FOUND: Vintage Tin
“No waaaaaaay!” I blurted as we barreled north on a two-lane highway en route to the heart of the Pacific Northwest. After driving all morning, I had settled in shotgun while my roommate took the wheel and our other friend played DJ in the middle seat. We were jammed shoulder-to-shoulder in my single cab pickup with one of my old motorcycles strapped down in the back. We still had a ways to go.
“What is it?!” they both asked, startled.
“I think I just saw something in that field on the right,” I said. “I’m not sure, but it looked like an old hot rod.”
We’ve all been friends for years, and they’re used to my outbursts whenever we come across an old car/bike/building/garage sale/estate sale or anything of that nature. We didn’t slow down. Shacks, pole barns, cows, cars and a crumbling castle came and went as we pushed forward.
“Want me to stop?” my roommate finally asked.
“No, no that’s okay.”
“Okay. I’ll make it quick. I promise.”
He slowed the truck and swung it around in the lot of an abandoned café. My heart started beating faster and my thoughts twirled and sparked like a magneto inside my head. I don’t have any money on me. There’s no room in the truck. My shirt’s too clean to be convincing. How can I look older? How can I look tougher? Maybe I can work out some sort of collateral? Maybe I can come back up here next weekend?
This wasn’t just any old car; this was a 1932 Ford three-window coupe. No doors, no chassis—just a red-primered body sitting near a barbed wire fence in a sea of golden grass. With the mountains way off in the background, it was a bucolic scene. After overshooting the coupe the first time, we hooked back around and crept down the street. My mouth dried up and I could hardly speak.
During my Midwestern years, I had come across plenty of Vintage Tin. There was the long-forgotten V8 Falcon convertible in the apple orchard in Michigan, the overturned ’40 Ford sedan off the highway in Missouri and, of course, the little Crosley that I wanted to build into a fire-breathing Altered. This was different. This was a Deuce. Relax. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.
My friends stayed in the truck and cheered me on as I approached the front door of the single-story farmhouse. With each step, I felt more and more like Tex Smith on one of his Vintage Tin hunts. I looked back at the truck, then across the street at the neighbor’s hydroponic farm. They too had a little farmhouse, but they had spray painted their address in big black numbers right next to their storm door. Come on Joey, focus! I swiveled around. This is it.
It was time for me to put everything I had ever learned about hot rodding and negotiating and—most importantly—manners to the test. I jumped onto the front porch, walked past the bale of hay and prepared to knock. Before I did, I noticed a piece of lined paper taped to the window. All the writing had completely faded. Oh well. It’s now or never.
Are they going to quiz me about early Fords? Ask me about my Circle City Hot Rods T-shirt? Or chase me off their property with a scattergun? Is this how it’s all going to end?
I waited and waited. Nothing. Nobody was home, or at least nobody who wanted to talk to me. A cat slinked across the gravel driveway. The street was quiet. I felt myself returning to reality. Maybe I wasn’t meant to start my Deuce project just yet. Sayings about level-headedness and proverbs about patience battled an onslaught of disappointment with everything they had. While that mini war waged, I jumped back in the truck and we were off.
As the farm got smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, positivity prevailed. I couldn’t help but smile. Why? Partially because I got to hunt for Vintage Tin just like my hot rod heroes, and partially because I never missed out on a Deuce after all—it was actually just a ’32 Chrysler.
Note: Yes, yes I know. Pics or it didn’t happen, yo! I have two reasons why I’m substituting my pictures with this one from the Rod & Custom’s trip to the first Street Rod Nationals in Peoria.
1) Even though it wasn’t a ’32 Ford, I’m almost positive this car was still on someone’s property. Therefore, they probably wouldn’t be too happy about all of us salivating over their VT.
2) When I’m looking for a body for my next project, I want it to still be there!