Vehicles Past


First car: ’46 Ford. Never got it running.

First car I actually drove: Black 56 Buick Century tudor hardtop. V8, 4-barrel carb, dual glasspacks. Automatic, hence not quick. Trans died. Installed junkyard trans, it didn’t last long. Back window got broken out, it had other problems as well, I scrapped the car.

Maybe my next car (not sure) was my ’61 Tempest. It was a nice, tight four door body. Previous owner had stripped the powertrain and rear suspension, cut out a big hole in the firewall and floor tunnel. He was going to make a race car, but didn’t. He gave it to me. I gave it the engine and trans from a ’53 Olds (a $10 car) and the rear axle from a ’51 Pontiac (another $10 car). Radiator from some kind of Ford, and odds and ends from whatever. It ran, got me to and from Citrus College. Later I swapped the motor (430) and trans from a ’59 Lincoln into it. Then an overhauled Merc motor (383). Then the Merc motor and Lincoln trans went into my 57 Ranchero. A few pieces were salvaged for the Toy, and the body went to the dump there on our ranch.

Somewhere along the way, I needed a car while the others were torn apart. I went and found a 51 Packard for $35 and drove it home. That was all the money I had, and fortunately it had enough gas to get home. In was 4-door sedan, with  battleship gray paint that had been applied with a brush. It got used. I towed a friend’s ’46 Ford pickup over the hill from Phelen with it. In fact the Packard is the only car I’ve ever ran at a drag strip. OCIR, about 68 mph in the 1/4 mile. About 26 seconds? I forget- it’s been a while. At the time, I belonged to a chapter of the Dodge ScatPack Club, and that was  a club outing.

I stumbled across a 56  Stude coupe. I fell in love with the body shape, and bought it for $150. It was a crock, and needed all kinds of work. (U-joints, clutch, brakes, glass, rear main seal, and I forget what all) It was also a salvage job, and I had to get everything inspected and signed off. Brakes, lights, smog, glass. In spite of everything, I rather liked it. It is sleeping over at a friend’s place, and maybe I’ll wake it someday. Here’s a photo of a much nicer ’56:

same body style and year as my Stude

While I was in Alabama with the Army, I bought a ’62 Valient. It was a crock, but less bad than the Stude. It was a 4-door, had the small six with 3-speed and floor shift. I rebuilt a 225 to replace the worn-out 170. Ran ok. Didn’t have the money to do any hopping up, just flogged it stock. When I was transferred to Germany, I drove it home from Alabama.

In Germany (with the Army) I bought a 56(?) VW, again for $150. It, too, was a crock. But I was able to fix it enough to get through inspection for pretty cheap.  It had the large cloth sunroof, which was really nice for cruising though the countryside. The transaxle didn’t have any syncromesh at all, and made really nasty noises on coast.  I got a better one for free and swapped it in.  The 36 horse motor blew a head gasket, and I swapped a 40 horse motor in. The motor was free but I had the valves done before I put it together. I also got a better platform cheap (better because it had hydraulic brakes instead of cable brakes) and swapped the body onto the ‘new’ platform. Lots of sweat equity there. Then I gave it a 1300 motor. The main generator lead was too tight across a flange, and shorted to ground causing an electrical fire. This was at night on the Autobahn, while I was  en route to the Octoberfest. I got the fire extinguished and luckily  had enough wire and electrical tape with me to get it running. I proceeded to Munich for Octoberfest. Sold the car prior to returning Stateside.

When I came home from the Army, I drove the Tempest (with the 383 Merc) a bit. Then I got a   Dodge Van cheap, put the motor from the Valient into it.  I drove the van for a bit, then swapped it to my  friend for his 57 Ranchero.

The Ranchero (like a station wagon/pickup cross) got the 383 Merc motor and Lincoln trans from the Tempest. Later on, I pulled it and swapped a 240 cid 6 with 3-speed overdrive trans. Yes, I replaced a V8 automatic with a 6 cyl 3-speed. It also got a Cadillac steering wheel and column (tilt-telescope) and the Lincoln rear window (electric).

Somewhere along the way, we (Dad) bought a 1970 Mercury, It was an ex-CHP car. The motor (a 428) was bad, so I did a quickie overhaul on a 390 and put it in. It ran. It was big, brown, and had no power steering. (tank!) Around that time, we were going to have to leave the Ranch. Dad had pads graded on some property he owned, and we prepared to move some house trailers to the new property. It was going to cost quite a bit to move each one, and we had three to move. (Or four, I forget.) After some thought (perhaps not very much) I chopped the  trunk off the car, shortened the frame, and gave it a very strong trailer hitch. Also gave it an electric brake controller, and I used it to haul the three trailers from the Wildwood Ranch down our front road, via surface streets and Highway 66, and up Sycamore Canyon to the East 40.

Actually, it could only get them partway up the gravel road, even with a 40 gallon barrel of water for ballast where the back seat belonged. So, we used some combination of Dad’s pickup and his tractor (skiploader) to help pull the Merc and trailer to the respective parking places. What an adventure!

Anyway, The Merc got retired after I inherited a nearly new Dodge Aspen. Its motor and trans were sold, and the hulk abandoned when we finally moved from the East 40.

Somewhere along in there, I bought the Toy. It had belonged to the owner of a driveshaft shop in Irwindale, and he was tired of it. For $300 it was mine, and I trailered it home. I fixed and drove it a bit, but it was fragile and cantankerous. The last time it broke, I let it sit for a while. The previous owner had started an automatic transmission conversion for it, and I went ahead with that. Part of that was my Senior Project at Cal Poly. It ran briefly, but had problems and I abandoned the effort. That was 1982 or so.

Since then, I/we’ve had  a Dodge Aspen,  Pontiac Phoenix (GM X-car, not that great), a Ford Fairmont, three Buicks, and two Volkswagen NewBeetles..

My most recent is a 2003 Regal, and it is my daily driver. My wife’s is a 2004 VW NewBeetle.