevy came along the previous fall.
Our neighbor who lived directly behind us had a used car lot and he said he had just received a trade-in that I might be interested in. A 1957 Chevy Bel Air two door hard top with the Power Pac option (high compression with a four barrel Carter carburetor) with a three speed stick! Wow! His asking price was just $550! Yep, that is just three digits! These were certainly different times. It took some energetic discussion with Dad to convince him that this was the car for me and I wouldn’t have to inconvenience Mom anymore. I had been working at the steel mills and paying my own tuition and book fees in exchange for living at home with free room and board. I was bound and determined to foot my own way for my advanced education. Now, I had to include car license, insurance, gas and maintenance for my new baby in my budget! Wow, what an undertaking. It sure gave me a new perspective of the value of the dollar. I was immediately the envy of all my friends!
I owned that car until just the spring of the following year, 1966. I had put new tires on it, new shocks, new carpeting and some body repairs to the left rear quarter panel. I figured my ‘break even’ price was $750! Can you imagine that! These were 1966 dollars! I felt that 30 cents a gallon for premium gas was just outrageous when regular was just 25 cents! I moved up (?) to a 1960 VW! I soon found out that a ’61 or newer VW might have been a better choice as it had been extensively upgraded in the power train. 40 hp versus just 36 and a much improved transaxle.
About a week after I had parted ways with my ’57 Chevy and was coming to terms with my anemic VW, I drove past the Mobil station where its new owner, Daryl, worked and I was horrified to see that beautiful Chevy with the back end stuffed up to the back window! It seems he was stopped at a light when a drunk bulldozed him. He wasn’t hurt, but the car was toast! We shared a few tears for the memories of that gorgeous car. What a chick magnet it was in the short time I owned it.
CURRENT COLLECTOR CAR STORIES
Ask most readers under 35 what a Studebaker is and you’ll likely get either a blank stare or a wild guess. For those of us who are ah, a little older, you may recall Studebaker was a vehicle manufacturer from nearby South Bend Indiana. Back in 1852, the Studebaker Brothers set up a blacksmith shop that produced high quality wagons. Carriages came next (the White House a fleet of them) and then automobiles and trucks. The company made magnificent classics in the early 30’s, only to find itself in receivership in the midst of the great depression. It survived those days to produce thousands of 6x6 trucks and amphibious troop carriers for WWII, as well as 9 cylinder radial engines for B17 aircraft. The postwar years brought both new heights and lows to the company, while building some of the most memorable models that collectors today readily recognize- the Starlite coupe (Bob Hope often joked ‘you can’t tell if it’s coming or going”), the best-selling bullet nose cars of 50-51 (even the Muppet’s Fonzie bear drove one), the stylish “Lowey Coupes” of 53-54 (still regularly raced at the Bonneville salt flats), the Golden Hawks (one of the fastest cars off the showroom floor in its day), and the Avanti- a design so timeless it outlived numerous companies that built it. Alas, the end began on December 20th, 1963 when the South Bend plant closed, and finished for good in March of 1966 when the last Studebaker rolled out of its Hamilton Ontario factory.
Our feature car this week is one of the speed demons favorites- a 1953 Commander Coupe. I caught up with Paul Reppa at one of the Frankfort Car Clubs’ garage tours they do each month from September to May.
I asked Paul what made him choose a Studebaker. “Well, the first car I ever drove was a ’53 Stude sedan. The first car I actually owned was a ’53 coupe. After that I had a ’57 Silver Hawk that eventually got wrecked, then in 1968 I bought a ’62 GT Hawk that I hardly got to drive- the garage that it was in caught on fire and took the car with it. So I grew up on Studebakers. Around 2000, I asked Jean, my wife to be, if she wanted to go to the Studebaker museum in South Bend with me. She said ‘what’s a Studebaker?’ We did end up going to the museum and it must have made an impression on her, maybe more so she saw the impression it made on me. Jean later said ‘Well why don’t you get a hobby car?’ She is the one that actually found the car we have now, she kept looking on the internet, and saw it listed for sale in Ohio. The car had been built at Studebaker’s California assembly plant, and given the condition of the body, must have spent a good portion of its years out that way before coming to the Midwest. The paint and interior had been redone so it looks about like it did when we bought it. I spent over a year getting the mechanical end straightened out though; it was very rough in that respect. But it’s been pretty reliable since. “
And reliable it must be, because I see Paul driving that car anytime the streets are dry-even in the midst of winter. A bright yellow Studebaker is pretty hard to miss. It’s got the Studebaker 289 V8 (no relation to the Ford engine of that size other than, well, the size) with 4 barrel carb, and the Studebaker automatic. Paul added “Lots of these cars have been modified over the years, everything from Chevy engines to Cadillacs and Hemi’s, but this one is all Stude, just the way it was built. I’ve put about 17, 000 miles on it since I bought it.
I asked Paul what’s the next step for the car. ‘Just enjoying it”.
Isn’t that what a collector car is for?
CURRENT COLLECTOR CAR STORIES
Like a lot of guys growing up in the heyday of vintage ‘hot’ cars, Orville Bell thought he’d like to own a Corvette someday. And also like a lot of guys, family, work, and other responsibilities kept postponing that quest for the sportiest of all Chevrolets. In the early 90’s though., Orv, as everybody knows him, thought maybe the time was right, so he began a search for the car he’d longed after, narrowing in on the second generation (called C2) models built from 1963-67.
An ad for a ’66 convertible in the Sunday Tribune classified ads got his attention. The car was located up in Mc Henry; by fortunate coincidence, a Corvette specialist Orv knew was heading up that direction, so an inspection was set up. This was no pristine show car- many changes had been made over the years including the color and the engine. The Vette needed suspension, a top, interior and brake work too. There was another catch- the seller wanted only cash – an impending divorce was mentioned. Orv had the money, but wasn’t willing to spend as much of it as the seller wanted. Two months and several visits back to Mc Henry eventually made his initial offer look like the best cash deal in town, so in April of ’92, Mr. Bell was finally behind the wheel of the car he’d longed after for 3 decades.
Once back in Frankfort, the needed repairs commenced-new brakes, suspension rebuild front & rear, transmission rebuild, new seat upholstery and more. With those items tended to, Orv was at last able to drive the new ‘toy’ with some confidence. But there was one thing that wasn’t quite ‘right’ – the engine. Not that the 300 horsepower 327 V8 had a mechanical issue; it ran fine. But this particular car had been built for speed- it was originally equipped with the top dog 425 horsepower 427, complimented by a 4 speed stick and Positraction rear end. And no power steering or power brakes. The odometer showed only 61,000 miles- Orv speculates some number of those were accomplished rather quickly, ¼ mile at a time. So while adding some legal velocity miles of his own, the search began for a numbers correct 427 “Turbo Jet” V8, as exclaimed by the fender emblems.
2 years later, that search brought Orville to a specialty engine builder in Wisconsin who supplied and rebuilt a correct engine, with 1 concession to drivability, that being able to use common pump gasoline rather than the racing gas the pure stock version demanded. Along with the engine swap, racy side mounted exhaust pipes as originally fitted to this car were sourced and reinstalled.
And now that’s it done? “I haven’t driven it that much, only 4000 miles in 20 years! But the sons in laws never miss an opportunity to take it for a spin. When they get behind the wheel and fire it up, their grins are almost as big as mine!”
My First Car
In 1970,I was a year away from my license, but was already diagnosed as an incurable car nut. I fiddled with Dad's 68 Caprice whenever I could, and most recently had beenn adding gauges and other equipment to my brother's recently purchased 66 Corvair. My brother mentioned that he had seen a Corvair wagon that looked abandoned up at the train station parking lot. I dashed up on my bicycle and confirmed there were no plates on the car but it was complete.
I had seen that car around the neighborhood from time to time, as even then, a Corvair wagon was not a common site. I had an idea where the owner hung out and was able to track him down before the police towed the car off to the auto pound. My Dad went along with the plan to let me buy this heap and fix it up, so $15 got me the title, and a jump from the Caprice got it running. The car was the same year and green color as the new Corvair my Dad had bought some nine years before.
Over the next few months I bought shocks, brakes, a dual exhaust kit from Warshawskys, and a bunch of other stuff I'm sure I didn't need but just had to have. I don't believe the Caprice ever got back in the single car garage again, as I was always working on something. A really big deal was when I got involved in the inner workings of the engine as it had a blown head gasket, ignored for so many miles it ruined the cylinder. I bought a new cylinder and piston kit (all of $18.00 back then) and reringed the other five. It ran about ten minutes before it began knocking badly and threw a rod...so much for my overhaul. Lesson learned - get a torque wrench that will fit without a u-joint!
I had joined the Corvair club and found a member in some far south suburb named Homewood had another engine for sale exactly the same as what was in the car. I did my first engine swap and got that one successfully running. Over the next three or four years I painted that car, changed the complete interior, converted it to a four speed, had several different engines in it and generally used and abused it until rust finally did it in. I stripped out the good parts and scrapped what remained of the body.
These days I still own a green 61 Corvair wagon, but it's 'newbie' to me - I've only had it 25 years!
MY FIRST CAR
It was Saturday, February 20, 1988 and I was with my mom, dad and a friend of the family (Ken Stewart - who happened to be a vintage Chevy enthusiast) to go take the 85 mile drive from our home in Mission Viejo, CA to San Diego and look at a 1950 Chevrolet Styleline 6-passenger coupe we saw advertised in Recycler magazine.
The car was parked in the garage of an elderly couple that had owned the car for years and none of their grown children expressed any interest in it. With 58,000 miles on the odometer, original interior, a straight body, iffy paint and that old car smell that never goes away, we all piled in there and took a quick spin around the block, deeming it acceptable and after brief negotiation, we drove off in exchange for a cashier's check for $2,000.
Beaming, I sat in the passenger's seat as Ken drove north on Interstate 5 past Carlsbad and along the Pacific Ocean near Camp Pendleton. It was right about then we discovered the fuel gauge wasn't all that accurate and we sputtered to a stop. Forty-five minutes later and with a gleaming new gas can in our possession, we were back on the road.
The car had original everything and was about as Spartan as was available; declined were the options of a clock, cigar lighter, arm rests or a heater. Its solid lifters and valves chattered constantly and almost drowned out the knock of Babbitt bearings slapping against the crankshaft in the 216 CID engine which had "City Chevrolet" stenciled on the valve cover (which matched the name on the sticker affixed to the interior of the glove box door and the license plate frame). My mom and I spent considerable time polishing up the stainless trim, chrome, dashboard and cleaning up the rest of the car. It was amazing to see those parts gleam again just like they did when the car was new. We got a kick out of the yellowed grocery receipt we found when we pulled out the back seat. It was dated 10-5-55 and nothing on it was over a dollar.
I bought this car off of my mom and dad at a deep discount with paper route money when I turned 15 and a half (old enough to get my learner's permit) and was the only one of my friends to have the unique problem of owning a car, but not having a license to operate it. One June 11, 1991 my mom drove me to the DMV in it and passed the driving test
without missing a mark (it helped that the evaluator from the DMV drove a car "just like it" when she was young). The only recommendation was to "add seat belts," which I later did.
My knowledge of cars went from zero to dangerous quickly once the car was mine and it started to act its age. First repairs were simple like replace the failed generator or pulling the radiator to have it re-cored. But things quickly escalated when the cylinder head cracked at each exhaust valve seat and the decision was made to rebuild the engine. Suddenly my $19.95 copy of the shop manual for passenger cars from 1949-1954 was worth almost as much as my dad's collection of Craftsman tools I used to tear everything down. From August of 1991 to June of 1992,1 spent every free moment and nickel I had putting that 216 back together with a lot of help from my good buddy Derek Meyer.
That car served me well through college and since that re-build, I have had just about every single mechanical component (and lot's of non-mechanical ones) in my hands at some point or another. Rebuilding that engine gave me a lot of confidence early in my life and helped me realize that you can do just about anything if you have the will and a plan. This weekend, I plan on taking another look at that voltage regulator before I take the plunge and plunk down $60 for a new one. Other than that, she still run's like a champ and is just as much fun to drive today as she was when we first bought her.
My First Car
After a brief encounter with a $25 1946 Ford, followed by a $50 '39 Lincoln Zephyr and a $50 '54 Chevy wagon, it was time to move up to a `real' car.
A black 1960 Ford Galaxie with a white top and red interior was my first new car. I took delivery on December 30th at 6 PM, 1959.
This car was the love of my life. It was a real show car-long, low and wide. I choose a 4 door hardtop model because I had a mother and father that did not drive, so easy access to the big back seat was a consideration.
The only thing that I did not like about owning this car, which made me suffer somewhat, was when the gang from Apollo Car Club went to drag their hopped up '57 Chevies and such at Ford City or Oswego Drag Way. I had to stay on the sidelines with the girls in their tight white shorts and tee shirts, you know like on the cover of Hot Rod — poor me!!
I had the Ford when I started dating my wife, and I proposed to her in it. We used it as our wedding car and drove to California on Rt. 66 all the way. We used that Ford to move into our first house, and ended up driving it to Canada, New York, and Florida. We had fun accumulating 110,000 miles on it. We finally traded it in on a new '66 Ford.
This type of Ford is gone for good now. I never see one for sale, but we enjoyed it while it lasted
Editor's note- I asked Paul what engine he had in that car. Almost embarrassed, he answered "It was the six. Although a 352 with either 300 or 360 horse was available, I knew that if I got a car with the big engine I'd be racing it hard with the other guys in the club, and I'd surely rack up some pretty big repair bills doing so. This car had to last me, so I ordered it with the 223 six which was unusual in a Galaxie. It was all show but no go!" The fact that Paul drove it more or less trouble free for over 100, 000 miles (at a time when most cars were `done' by then) shows the choice to have been wise!
Also of note is Paul's statement of how it was long, low and wide. The `60 Fords were soooo wide (5" wider than a '59) that they nudged the motor vehicle laws in some states that required any vehicle over 80" wide to have side marker lamps. Ford Motor Company quickly had to obtain waivers in those states after new owners complained their 60's couldn't pass the safety inspections.
MY FIRST CAR
1930 Ford A
I am a charter member of the Frankfort Car Club and I am still a member.
In 1944, my brother and I bought a 1930 Model A Ford coupe with a rumble seat and we paid $50.00 for the car.
My Dad was a mechanic in Olney, IL and he re-worked the car making it mechanically sound. We bought a rebuilt engine block from Montgomery Ward for $50.00. We needed new tires, but it was during WWII and none were available. That car ran on used tires from the junk yard with liners and boots until we could purchase new tires in early 1945.
Meanwhile my brother went in to the Navy so the car was all mine! I was only 16 years old at the time and I drove back and forth to high school until I, too, joined the Navy in January 1946 where I was stationed in Memphis, TN from October to late December1946.
I drove the Model A back and forth on weekends to Olney and on other weekends carried sailors around Memphis. I was then called on to be in California to board the USS Antietam in January 1947. I never saw the car again because my brother came home from the Navy and got into an accident resulting in the car being sold. It was a great car!!
My First Car
Kurt A. Karlson 1970 Riviera
Our family was in the beer distribution business. My grandfather had started it back in 1936, three years after the repeal of prohibition. I got to work there from the time I was 9 years old and loved it. The coolest thing was we had a lot of trucks and at an early age my dad taught me how to drive them. It sure made it easy when I finally was able to go for my license in 1974. Not long after that I got my first car, a 1970 Buick Riviera. It was dark green with a white vinyl top and a green vinyl interior.
The gentleman I bought it from had been a long time acquaintance of the family and worked for one of the breweries. The car was in good shape except for the fender skirts. They had rusted through but were covered by the dealer. I think I paid $1200.00 for the car. After I had it for a bit, the original owner took it back to the dealer and had the skirts repaired. I don't think they spent ten minutes on them. Some kind of tape and bondo, a fast paint and that was it. They held up for about a year then the rust won.
I loved the 455 engine with its 4-barrel carb. Like every other teenager I turned the top of the air cleaner over so it would make that great noise when you floored it. It was a big car but had a lot of power and to me it was fast. I don't remember having much mechanical trouble with it other than replacing the water pump and a set of mufflers. The body on the other hand began to loose its battle with rust. Whenever it rained, water would come in around the back window and end up in the trunk where the spare was kept. This must have been going on for a while because that area began to rust through. Both rocker panels right behind the front wheels began to bubble also.
Two years later I ended up selling the Riviera to one of the beer truck drivers for the same amount I bought it for. Shortly after he bought it from me while driving it he had a fight with a freight train and lost. The car was destroyed. Luckily he survived.
MY FIRST (Kit) CAR
Back in 1977 when we lived in Olympia Fields, IL. I somehow got the idea I wanted to build a kit car. I don't remember now where I saw or read about it, but I got some information on a Bradley. They sent me brochures and I contacted them and they convinced me that if I ordered one, it would be pretty easy to assemble. They said it would take about 70 hours. 1 said I'm an Architect not a mechanic and they still said 70 hours. (I had over 300 hours in it at the end and it was 95%.done)
I ordered the kit in spring of 1977. A semi truck backed in my driveway and we unloaded a lot of boxes and a body shell. I must say the instruction manual was very explicit. I worked on it in the garage a little bit every evening. The worst task I remember was fitting the gull wing doors. I spent hours with a belt sander trying to get them to fit properly. I breathed a lot of fiberglass dust. I appreciate now what they mean in new car reviews by fit and finish.
I eventually got the kit to a point I needed a chassis to mount it on. I bought a VW beetle from a junkyard. It was hit in the back and pushed forward and hit so badly that they scraped it. It was really good mechanically. We towed it home and the Bradley instructions told me how to get the body off. I took it apart and we loaded the body on our snowmobile trailer and took it
back to the junkyard. I towed the chassis to the VW shop in Chicago Heights for a tune.
The Bradley instructions told me how to mount the chassis and wire it.Everything went well and I got it running ok and started using it. It was supposed to be my daily driver. After using it for a while, I found a lot of things I didn't like about the car. The side windows didn't open; they had a small section that slid down. I had air conditioning but it was still stuffy. The car was very low and it was not easy getting in and out (I don't think I could even get in it today with my arthritis).
I ended selling it for about $1,000 less than I paid for it which included just the kit, not counting all the other stuff I bought for it. It was definitely a learning experience and when I look back on it, I wonder what was I thinking when I bought it. After these memories gradually went away, I can't explain why, I later bought an old jeep and then decided to take the body off the frame and re-build it. This will be another story later.
My First Car
Having been born and raised on a farm, I learned to drive at the age of 10! 1 was driving big tractors and the family car. We moved to the big city, Milwaukee, when I turned twelve. One block from were we lived was a Sinclair station. I spent many hours watching this old guy change oil, fix brakes, and tune up cars. One day he asked me if I wanted to learn how to work in a garage. Yes, of course, I did! I started by cleaning up the garage after school and soon I was doing oil changes and grease jobs. I saved up and bought my first car at 13: a black 1949 Chevy 2-door Deluxe for fifty bucks. Needless to say the car needed some work!
Gus, the garage owner, let me keep the car at the garage and helped me fix it up.
By my fourteenth birthday Gus had pretty much showed me how to keep the car in repair. That summer during school break, while working on my uncle's farm, I got my "farmer" permit. Now, I could legally drive during the daylight hours. When fall rolled around I started working at Gus's Garage two nights and weekends. I advanced from oil changes to tune ups, brake replacement, and finally my first engine overhaul. My '49 Chevy was running like a top! During the next three years I bought a 1949 Rambler Ambassador; a '50 Ford, and two model "T"s. For $5.00 a month I stored them in garages around town. When my Dad grounded one car, I just went and got into another from my "stored" collection!
My First Car
I was seventeen in 1968 when I bought my first car. After bargaining the price down from $175.00 to $165.00 I was the proud owner of a 1956 Chevy. I promptly drove it to the parking lot where I worked. It stayed there for a week because I didn’t have enough money to license it. I must have put 20 miles on it driving it up & down the alley.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The power plant of this beauty was a 265 cu in V-8 with a 3 speed on the column. The car was painted flat black and probably with a brush. All the rust holes were patched with pieces of smoke pipe and screwed with sheet metal screws. My door locks were gate hasps with pad locks. Pretty cool, huh! My truck had a key. It was an Ace Hardware screwdriver which doubled as my manual choke. One important tool I needed early on was a flashlight with a magnet that I kept right up on the dashboard. Yes, magnets did stick to dashboards back then. One reason for this often used flashlight was that I installed one of those cheap $19.99 Warshawsky’s three speed floor shifters that would hang up between second and third. When this happened I would grab my flashlight, a piece of carpet that doubled as a floor mat, a pair of pliers, gloves and 1 - 2 - 3, I was on the road again. I got to be faster then a jackrabbit when it came to freeing it up. I had to wear gloves because there was so much hot oil leaking under the car. I did however find the source of the leak, someone cross threaded the oil pressure sending unit. I finally stopped it by using a brass plug and a two part epoxy.
As I didn’t make much money back then, I had to be resourceful in getting the parts I needed to keep it on the road. In Chicago there is a street called Ravenswood which runs parallel along some railroad tracks. This is a place where lots of cars got abandoned. So late at night I would cruise by looking for parts. With my trusty flashlight and a few tools I managed to supply my car with everything it needed. I did get stopped by the police early on. I told them I couldn’t afford what I sometimes needed and that these cars were probably going to be towed and scrapped anyway. They told me I could take what I needed only from cars that had no plates or city sticker in the window. I ran into the same officers nearly every Sunday night around 1:00 AM. I did this for a year and never had a problem. Sometimes they would even shine their spotlight for me. These officers were compassionate and understand my situation.
The nice thing about a 56 Chevy was all the room in front of the radiator. I could store two old batteries, jumper cables, starting fluid and of course my manual choke (Ace Hardware screwdriver). Winters are cold in Chicago so at night I would bring the battery inside in a box to my room in the YMCA and charge it. The next morning I would carry it out, set it in front of the radiator, hook up my cables, set my choke (with you know what), give it a shot of go-go juice and fire that baby up. This was an every day routine for me.
For me this was the perfect car to have. Learning was hands on and I asked a lot of questions. I called it picking their brains. There was one person that I worked with that knew a lot about automotive repair. He wouldn’t just give me the answers to my questions, he would loan me his books. I worked a second job at a newsstand at Belmont & Broadway until midnight, 6 days a week. Papers were only 7 cents back then. I would read and study at night and the next day I would be quizzed about what I read.
I finally sold the car to a sixteen year old boy. His mother was with him and she told him he was making a big mistake. The boy told his mother that if he was to learn anything about cars this was the one. SMART BOY! I was asking $175.00 for the car but we settled on $165.00.
I’m sad to say I have no pictures of this very memorable car to share. I couldn’t afford a camera back then either.
CURRENT COLLECTOR CAR STORIES
Back in the late 50’s, a small car craze was sweeping the nation; by 1961
every American manufacturer - save Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial - had introduced a smaller car in addition to their regular sized models. Pontiac’s entry into this blossoming market segment was named the Tempest, introduced for the 1961 model year.
While many of new compact sized cars were simply shrunken regular sized cars, Pontiac engineers - headed by John Delorean – (yes, that John Delorean) chose to incorporate many unique features into their new entry.
First off, the engine is in the front, but the transmission and differential - known as a transaxle - is in the back. A number of newer performance cars use this arrangement for better weight balance, but the Tempest was the first American production car to do so.
Then there’s the driveshaft that connects the engine and transaxle together. Sometimes referred to as a “flexible” driveshaft, it’s really a torsion bar, assembled under tension, to be in a 15 degree bow. How come? The bow bends away from the floor, allowing a smaller driveshaft hump inside the car than a regular solid shaft would permit.
The engine powering the Tempest was also different- a big slant 4 cylinder that was made – simplistically speaking – by cutting the only Pontiac engine then in production, the 389 V8 , in half.
These daring departures from Detroit norm made the Tempest a shoe-in for the Motor Trend magazine Car of the Year Award.
In retrospect now though, the technical features of the early “Little Indians” are seldom remembered – even the Tempest name is largely forgotten. Rather, it’s the deluxe model of the Tempest, the Lemans, which might ring a bell with some readers. A complete redesign of that car occurred for 1964, and paved the way for a legend known as the GTO.
Ok, enough history, lets’ get he lowdown on Marybeth’s 61.
“I’m from a car family - my dad, and 2 brothers are all car nuts. Then I married Larry who is even a bigger car nut, so naturally we have always driven old cars. In 1997 when my son was only about 18 months, I concluded pretty quickly a 2ndchild seat was not going fit into the back of my daily driver 1964 Corvair coupe, so we would need to get a bigger car before child #2. I wanted a Studebaker Lark, but Larry suggested a Tempest. I didn’t even know what one looked like, so he showed me some pictures of one. I told him it looked ok, but he’ll never find one. Well, a few months later we were off to rural Iowa to look at this car. It had always been in this little town, and had only about 30,000 miles on it. The car was very original but very plain too. Only an automatic, heater, and back up lights for options. We bought it and Larry worked on it and had it painted over the next 6 months, just in time to bring our new daughter home from the hospital n it.
Since then I put only about 20,000 more miles. The car turned out so well he wouldn’t let me drive it all year long. Remember this was supposed to be my new daily driver- so we ended up buying something else for me to drive daily and the Tempest has since had a fairly sheltered life as a collector car. You just never see these early Tempests, especially 61’s. And I am still looking for that Lark!”
CURRENT COLLECTOR CAR STORIES
70 OLDS 442 PACE CAR
In April of 1970, my father, Rich-ard Fordon, walked into an Oldsmobile dealership and purchased a brand new "442 Convertible Indianapolis 500 Pace Car" right off of the show room floor. It was a very rare car. Only 268 "442 Pace Cars" were built. He then left the dealer-ship and drove to pick up my two oldest brothers from Sunday School (CCD) at their church. My brothers were eight years old at the time and I was only four years old. We had six kids in all in our family, five boys and one girl. This two door convertible was to be the family car to cart around all seven of us to wherever we needed to go as a family.
You see, less than a year prior to my dad buying this car, our mom passed away suddenly. As I look back on it now, I believe this was kind of a "release" for my dad at the time. Having just lost his wife and the thought of rais-ing six young children on his own must have been a lot to bear.
In 1970, I think owning smaller cars was kind of the normal thing for families. The Minivan was not invented yet and not everyone had station wag-ons.
I can remember ducking my head behind the back of the front seat as my dad whipped down the street with the convertible top down. I also remember it was freezing outside —probably about forty to fifty degrees. If any of us had our seat belts on, I would be surprised. We obviously lived in a very different world back then.
My dad owned the 442 for three years before trading it in to a local Cadillac dealership and bought the 1973
Indianapolis 500 Pace Car, an Eldo-rado. My dad was a true car guy. When he was in high school, he owned a ’57 Chevy Bel Air converti-ble. He used to tell us stories about him and his friend removing the en-gine from the car and taking it apart and putting it back together just for something to do on a Saturday after-noon.
My two oldest brothers are twins and when they got their driver’s license in 1977, my dad bought them a 1972 Hurst Oldsmobile In-dianapolis 500 Pace Car. They found it sitting in a garage in rural Indiana. The owner was away in the armed forces and his mother contacted him and asked if he wanted to sell the car. They bought the car for a mere $1,000. It only needed a new paint job. The car had a sunroof and was a lot of fun to drive. My broth-ers were kind enough to let me drive it when I received my driver’s license. That’s how I became hooked on Oldsmobile’s.
In 1990, my father passed away. I never had the opportunity to ask him about his 442 Pace Car. Did he see it in a magazine and liked it? How much did he pay for it brand new? What options did the car come with? How much did the Cadillac dealer give you for it when you traded it in? These are questions that I would never get answers to.
I found an old picture of my dad standing in front of his 442 in 1970. The
picture showed the license plate from Illinois. So in 1990, I sent a letter to the Secretary of State and asked them to send me back the vehicle identification number (VIN) that the license plate was titled to in 1970. Low and behold, they sent me back a letter with the vehicle identification number listed. I could now go on my search for his car.
Even though there was a low production number of these cars produced, many of them still existed. So I started looking through Hemmings, a magazine for classic cars for sale. In the years of my search, I found plenty of 1970 442 Pace Cars for sale. But not my dad’s actual car. Sometime in the mid 1990’s I asked a friend of mine who was a police officer if he could run the VIN in all the
states in the country. Nothing came up. I kept searching.
By now, we were in the age of the internet and E-Bay Motors was a great way to find any car for sale, especially a classic car like the 1970 442 Pace Car. My search on E-Bay, Hemmings and other avenues continued for about ten years to no avail. Then in December of 2010, I came across one on E-Bay Mo-
tors listed for sale in Miami, Florida. I called the owner and asked him if he could read the VIN off for me. He read it and I asked him if he could read it once more, just so I wrote down the correct numbers. He did and it was my dad’s 442. The car had a restoration completed on it so that may be the reason the car was not titled when my friend ran the VIN. I flew to Miami and ended up pur-
chasing the car and had it sent back to Illinois on an enclosed trailer. The car arrived on a cold January Sunday night. The excitement of the car coming off that trailer that night was great.
My wife and I have three boys of our own and they truly enjoy riding in their grandfather’s 442 Pace Car, only they arerequired to wear their seat belts!
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