GAYS MILLS - I bought my first car accidentally and on the spur of the moment. How can a person make such an important purchase so nonchalantly, you ask? Let me explain.
My dad loved to shop for cars. He did it for recreation, for relaxation, and usually with no intention of buying a car. He’d go look at cars when there wasn’t anything good on TV. We would stop at used car dealers on the way to or from an errand or another destination just to see if there was anything interesting on the lot for sale.
A car on the street with a For Sale sign in the window was like a red flag to dad. I think he loved the bargaining that went with car shopping, the banter, the sales pitches, and the deal. Dad was shrewd and looked for any leverage that could be applied on a given car. It was fun to watch him in action and I must have absorbed some of his acumen by osmosis as I tagged along.
Then one time, he actually did need a car for work. He answered an ad in the paper for a 1953 Buick. Straight 8, those portholes on the side, automatic, two-door, and a very unflattering grey color. It was a heavier and more luxurious car than dad was used to driving, so this would be a step up from the Fords, Chevys, and Plymouths that he usually drove. I was along on this foray. He bought the Buick and he mentioned another car the seller had parked nearby. We wound up buying the other car for me. For $15! Me with no driver’s license and still unable to drive (legally) at 15. I had to go get my older brother to shuttle it home.
What do you do with a car you can’t drive? Well, I learned about cars on that blue, 1947 Ford four-door sedan. I cleaned it up, made some minor repairs, backed it in and out of our short driveway over and over, and in general was thrilled to own such a thing.
One day, I was basically just moving the car backwards and forwards on the driveway, when I heard a big clunk from the car’s nether region. I had dropped the rear end; something in there broke, probably an axle as I think of it now 58 years later. My grandpa, Clyde, did me the favor of taking the damaged rear end (which I had removed, more learning) to a junkyard and swapped it for another. Now, I had $30 in the car.
When I got home from school that day, Grandpa delivered the new/used rear end, a friend (‘Craig,’ his real name) and I began to install it. Everything was going well, maneuvering the heavy rear-end under the car, hoisting it into position, and beginning to bolt it on. But it wouldn’t quite connect. Two bolts out of four fit right in but we couldn’t get the other two started. Lying there on the garage floor, one of us finally realized that the rear-end we were trying to hook up was greasy on the top: we were trying to put the dang thing in upside down!
Craig and I laugh about that scenario to this day, all these years later. We ponder whether the car would have had three gears in reverse had we been successful. All part of the learning process and we loved every minute of it.