Get out of my dreams.....get into my car
People LOVE to opine on my bizarre automotive idiosyncrasies and the condition of the clunkers I save. I've heard them all. None of them phase me. It's like telling a homeless drunk that beer is yucky pooey. But, if you're like me in anyway, what follows is a short little diddy on a 1953 Packard Henney Ambulance I saved some years ago, as well as my 69 Mach 1 Mustang. My interest in the Packard was re-spurned after the Longmeadow Police Department sent me a pic of it when it was new. Many Many thanks to them for posting it for me; it means a whole lot. Lots of pics to follow for those who don't like to read! Or don't know how! If you've ever dreamed of just fixing up a derelict car, perhaps this blog of mine will inspire you. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.
Everyone that knows me, knows, without question, that I am a complete WHACKADOO when it comes to our streamlined friends on wheels. I really don't care what it is, - if it's a car that is deemed derelict, I want it. It's an unfortunate affliction I have, since unlike baseball cards, I can't put my babies in a dresser drawer or shoebox. I can't save them all unfortunately.
ANYWAYS.....nearby, there is a nice oldtime Vermonter on an otherwise abandoned dairy farm, who, since the 40's, has been collecting cars - many of which were towed there by himself with a tow truck he used to operate for extra money. On this property have been 100's of old cars, dating back to the early teens of the 20th Century. None are for sale, and certainly none are to be looked at, unless you want to look down the barrel of a shotgun; he won't let anyone near them. UNLESS.....he likes you, and trusts you are not there to lowball him on an antique car just to turn around for profit. It's strange really, because he doesn't really care about any of them, but hey, it's his property. Luckily for me, this man has always been great with me, and in general, has let me take possession of a few beauties through the years, for free. He knows what I'm like and knows I won't take something unless I am absolutely seriously in love with it. Even without it, he has always granted me access at my own will to roam about and do whatever I please, whenever I have wanted. It's been my private Garden of Eden for many many many years. If I need a break from the world, I go to the junkyard. It's just me, the whispering pines, and old iron to veg out in.
In 2007, when metal prices were up, he decided it was finally time to clear some of the property, and many cars were scrapped. Not all, but ALOT. The ones that went, were flat out scrapped. Not parted out. Not placed up for sale. But rather, picked up with a cherry picker and dumped into a shredder. Word traveled fast about the goings on, and I raced there, nervous as hell what I would see. My fears were true, my beautiful friends were gone, and many more were in line to go. I was frantic. Just as I walked up to the picker, he was maneuvering to pick up a 1953 Packard Ambulance that I had liked. It just got done killing a 53 Buick Roadmaster woody wagon (Only 9 known to exist and priceless....this would be #10). I freaked. I waved to the guy to stop - for the love of God. He powered down and opened the door to inquire of my distress. I told him to wait 5 minutes. ...don't touch the Packard. I found Dave in his shop and begged him to spare the Packard. Long story short, he obliged. I told the picker to leave the Packard, and I turned my back on the rest of the carnage that would occur.
In any event, I knew the ambulance was originally from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I recently sent a pic of it to Longmeadow PD's facebook page, and within a day or two, they replied by posting a pic of the ambulance when it was new, in 1953. 60 years ago.
I was stunned. There is something about an old car with a history, especially one where there is photographic evidence to spur the mind. It makes one love it all the more, since there is less imagination, and more reality. I had spent time with the Packard after saving it, brushing the crud and needles off of it. I knew it had been parked in that spot since 1970, and even spoke to the guy who had it brought there. He told me he bought it and used it for a car when he was in college because it was interesting. He was shocked it was still in existence, and genuinely pleased, asking for directions to come visit it (after I cleared it of course with the property owner). The back window was taken out by a local hot rod car shop for some reason prior to my saving it, and I asked them to sell it back to me - they refused. Some car shop. I scoured around for a Packard rim for the front left wheel but had a tough time of it. I asked Packard collectors online, describing what I was dealing with, but OF COURSE, everyone had a high price tag on it....sometimes car enthusiasts really frustrate me. Does everything have to be about money? Anyways, I finally found one, put a tire on it, dug a hole to jack the thing up, and put the wheel on - and that is about it. Although, believe it or not, it was the hardest and longest wheel change ever in history.....twas NOT an easy job. Partially because the thing weighs as much as a Battleship. I've joked about this before, but when I opened up the back door, I felt like there was a rush of spirits that raced out with sounds right out of an Indiana Jones movie, until I remembered the fools at the hot rod shop already let them out when they removed the left rear window. Anyhow, here is how it looked right before I saved it and some time after:
I know. People see this, and they see hopelessness. Where the unenlightened see a basket case, I see great potential. It was rare when it was new, and even more so now - not in terms of money, but in terms of....try and find another one. And so as to show that I put my money where my mouth is, here are some pics of one of my proudest (just ONE of them that is) saves, from this same junkyard. Roaming around one day I glimpsed the unmistakable lines of a 69 Ford Mustang Mach I fastback. No engine. No transmission. No rear axle. No front end assembly. And NO WAY OUT. Parked since 1978 trees and other cars surrounded it. Here is what it looked like when I found it:
It was the words of a nay sayer that fueled my saving this car, after I showed him those pictures above. A local firefighter, he looked at them and said this, which I shall never forget "It's a ghost, a shell, it's nothing. You'll never get it out of there". ORLY? I worked my ASS off on this car. Mike at Mike's Car Care in Westmoreland, NH - a fellow Mustang restorer, was kind enough to give me a rear axle after I showed him the pictures. I then surfed ebay and bought the front assembly and drum brakes on ebay out of a parts car in Texas for $1 (but $99 shipping, ouch...it was heavy). Also on ebay, I bought an engine and transmission in New Jersey and went down with a trailer and hauled it back. I hand carried that heavy axle through the woods and amongst mosquitos, snakes and mice, I jacked up the car, and precariously installed the axle with new u bolts. I then installed the front end assembly and drums, found some Ford rims (including one that it was resting on), and put the tires on. I slowwwwwwwly lowered the jack, tightening my jaw with every half inch as the shocks and springs creaked after having been asleep in the weight department for so many years. But alas, for the first time since 1978, the muscle car was standing proud, although I expected the rear springs to go right through the trunk. I chopped trees down, and using a tractor, skidded them out of the way and gingerly moved 10 other cars and other assorted antique metals out of the way. Like the nut I am, I even washed it during a rain storm out in the woods, and later WAXED it (at the least the parts that could be waxed lol). I hired a flatbed and hauled it home - and wow, did it get a lot of looks. It looked amazing. It had been a long time since the hood of that car felt the whip of wind rush over it's deck, or hear the sounds of traffic and life. I remember at a traffic light in Springfield, some little kids were on the sidewalk and I heard one of them say "WHOAOOO....look at that car!".......only to be followed with, "what happened to it?" LOL. Little kids...lol. Anyhow, at home, I installed the engine and transmission, bought a used carburetor online, a makeshift gas can and fuel line and BOOM....she fired up and ran. Yeah it's a wreck, yeah just about everything on it looks shot, but unless you have done this, I cannot explain how great it feels in terms of accomplishment. A ghost? A shell? Nothing? Nahhhhhh.
Slowly, I bought other little parts, snarfed some here and there off another red 69 Mustang in the junkyard that was utterly destroyed, and had fun just messing around with it. I did my best with the interior and everything worked in it as it should. I even like the front end all snarling (although I did manage to get a front bumper for it off the red car). I even dug through what is called "Pope" books at DMV Headquarters (pre-computer records), and learned it's last owner lived on Hyde Street in Bellows Falls, VT. Either way, this car was only on the road for 9 years.....and DAMN....it must have been street racing the minute it left the dealership. Poor thing. I installed a 351 in it, installed dual glass packs on it, and whooooo - what a snapper. It basically made this sound when you started it up: GLUG GLUG GLUG GLUG GLUG. Beautiful. Just BEAUTIFUL.
A lot of people give me jabs for some of these little nuances of mine, but what they fail to understand, is - I don't care. It fuels me. I'm proud of my relationship with shitbox cars. It's what I love to do. Do I restore them to period correct? Nope. Do people actually dare whine about that sometimes? Yep. Are many of them really beyond a running parts car? Yes - but it's a personal relationship. I hate it when people start picking apart things wrong and adding up the calculator. Seriously, if it wasn't for me, this Mustang would have been thrown in that crusher eventually too. You see, I'm just the first cog in the wheel for that road called "fixing up". I'm the EMT in the process. I just give them a little TLC, elbow grease and life, which is exactly what I get from doing it in return. I've done this with countless station wagons, cop cars, you name it. I always find them good homes for that next step, whether it be a restoration or just someone who wants to put it in a garage and listen to the radio in it at night. Did I mention I usually do this for free? It's all good either way. You treat your car right, it will always treat you right, right back.
I am.......the car whisperer.
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.