Dad’s Shoebox Custom in 1960

Dad’s Shoebox Custom in 1960

I recently found a few pictures of my Dad’s cars, including the sales lot ’52 Olds image I posted last week. The oldest photo in the batch is the little black & white honey attached below: My dad’s 1951 Ford Convertible. The shot was taken at the now-defunct Long Beach Naval Shipyard at Terminal Island on May 15th, 1960 after a fresh Olds 303 motor had just been installed and pops was preparing to drive her back to Missouri via Route 66. My Dad had built the motor in the engine room on his destroyer (DD-723, the USS Walke) while on a Westpac. When they got back to LB, the newly rebuilt engine was crained from below deck and he installed it in the Ford at the base hobby shop. The car had a white convertible top (which never went down) and Tijuana tuck and roll. The glass pack sidepipes made him a marked man on base.

All was going well on the trip back to Missouri, and my then-20 year old dad had picked up a hitchhiker somewhere in AZ, which was not uncommon in those days. Down the road, the motor began to lunge and a piston broke near a small town 75 miles west of Albuquerque. A local shop was closing up for the evening, but the owner/ mechanic understood my father’s plight. He allowed them to use his station and the tools for the night, but locked the roll up garage doors for insurance, essentially trapping the car inside till he came back in the morning. The kind fellow called a parts store in Albuquerque and found the over-sized piston and rings the Olds needed. A Greyhound bus would drop the precious parts on its next run through town, and Dad was busy taking off the heads and the pan in preparation. And the hiker? He stuck around for the all-nighter and helped Dad with the R & R. Oh, how times have changes.

The next morning the shop owner returned to find the Shoebox running and the boys ready to go, and he let them on their way without asking for a cent. They made it through New Mexico, and on into Texas where the hitcher was dropped off. Dad made it to Miami, Oklahoma when the piston broke again. It was obvious by then that motor needed more attention, and pops had it towed the rest of the way to MO. He doesn’t know what happened to the car- He sold it- Like the rest of ’em- To get some other cool car. That’s what everybody did back then.

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