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The Red Roadster - Part 1 reprised

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by C9, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. An introduction of sorts....

    Inspired by The Friday night reads.

    I think Roger - 40 Stude Dude - started something good here.
    (You may have to do some digging for Roger’s stories, but it’s worth the trouble.)

    I’m hoping that others will chime in with their stories. From some of the bench racing excursions I’ve been involved in - there’s been quite a few - it’s a doggoned shame the best ones will never see print and some will never see the light of day again. A few of the characters I know could fill a library shelf with some of their little extravaganzas, adventures and plain old “it just kinda happened” stuff. They have a little history to add to the mix as well and it’s always fun visiting with some of these guys.

    If you stop and listen, some of the stories their wives tell are pretty darned good and maybe closer to the truth as well as perhaps a little less heroic. I love girls, but the ones I know are straight shooters and you can’t get away with much. Best part of all the storytelling is when they toss a little pearl of wisdom into the mix. The wives and the storytellers. Pearls or not, there are some real gems out there. Stories and girls.

    That said, what follows in a few hours are some stories of my own, some embellished, some not. Call it fiction and why not? The best stories, fiction or otherwise come from truth.

    For those who’ve read the Pinky book, you will recognize some of the characters from that book. As well as a view of a particular occurrence from the eyes of another. All of which may go toward answering some questions from the Pinky book or at the least, simply adding a little more information to the adventures of a lifetime.

    A few of you may recognize the first part of this book as a short story that was posted to the old Rodders Roundtable several years back. It was expanded into a complete book and is in fact, my first fiction book. The Pinky book is number five in the series.

    This book, “The Red Roadster” is posted here for several reasons. I’m not going to attempt to have it published. As well as I didn’t want to leave it in the dusty recesses of the closet never to see the light of day either. It’s the first book in a series of seven, all about life on the coast as well as the two things us guys love the most. Our girls and our cars. You will find several things - stories, locale and characters - in this book that have a presence in the later books.

    Mr. Ryan has graciously allowed me to post the complete book here in four separate posts.

    I hope you enjoy it.


    You may print one copy of this book for your own use.
    No other rights granted.

    The Red Roadster - Pt 1

    Table of Contents

    The Red Roadster Pg

    Bobby’s Folks Pg

    Parking in the Rain Pg

    Flying into the Beach Pg

    Mrs. Murphy Pg

    Mikes Café Pg

    The Black 40 Pg

    The Blue Coupe Pg

    Ford Coupes and Merc Pickups Pg

    The Yellow Convertible Pg

    Drag Racing Days Pg

    Little and the Cops Pg

    The Big Buick Pg

    The White Sedan Pg
    Dancing in the Desert Pg

    Into the Sunset Pg

    Definitions Pg

    Stories about dad Pg

    (No page numbers because they don’t fit the HAMB format.)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The Red Roadster
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    A work of fiction.
    For the most part.....


    Things changed when the new kid moved into town. Not a lot and not at first. Things did change though. Not so much for the worse and not so much for the better either. Things changed, and who knew, maybe they would have changed anyway. Change being one of life’s constants.

    It wasn’t often at our school that a new kid showed up with an interesting car, let alone a full fendered Deuce roadster. Nothing real special about it. Other than being a Deuce, not many of them around. Not many roadsters either, just one other that I remember from school. A 31 Model A, full fendered with Red Ram Hemi. Owned by a nice guy, but he ran in a different group than us.

    The Deuce ran a flathead, for the most part, just a stocker. Which turned out to be a 48 Merc.
    No one ever said 48 Mercury, it was always 48 Merc - as in "murk". Kind of a given. Funny part was, no one ever said they were running a 47 Merc. 48 Merc was the one. It had kind of a magic ring and it rolled off the tongue quite well. Yessir, it’s a 48 Merc.

    The little roadster was different though. Most of us were running 49 and 50 Ford coupes, and one of our group was running a nice little black 50 Merc coupe. This one owned by a guy named Larry, it was a simple car, almost totally stock and it still ran the stock Merc little hubcaps. It did have pipes though, one of the first steps toward owning a "real" hot rod.
    Deuces, even in the late 50's were a rarity in our small Southern California coastal hometown.
    Roadsters - an even rarer commodity. This one was kind of a magical little car, it showed up in town wearing black primer, red steel wheels and small stock 40 Ford hubcaps. No beauty rings though. Just plain old hubcaps.

    An interesting bit for us, and one that none of us, or for that matter, no one in school had ever seen, at least on a car, was the black Zolatone paint job on the firewall. Kinda reminiscent of the splatter pattern baked enamel pans you’d see in the hardware store now and then. I would never have thought of using this paint on a car, but on the roadster it looked good. Tough paint too, you could drag the flat end of a church key over it and it never marked the paint. Darned thing even had a top. A tan one, a bit worn and considerably faded. We’d seen Deuce coupes, and sedans and even an occasional roadster. But never a roadster with a top. The top on this one looked good though, the windshield was chopped about 2" and the top irons were cut down a bit.
    It had blackwalls even though whitewalls were the "hot setup" and what we lusted after. To the point where some of the guys in our group painted their blackwall sidewalls with white tire paint every couple of weeks in an effort to look the part. If you didn’t paint em pretty often, you soon had yellow walls. Life got easier when the tire companies started selling whitewall recaps in the sizes our cars took.

    The roadster had a dropped axle, big & littles and it sat quite low front and rear.
    The stance, combined with the chopped and slightly laid back windshield along with the slightly wedged shape of the front part of the top made the car sit just right. We didn’t know it at the time, at least not well enough to put it into words, but every once in a while a car with the right stance showed up. When you saw it, you knew it. This little car had the right stance and it had it in spades. We figured it was an L.A. car or possibly from the San Fernando valley as the guys there really had an eye as far as making a car sit right.

    It was a bit of a shock when we found out it was from Kansas. We’d seen Kansas cars before. They were, for the most part, simple cars with not much done to them. This little roadster made our gang, and for that matter the whole school, all California guys - who figured California was it as far as hot rods went - realize that Mid-West America was alive and well. Heck, we’d never seen a local car that looked like the little roadster. Having one come in from Kansas, of all places, was a touch mind boggling. Kansas... Man... I guess good taste and skill know no boundaries. Especially geographical ones.

    First time I saw it was when dad picked us up at the skating rink in his black 54 Ford sedan.
    We were headed down the highway when the little roadster pulled around us with ease, floated back into line and went rolling down the two lane with a sweet and pure sound that came only from Smithy’s mufflers.

    Smitty is how it was pronounced locally, but it made no never mind to us as we all knew the sound. Seems like the flatheads and the stovebolt sixes made the best sounds with Smithy’s, but when I heard the roadster roll gently past I realized I’d never heard anything quite like it. It had the Smithy sound, but different. Probably because the tailpipes were under the rear axle and the mufflers were way to the rear. Common nowadays, but never seen then. It does make a difference in the good sounds dept.

    Turned out, the new kid was a junior in high school, same as me and the little band of sometimes ragged, sometimes not so ragged, wannabee hot rodders I ran with. Turned out too, he was a heck of a nice guy and really knew what he was doing. He’d built the roadster by himself for the most part. With some help and a lotta good advice from his dad. The car was purchased with paper route money when he was 13. Amazing now that I think about it, 13 years old and a roadster owner. Many years have passed since then, but when I think about it, I’m still amazed.

    The kids name was Bobby and his dad was a machinist, born and raised in Kansas, and now working in an oil patch supply outfit on the north end of town. Interesting part about the oil patch proper was, a lot of guys, and a few gals worked there and many of them were parents of the guys in our little group. Not too surprising, the oil patch was comprised of several companies along the coast and inland. That, along with the farming industry - citrus for the most part - were the main employers in the area.

    These industries turned out a lot of capable people. Capable because they were a lot like the old USMC slogan - "Can Do". You wanted a job done, about all you had to do was point, or ask. It got done and got done well.

    02-06-2004, 07:35 PM
    Bobby’s Folks

    As they say, life goes on. Sometimes with a few twists and turns along the way and sometimes not. Some of the reasons why Bobby’s dad stayed in Kansas were, his family was there, plenty of work for a machinist, and he wasn’t real sure what his wife’s folks thought of him. Stealing their daughter away and all that.

    Bobby’s mom wanted to see the world after college. She and a girl friend headed east and had jobs in Washington DC about 1939. Bobby’s dad was a machinists mate in the Navy and was based in Norfolk, Virginia. He’d been there prior to the start of the war.

    As the story went, Bobby’s dad was sent to Annapolis for some kind of maintenance job for a few weeks. Using a machinist for a simple maintenance job kind of made Bobby’s dad wonder. Not much though, he figured it was the "Navy" way. He spent most of his free weekends touring the museums and monuments of Washington DC.

    Bobby’s mom and dad met each other on the walkway to Lincoln’s Tomb. Both wanted to tour the city and the meeting was pure chance. They hit it off well, and it got to be a pretty steady thing for his dad to travel North on weekend liberties to visit with the girl he felt was the love of his life. It took a little while for Bobby’s dad to talk his mom into marriage. Not too long though, it was about three months after they met when they got married.

    Not long after the wedding, the war broke out and both of them were pretty busy for awhile. Bobby’s mom still worked for the government and his dad was still stationed at Norfolk. He was involved in a lot of prototype stuff for submarines.

    After the war, they left the East coast and settled in Wichita, Kansas. Lots of work there for a good machinist. Wichita was the location of many of the largest aircraft companies in the nation. Bobby’s mom liked it in Kansas and made many friends there. In her heart though, she wanted to return to the small coastal California town where she grew up.

    As fate would have it, the aircraft industry started cutting back in Wichita about the time Bobby turned 16. With Bobby’s grandfather offering an assured job in his machine shop/oil field supply outfit, Bobby’s dad figured it was time to go.

    When spring came, Bobby got his drivers license and had just begun driving the little Deuce roadster.

    A few weeks later, the family took off, headed west, mom and dad in their darned near brand new 55 Ford station wagon and Bobby following in the roadster. The roadster had only been running a few weeks. They were packed to the gills in the wagon and the rest of the household stuff stuff they shipped ahead. Bobby’s mom worried about Bobby in the roadster and she worried about the roadster. You know how it is, moms worry a lot.

    The agreement had been, if the roadster broke down it would have to be left behind. Bobby went along with it, but he had a small ace in the hole with a folding tow bar he’d made and hidden away in the trunk. His Dad’s station wagon had a trailer hitch, so Bobby figured as long as the roadster could roll, he’d get it to it’s new home somehow. He’d poured heart and soul into this little car and it was too late to quit now.

    Bobby’s dad, not knowing about the tow bar, kinda felt the same way. He figured they ought to be able to do something to keep it going. As it turned out, the little roadster just hummed sweetly along. The weather was springlike and just right for running a roadster. Bobby was happy, his mom - for the most part - quit worrying and the only worry going on in the group was with Bobby’s dad. He still wasn’t sure how his wife’s family would treat him once he got there.
    As he said once, many years later, he figured it couldn’t be too bad, a guys got to take care of his family first. After that, hurt feelings, if any would heal.

    Robert, Bobby’s younger brother wanted to ride in the roadster now and then. A request usually granted as the two boys got along well and this left time for mom and dad to have a nice conversation without interruptions. Robert, or Little as we later nicknamed him, was at times laid back and other times unstoppable. Sometimes he just flat wore you out.

    The funny part about the whole trip was when the darned near new Ford popped the water bypass hose. No reason, it was on properly as far as they could tell and the short hose split wide open. For a while they thought the car was on fire when the anti-freeze started spraying up onto the in front of and on top of the engine and crossover pipe. A crossover pipe location thought by Bobby’s dad, and Bobby as well, to be a most stupid location for one. It made good sense from an engineering standpoint, but there’s not a Ford mechanic alive who didn’t curse them. Bobby and his dad had both burned themselves on it somewhere along the line.

    So in the end, the little roadster turned out to be the rescue boat so to speak. Kind of surprising to everyone except Bobby as they fully expected the roadster to be the car that failed. As it worked out they were glad to have it along. Bobby and Robert ran the roadster into the next town which was about 10 miles up and were able to buy the right hose from a small parts house as well as 5 gallons of water from a market. About 20 minutes work installing the hose, filling the radiator, cleaning up and they were on their way once again.

    A couple of years after all the deciding and all the worrying about the move, Bobby’s dad was glad he came to California. For sure, he didn’t miss the biting and cold winter weather Kansas has. He was glad too, as Bobby’s grandfather died in the winter of 1957. Glad, because at least the old man got to spend some time with his daughter. And glad for his wife as well. She really missed her folks while living in Kansas.

    Bobby’s dad being a machinist was quite an advantage and it helped considerably during the buildup of the roadster. Aside from that, his dad was an interesting character his ownself. One small thing was his family’s strange penchant to name the boys in the family with the same names. At least we thought it was strange, but after awhile, it seemed as normal as anything else.

    Dad, along with both of the sons, were all named Robert Douglas Smith. Confusing for sure, but legalities were taken care of by naming the oldest son the 2nd, and the youngest son Junior.
    Kinda backwards from what I understand, but it worked for them and no one complained. I’m not sure what the deal was or where it started, but Bobby told us it went way back in his family.

    Life around these folks wasn’t too complicated or difficult either. The old man, dad, he was called Bob. Bobby was the oldest son and was the guy who joined our little group. The youngest son, about 5 years younger than Bobby was called Robert. Most times, the family called him Junior.

    Since Bobby was 6 feet tall and around 160 pounds, Robert, or junior got the short end of the stick to an extent. He was a short guy, but had big shoulders, and for an 11 year old, he was powerfully built. To be unkind, a bit like a fireplug, but like Bobby, he was a nice kid and ended up going along with us most times. Sort of the unofficial group mascot. Robert or Junior didn’t last long with us, a group somewhat given to handing out nicknames. If you were lucky, you got a good one. We just called him Little. Short for Little Bob. He took it more in the vein of little brother than a slur on his decided lack of height. He was in fact, a bit of a little brother to us. Most of the guys in the group either had a sister, lots of sisters, an older brother or was an only child.

    One guy in our group, Don, had four sisters and he was the youngest. He was the baby in the family and had been well treated by his loving sisters and close knit family. He got along well with them and in fact got along well with most girls he knew. He was quiet, had good manners and was a bit of a charmer with the young ladies around town. His dad, a nice guy in his own right, always seemed to be in a fog when all the girls were present.

    Heck, in my opinion, one woman outnumbers two guys, so Don’s dad was really outnumbered.He did well though, he kept quiet, clenched his pipe between his teeth, rattled his paper and just let life roll on by. The girls, and his wife did well and the house was a happy one. Albeit, noisy at times.

    Little was an interesting kid. His own man for sure. He stood in no ones shadow and that included Bobby as well. There was a lot of respect and love between them, and sometimes they argued, but none of the usual big brother beating on little brother stuff. Little loved to hunt and fish. Now and then you’d see Little walking through town, sometimes in his neighborhood - which was about a mile from the beach - and sometimes right through town. He was about 12 at the time, as mentioned, a bit small for his age, and he would be toting his favorite shotgun. An Ithaca side by side double 20 gage, with just a touch of engraving.

    He’d come by it when his grandfather decided he was getting too old for hunting. Since little’s dad had his own shotguns he thought it was just fine that Little was bequeathed the old Ithaca.
    Bobby was given a Browning 12 gage automatic, but in truth all he wanted was his granddads old 22 which was a fine old Marlin lever action. Bobby didn’t particularly care about hunting or fishing and it was fine with him that Little ended up, more or less, with both shotguns. Bobby’s main love was cars. As it was with us. Although a few were starting to think that having a serious relationship with a fair young maiden could be a good thing indeed.

    For sure, it was a more innocent time. Having a 12 year old walk through town with a double barreled shotgun created nothing more than a touch of interest. It made sense though, how was a 12 year old who wanted to hunt supposed to get where he wanted to go?

    Somewhere along the line Little found an old leather rifle scabbard, tied it onto his bike, stuck the shotgun within and rode the bike to where he wanted to go. Once there, he just parked the bike in the bushes for the day. The bike was never bothered - for two reasons I think - one, people for the most part are pretty honest. The other, kids knew the bike belonged to Little and it was probably a good idea to just leave it alone.

    Funny part about Little and shooting was when we would fill up a car or two, everybody would take their 22 rifle - everybody in our group owned one - and head out to the country just to go plinking. The 22's were just a part of growing up where we did.

    Little always took one, and sometimes both of his shotguns as he loved to shoot them. The funny part was, Little couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with the 22's ... or any rifle for that matter. Bobby could, and most of us were not far behind in the accuracy dept. We used to razz Little unmercifully about being the Great White Hunter and he couldn’t hit anything with the 22.
    With the shotguns though, it was a whole other story. Little’s granddad had also given him a clay target thrower, just the handheld one and we would throw clays for him. He hardly ever missed. We tried our best to fool him, but hardly ever did. Finally, one of the guys started bringing his dad’s clay thrower and we tossed two clays at once now and then. Little would almost always hit both of them.

    Kind of interesting for sure. Little probably did well with the shotguns because he used them a lot, but mainly because - at least in my opinion - accuracy with a shotgun is more of a coordinated athletic endeavor than is shooting a rifle. A moving target is always more difficult than one sitting still. One small fact Little demonstrated well.

    For the most part all of us came by our mechanical abilities honestly. For the most part we were the sons of the areas skilled and resourceful oil field workers. The skills and knowledge from our dads and our granddads got passed on and perhaps a small part of it was inherited.

    Working in the oil patch with it’s widely varying and requisite skill requirements was a bit like sink or swim school. You either did, or you were walking down the highway. And the general hope was, you were walking down the highway before you ended up wound around a derrick winch or caught beneath a stack of falling drill casings. Oil field work could be hazardous. If you paid attention and were reasonably smart you had a long and successful career. If not, a pine box and fond remembrances. Dad came home more than once over the years with a short story about a fellow worker who’d been killed on the job. A couple of the stories I’ve never forgotten. I’ll not go into them here, but I do remember the implied lessons of be alert and be smart. Being careful didn’t hurt either.

    A couple of the guys in our group had no family in the oil fields. One lived with his divorced mom and the other guys dad was a department manager with the local power company. Funny part about all this is, the kid with no dad turned out to be the best mechanic of the bunch and went on to have a small degree of success in drag racing with a built Mustang. Life’s kinda funny that way. Nothing you don’t know I suppose.

    Bobby drove the darned roadster just about everywhere. Only thing that slowed him down was rain. Even so, he still drove it in the rain. Just that he didn’t drive it very far. It had a top, but no side curtains. School, work and home, that was about it. Once at school or work, he just tossed an old tarp over the top, big enough to shield the always open windows and keep rain off the seat. That was about it for the great outdoors, at least in the parking dept. At home, the little roadster shared the garage with the family station wagon.

    We found a stripped Deuce coupe for reasonable a couple of towns over, but he wasn’t particularly interested. He loved his little roadster. Rain or shine, hot or cold.

    Bobby was a strong kid and a good athlete, and it wasn’t long until he was noticed by the football coach. Since this was our junior year in high school, Bobby could have been on the varsity football team. Coach asked him to go out for football several times, but Bobby wasn’t especially interested. It drove the coach nutso as Bobby was smart, could really throw the ball and I always thought he would have made one heck of a quarterback. He had no particular interest in sports, but if he was not working or tinkering with the roadster, he would go with us to the Friday night football games at the high school. Something we did every week during the season. Sometimes with a date, most times not.

    The dateless times were fun, although not near as much fun as having a lovely young lady at your side for the evenings festivities.
    Course, guys being guys, we did the serious guy stuff when the girls weren’t around. Namely drinking beer at the beach, summer or winter, made no difference, and cruising the hot rods whenever we could. As well as looking for and setting up the occasional street race. We were smart though, we didn’t do the drinking and driving at the same time. We figured somewhere along the line, we still had to get home. Usually there were one or two guys who were stone cold sober or at the very most had only consumed a beer or two. Sometimes the rest of us would get caught up in the drink, puke and be a man bit.

    We soon learned not to overdo it, dragging home drunk and sick with the attendant hangovers got real old real quick. Even so, we’re lucky the odds never caught up to us. God smiles on idiots and fools at times. Thinking back on it, he must have smiled on us a lot.
    We never really got into any major trouble, the occasional ticket and such was about it the only other thing was getting our dates home late now and then. Sometimes for good reason, most times not.

    02-06-2004, 07:39 PM
    Parking in the Rain


    Seems like I took a date home really, really late just once. At least late on a normal date. Not counting the emergencies here and not too many of those thank God. As it turned out, this particular date didn’t really fall into the normal category. Or the emergency one either. Just call it stupidity. First time out with this girl too. A nice girl, named Carol for what that’s worth.

    We’d gone to the very nice and very big theater in Arroyo Verde, the perceived to be richer and for sure tourist oriented town to the north of our little beach community. The movie got out around 11 PM, we headed for home, and like always I headed for a favored parking spot in the hills above town. Sometimes though, I didn’t get there. Not always my fault, or maybe I should say, sometimes I was unlucky. The girls always had choices and sometimes they chose not to.
    About parking anyway. Other things are other things and have a whole other set of rules. Sounds complicated, and it is. I never figured it out and I’d bet, neither did you.

    The parking spot was simply a couple of vacant lots between a couple of hillside homes and it was a great place to park. You could see up and down the coast quite a ways in either direction.
    Combine that, with a shared beer, a softly playing radio, a friendly and beautiful young woman and life was pretty good.

    The big flaw this time around was January was in full swing and it was raining hard. Not so cold though, most times the coastal communities didn’t get very cold. Just one of those moderate to hard rains that seem like they will never quit.
    I thought I was doing ok and in fact I was. Things were getting on the edge of getting serious and then the radio announcer came on with a blurb that I’ll never forget. His comment, "If you were supposed to be home at Midnight, you’re 20 minutes late." I listened to this station and this DJ a whole lot and never heard him make that comment again. It was almost like he was looking over my shoulder. Stranger things have happened, but that was the topper for sure.

    The coupe was parked on a small piece of asphalt which extended a little ways onto the plowed ground of the vacant lots. It was mud covered when we parked there, but since I’d been there more than once, I knew right where it was. At least I thought I did. Once the DJ made his more than strange comment, my date decided it was time to head for home. A bit of a disappointment for sure, but then again, when you’re 17, there’s always tomorrow.

    I fired up the coupe and tried to drive away. The little coupe - a very mild, twin carb, flathead powered 50 Ford - simply slid sideways, dropped off the asphalt and both rear tires were soon buried in the mud. Serious mud too. As mentioned, the vacant lots had recently been plowed down and after a few days of rain, it was just a big mud trap. I’d say puddle, but the lots drained pretty well as they were on a bit of a slant. Even so, the coupe was stuck and stuck quite well.

    Now what, was the question from Carol. All she’d brought along in the warm clothing dept was a sweater, so walking home was out of the question. We were a long ways from a phone too.

    I’ve always been a bit of a Boy Scout in the "Be Prepared" dept. and it stood me well once again. I had a pair of boots, my tools, a flashlight, some coveralls and some snow chains in the trunk. As well as the factory bumper jack and a four way wrench for the wheels. I got the uphill wheel off and got the snow chain put on that one fairly easy. The worrisome one though, was the downhill wheel. I had it up in the air at the extreme end of the bumper jack and the jack was sitting on a couple of 2 x 8's I’d found and stuck underneath. I figured if the car went over, I’d just get out of the way and let er go. Not much else I could do.

    It worked out though, I got the chains on the wheel ok and the wheel back on with no problems. Except for being pretty well coated with the adobe mud. Adobe is amazing, I don’t know if you have it where you live, but it is slippery stuff. A lot like grease for the most part.
    Carol didn’t think the chains would do any good. She came from the midwest, a part of the country where snow was common. As she put it, chains weren’t really used much back there unless things were really tough or you really had to go somewhere. Course, living in Sunny Southern California, sunny for the most part, we were spoiled and just went most anytime we wanted to. Thinking about survival and similar problems simply by stepping out the door was pretty much a non-experience for most of us.

    I thought the chains would work just fine. We’d stuck em on last spring to drive through some long mud puddles in the dirt road paralleling the beach. Geez, a guy couldn’t walk to one of the best body surfing spots around. That must have been a mile or so. We’d also used the snow chains to climb a steep dirt road up into the mountains on a quail hunting trip. Hiking in was anathema to us, we had cars and we were going to use them. Come hell or high water. And sometimes both.

    So I lit off the coupe and after a small bit of wheel spin, we drove out just fine. It was still raining the proverbial cats and dogs. Sometimes, on the coast, when it rains, it really rains. And thanks to the DJ, when it rains, it pours. Since we were seriously late, just coming up on 3 AM, I drove the two miles to Carols house with the chains still on. Probably a good thing too.

    Carols mom, like any mom, was worried to death. Once she saw me in the mud splattered coveralls, and the coupe with the snow chains still on, she believed our story about getting stuck in the mud next to a friends house at the beach. Course, said friend didn’t have a phone - true - and we had been stuck in the mud - also true - neither one of us wanted to admit the simple truth that we had been ... how shall I say it ... parking in the hills above the city.

    I liked Carol and I think Carol liked me, but, as things went, that was our one and only date.
    Topper to the whole thing was, I still had three miles to drive home. The roads were totally deserted since it was still quite late. Best part - for them, not for me - was when a couple of dads co-worker friends from the oil patch garage spotted my coupe running down Main Street, mud covered and the chains singing a merry little tune as we cruised along. They were headed home from a call-out, pulled alongside, honked, waved and were grinning like a couple of fools. Why not, the only fool in this whole debacle was me.

    I had figured, when I got home I’d pull the chains, hit the sack and nobody would be the wiser, but after I got spotted by dads friends, I knew the chain extravaganza story would make the rounds at the oil fields. Not the whole story, I was a gentleman, still am, and gentlemen do not talk of adventures with ladies. Just that anybody driving a hot rod coupe at 3 AM on a rainy night, running snow chains in a place where it hardly ever snows, is sure to create a strong curiosity with any onlooker.

    Once home, I just parked the coupe in the driveway, went in and hit the sack. Dad saw the mud covered, chained up coupe in the morning when he headed out for the golf course. When he got home, he asked me what the deal was. I told him the truth, most of it anyway. He just shook his head and said to be more careful in the future. I swear though, I think he was grinning all the way into the house. He must have told mom too. Every time I went in the house she was smiling at me. This little stuck in the mud story came to mind when I remembered Bobby’s Deuce getting stuck. A whole other story though, and one that had the town a bit upset.

    02-06-2004, 07:42 PM
    Flying into the Beach

    After Carol and I got stuck, the word got around, at least in our little group and for sure in the oil patch. Seems every time I went out to the oil patch garage, the guys in there who worked with dad would come out and look at the coupe. They didn’t say a whole lot. Just smiled. They knew. I knew. Nothing more need be said.

    Bobby was a pretty cool guy, he seemed to find the stuck in the mud story most funny. Every time it rained, he asked if I had a date for the night. I didn’t mind too much, much better to be stuck in the mud with a beautiful young lady than with some of the characters I ran around with.

    Bobby must have tempted fate though. As it turned out, it was probably Murphy he tempted. We found out about Murphy early in life and he still pops up now and then. More often than not. I’m sure you understand.

    Bobby’s Deuce ran the ever popular 39 Ford trans, the one with the beautifully curved shift lever. The floor shift looked most cool in his roadster. The chromed stick and the six ball in place of the standard shift knob were just right. The eight ball was the one most preferred, but eight balls disappeared from the rec center pool tables so often that they quit issuing pool ball sets with an eight ball. Usually you got a set with two cue balls and were told to just use your imagination.

    Bobby, being a straightforward and honest guy just walked up to the rec center desk and asked if he could have an eight ball. Or at the least, could buy one. The gal behind the desk, sometimes a little harried with all the kids and all the activity and especially ticked by having all the eight balls stolen was a bit stunned by his simple request. More than likely a first for her. She smiled, reached under the desk, handed Bobby a six ball, told him to just take it and not say anything. The ugly pastel green color was fine with him, all he wanted was a shift knob and an eight ball woulda been nice, but it wasn’t necessary.

    Anyway, Bobby’s Deuce with the stock, but good running 48 Merc engine busted a cluster in the 39 box and was out of commission until he could get the parts. Not too bad a deal for the most part as all he had to do was wait until payday and just hit the parts house and buy them. They were always in stock. Whether as a normal stocking item, or the simple fact that the kids and more than a few adult hot rodders broke them pretty often and they were in demand. When I went to work in a parts store one summer, we had gears, synchro’s and clusters for many cars, but we only stocked one of each. For the early Fords we stocked about four of each. Kind of tells the tale there.

    So with Bobby’s Deuce broken and clear over on the other side of town, in fact, out of town on the other side - but safely ensconced within the confines of the Conoco oil company cracking plant near the beach - we had a ways to go to drag it home.

    Somewhere along the line I’d made up a tow bar. At least I cut it out, dad took it to the oil patch welder who was kind enough to weld it for me. It was a simple affair, the wishbone out of 1 1/4" tubing welded to a 3/8" plate for the coupler and a couple of 3/8" tabs with a hole drilled within so I could bolt it to the front of any bumperless 49 to 54 or so Ford. A pair of 3/4" bolts, flat washers and a couple of lock nuts took care of the frame end and a bolt on coupler from Pep Boys took care of the pointy end. It worked out well for other cars too.
    The tubing wishbone being a bit on the light duty side was easily pulled in for narrowing to fit the earlier cars. We did this one a lot. The tow bar was popular around school too, I was one of the few guys who owned one and the only guy who would loan it out. More than a few locals dragged their broken hot rods home with it.

    Larry’s 50 Merc had a trailer hitch on it. Not much of one as we found out. Larry bought the Merc from his dad, when dad stepped up to a brand new, most beautiful Turquoise and White 56 Merc hardtop. The 50 Merc had a light duty trailer hitch bolted on so Larry’s dad could tow a small utility trailer now and then. Larry’s dad being more attuned to the workings of the business world as he worked in the commercial office of the local power company and wasn’t very mechanically inclined. We knew that and we didn’t care as Larry’s dad was a nice guy who always treated us well. We didn’t give a thought to the trailer hitch though. Heck, a trailer hitch is a trailer hitch, right? We had a lot to learn.

    Larry’s dad was a heck of a landscaper and gardener. He had the best lawn in the neighborhood and his vegetable garden was darned near as nice as Mrs. Murphy’s across the street. Seemed like this lady - a widow - could make a jungle grow just by smiling her nice grandmotherly smile in a particular direction. A green thumb she had for sure, and maybe all her fingers were green.

    She was one heck of a cook and ran a small Cafe’ on the edge of town that was popular with the oil patch workers as well as being popular with us. We were on our best behavior when we were there because the food was so darned good, we daren’t get kicked out. She did have a long memory. We got along well with her though. More than once we’d spotted her starting her garden in the spring, went over and spent an hour or so getting it dug up and squared away. With anywhere from two to six guys helping, it didn’t take long. Kind of got us on her good side too, when we were at the Cafe’ we always got larger portions and extra pie without asking. Sometimes we couldn’t hardly walk out of the place. It’s probably good we didn’t eat there all that often. If we’d been steady customers, we’da been some seriously fat boys.

    Late, on a quiet Friday night, the three of us took Larry’s Merc out to the Conoco plant to pick up the Deuce. As usual, it was a snap to bend the tow bar in a bit to fit the narrow Deuce frame. The hardest part to the whole thing was removing the roadsters front bumper. With that done, the safety chain hooked to it’s own ring on the trailer hitch and the portable light bar strapped to the Deuce’s back bumper with the wiring strung along to the Merc’s taillight plug, we were in business.

    Running down the road with the Deuce in tow, we found things weren’t going to be as easy as other tow jobs we’d been on. Part of it due to Larry’s lack of experience, and part of it due to the rough in places beachfront two lane highway. We’d hit a bump and the Deuce would start to wander. Then Larry would correct for it. It wasn’t long until the Merc-Deuce combo started doing the one lane fandango. What was happening was that whenever the Deuce pushed one way on the tow bar, the Merc would go the other way. Then Larry would correct making the Deuce push the Merc in the opposite direction. Before long, the whole rig was weaving back and forth.
    The cure was usually an easy one. All you had to do was hold the steering wheel straight, stay lightly on the gas and the oscillations would damp themselves out. For some, as it was for Larry, easier said than done.

    Once things got calmed down, he’d get right back into the pio - pilot induced oscillation - thing and the weaving would start anew. After a while and after some worried looks from Bobby, Larry seemed to have a handle on the whole thing. So much so that we were eventually cruising along about 50 mph. A safe enough speed for flat towing, provided the rig tows well and the driver knows what he is doing. Larry figured since the towing was going so well at 50, and we had a ways to go, 60 would be safe enough. For the most part, probably so. For Larry, not so true.

    To be fair, he did ok for a while, but once the weaving started again, and at this new and higher speed it got bad really quick. To the point that the whole rig was sliding back and forth across the two lane highway. As fate would have it, or maybe it was Murphy, a left turn was fast approaching. Larry cranked the wheel over for the turn and the whole rig started to jacknife.
    That was enough for him, he panicked and hit the brakes.

    That was the moment the trailer hitch broke clean off the Merc, taking safety chain and all as the safety chain ring was an integral part of the hitch. We found later the hitch was only bolted on with three 7/16" bolts, dime store grade ones at that and the constant towing flexed the Mercs rearmost crossmember until a piece of it broke out. The single bolt through the bottom of the angle piece attached between brackets and bumper broke too. We did find a small piece of the Merc crossmember still attached to the hitch. The hitch ended up still attached to the towbar.
    Anyway, the Merc switched ends and slid right on around the corner, brakes locked and tires smoking. The little Deuce continued straight ahead, blasted right on through a barbed wire fence and launched itself off the eight foot high bank above the sand.

    We knew the beaches well, and we knew this area especially well. I figured that was the end of the nice little roadster. Especially when we saw it sail through the fence and over the embankment. Easily seen through the windshield as we were now going backwards in the Merc having spun darned near a full 360.

    The Merc came to a stop without a scratch. Only bad part was ending up with a flat right rear when the tire rolled off the rim during the slide. Cept for the minor bit of torn out metal in the rear crossmember. That went with the trailer hitch when it left.

    Bobby and I were a little surprised by it all, Larry though, Larry had a serious case of the "big eyes". If you’ve ever seen anyone fresh from a major scare, you’ll know what I mean.

    After we settled down a bit, and the dust had dissipated, Larry drove the crippled Merc back to the hole in the fence where the Deuce had gone over. Didn’t make much difference to the flat tire. It was a goner anyway. To make things really complete, Larry had no spare on board.

    From what we could see in the little tableau lit by the headlights, things looked pretty sad. The Deuce was sitting about 200' out and was below the high tide mark. It was pretty much nose down in the sand and it looked like the frame was bent from what we could see. About the only good thing in all this, it was just a little after extreme low tide. Which meant we had about 2-3 hours before the salt water from the incoming tide started swirling around the Deuces front wheels. Since this was winter, the beaches were usually steeper than they were in summer and it looked like the Deuce would be about halfway covered by the water at full high tide.

    Well, we were screwed. Not a whole lot we could do about it by ourselves. We didn’t have anything resembling a tow rope. Even that didn’t matter as we couldn’t have gotten the Merc down to the beach anyway. Then we probably would have gotten it stuck to boot.
    You can drive on beaches with normal cars and normal tires, the trick is - don’t stop unless you’re on hard packed damp sand.

    We left the Merc headlights on, grabbed a flashlight and the three of us walked off the embankment down to the Deuce. I say walked, because that’s what we did. We were surprised to find the normally vertical eight foot high embankment now had a gentle slope to it due to sand blowing up off the beach from the winter winds. That little fact really helped keep the damage to the Deuce to a minimum. All things considered.

    Thank God too, this was winter. In the summer, on a Friday or Saturday night there was almost always somebody having a beach party down there. It was a popular place to say the least.

    I could just see some summer beach goer commenting that he sure would like to have a Deuce roadster and presto, here comes one. Right in his lap so to speak. Funny in a way, but when you think about not so funny.

    We walked down to where the roadster was stuck in the sand and found things weren’t as bad as we thought. The tow bar had simply swung under the frame so that wasn’t a problem. The front axle was bent though, apparently it hooked on one of the rocks at the top of the embankment on it’s way over. The front frame horns were mildly tweaked and the interior had a lot of sand in it. Even with the top on, the Deuce sprayed up a lot of sand before it came to a stop. In fact, sand was everywhere and the little car had been pretty much inundated with the stuff.

    Well, that made life a little simpler. Except for the little fact that we were on our own, late on a Friday night and still quite a ways out of town. Plus the nagging worry that the tide was coming in. More than one California guy has lost his car or truck when he got stuck and the tide came in.
    Salt water does bad things to cars.

    We were standing there looking at the little Deuce and wandering what the heck we could do now. And very aware of the time and tide element. Since it was just after Midnight, we hoped some of the oil patch afternoon tower - the oil patch calls their swing shift, afternoon tower and the graveyard shift, morning tower, days are just days no matter where you’re at - workers would come by and maybe we could get a ride into town and set some kind of rescue operation in motion. It was probably later than we thought, none of us wore a watch and we hadn’t paid much attention to the time. Traffic turned out to be totally non-existent.

    We’d gone up to the road for a while to try and flag down a car and had about given it up.Bobby and I walked back down to the Deuce and Larry was sent off, on foot, in a search for a rope. He left the car keys with us in case we needed any tools. He had no spare tire, but a pretty fair little toolbox in the car. Go figure. Searching for a rope, a last straw kind of thing for sure. Finding over two hundred feet of rope, strong enough and lying unattended at that time of night, ready for us to borrow and use was pretty remote.

    Salvation of sorts arrived, at least we hoped it was salvation, when a set of headlights appeared on top of the embankment right where the Deuce had gone through the fence. We hoped it was a CHP officer, and maybe he could call in a tow truck for us. We’d have emptied out the piggy bank for that one.

    As it turned out, our potential salvation was a guy in a 51 Merc two door who worked for Conoco. He was headed for home after fishing on one of the oil piers owned by the oil company.
    The oil piers, off limits for most, but it was one of the perks for the oil patch guys. If you had a key, you were in business. Good fishing too, for the most part the area off our coast was pretty much an underwater desert and fairly devoid of fish. The oil piers though, once in place, started the food chain going and the piers turned out to have pretty good fishing. Especially since the fishing pressure was pretty light with just the occasional oil patch guy tossing a line out now and then. We figured if we hurried into town, provided the Conoco guy would give us a ride, we could round up a tow truck and get the Deuce out before major damage occurred.

    The Conoco guy thought he’d found a wreck. From his viewpoint he could see the flat tire Merc facing a hole in the fence and the head and taillights still on. Not to mention the hole in the fence and nobody around. A little dust would have made the scene complete, but the dust had long since settled.

    We walked out to the parked car to talk to the Conoco guy. We’d hoped at the least he was a cop. Turns out, he was an angel in disguise anyway. He did road maintenance on the Conoco lease, had access to the road grader and figured he could pull the little Deuce out of the sand. All he asked was, we keep it on the QT as the grader was not supposed to leave the lease or be used for personal reasons. He said his boss was a pretty understanding guy and figured he wouldn’t be in too much trouble if he got found out. Even so, life would be easier if it was just between the three of us.

    He drove north, back up the highway to the Conoco lease, which was a ways away and then drove south down an oil lease road to the grader which was sitting in a small canyon not too far away from where we were. Once the grader was fired up and since no fences were in the way, it wasn’t too big a deal to just drive it up and over the railroad tracks next to the Conoco property, down to the two lane highway and over to the hole in the fence. The whole thing took about 40 minutes and we were watching the tide and getting more worried by the minute. We figured we had 20-30 minutes before the water reached the roadster.

    We’d disconnected the towbar with a couple of wrenches we found in Larry’s Merc, dragged it out from under the roadster and pulled the broken ends of the barbed wire fence out of the way and were ready once the grader arrived. The big old road grader just ambled gracefully up and over the railroad tracks and across the highway Graceful was the right word here. Even though these things look a bit like an escaped dinosaur, sometimes they are grace in motion. To us, at our hour of salvation, this was such a time.

    The Conoco guy, who it turns out was named Phil, ran the grader through the torn barbed wire fence, over the embankment, down the sand bank and over to the roadster which wasn’t very far away at all and turned around. Then he drove around to the rear of the roadster. Once stopped, he tossed a length of thick rope down and told us to tie it onto the roadster’s rear end and tie it to the tow ring on the back of the grader. Once we were set, he had Bobby get in the roadster and hold the steering wheel straight.
    The grader pulled the roadster out of the sand and up and over the embankment like it wasn’t even there. Nothing like some serious horsepower at the right time. For sure, this was one of those times. We removed the rope between grader and roadster and Phil ran the grader back to the Conoco lease. He’d promised to return and take us into town.

    In the meantime, we went back down to the beach and erased the grader tracks as best we could. The Deuce tracks, at least the ones not rolled over by the grader, were left as is. We figured the fence was torn down anyway and some car tracks didn’t make much difference. We dusted off the grader tracks on the dirt too and went across the highway to see what we could do there, but as dark as it was, and with our only flashlight running low we couldn’t see any tracks to speak of. The weird part and I don’t know why we did it, was to smooth off what footprints we’d left in the sand as well as the dirt on top of the embankment. This little bit figured strongly into what happened later.

    Phil got back in short order. After he looked the roadster over, he figured he could tow it with his car’s trailer hitch. A nice strong one and way better than the one that had been on Larry’s Merc. After a bit of a struggle, we got the tow bar back on the tweaked frame rails. The tow bar was a touch tweaked itself. Phil figured if Larry’s Merc would start, the spare tire off his 51 Merc would work and we could drive Larry’s car home. The old Merc, not so old really, we’d gotten to where we called it the "old" Merc since Larry’s dad had a new one. The old Merc fired right up. Kinda surprising to me as we had run the headlights quite a bit.

    Bobby left it running at a fast idle so the battery would charge and stuck on the borrowed spare. That done, we left. Phil and Bobby towed the roadster to Bobby’s house, I followed in Larry’s Merc. Larry showed up a while later, he’d seen us come through town after hitching a ride close to home. He’d hiked up to the beach highway turnoff and was on the main road back to town when he caught a ride. He must have been picking them up and putting them down. Larry, a tall guy and known as a fast walker, surprised us a bit this time. He’d gotten a lot farther down the highway than we thought he would. In fact, the next step for us had been to borrow Bobby’s dad’s car and go back to find Larry. Since Phil had pretty much taken care of our problems, that was a moot point now. Bobby, always a good guy, offered to buy dinner at Mrs. Murphy’s little Cafe’ for Phil and his wife Sunday night. Phil accepted with good grace.

    Saturday dawned, bright and early like always, although for us it was still late Friday night.
    We’d just finished rolling the roadster into the garage and figured we were through for a while.Right after we shut the garage door, about a half hour after sunup, we heard the fire dept. sirens start up and a couple of fire trucks head out to the north. Right towards the old beach two laner.

    We were absolutely thrashed and weren’t thinking of anything other than hitting the sack. By now we just didn’t care. We didn’t have much in the way of transportation either. Larry didn’t want to be driving Phils spare tire around, especially since he’d been so nice in loaning it to us. Never mind the rescue and all that. Larry was headed for home to catch some sleep for a few hours and then get a new tire at the tire shop, as well as air up the spare sitting in his garage and put it back in the Merc.

    Late Saturday afternoon, we’d dropped off Phil’s spare and the three of us headed for the Frosty Shop to see what was up. The story making the rounds was that a car had flown off the road and disappeared into the ocean out near the Conoco Plant. We didn’t say much, ate our fries and burgers, drank our milk and left. Like you’d expect, we headed out to the beach.

    There wasn’t much going on, but you could see there had been quite a bit of emergency equipment there as well as quite a few emergency personnel walking around if the tracks in the dirt and sand were any indication..
    It was apparent what happened. The story we heard later pretty much agreed with what we’d figured out. Somebody - as the story went - flew off the curve at a high rate of speed and went into the ocean. A search was started, but they didn’t have far to look. A small rubber raft was launched by a couple of Fire Dept. guys and rowed out a little ways. Nothing found there. Volunteers combed the beach to the north a little ways and to the south quite a ways looking for bodies. Going further south due to the south flowing littoral current.

    After a few hours they gave up and most of the equipment went back to the fire station.
    They did leave a couple of volunteer firefighters on scene though. Mainly to wait for low tide and see what they could see. Which, as it turned out wasn’t much.

    We headed home with our mouths zipped shut. We never told anybody what happened.
    Even the guys in the gang were left in the dark for quite a while. Bobby told them the Deuce was down for a rebuild and that was good enough.

    I think Bobby’s dad wondered where all the sand in the Deuce came from, but he never asked. Maybe he didn’t want to know.

    02-06-2004, 07:44 PM
    Mrs. Murphy

    Sunday night came and true to his word, Bobby showed up at Mrs. Murphy’s Cafe’. Mrs. Murphy usually came in at noon as she did this time. Normally one cook and a couple of other waitresses opened up for the breakfast crowd. Mrs. Murphy started pies and other dishes for the dinner crowd and took over the cooking about 4 PM. Eight PM was the official closing hour although if she liked you, she’d serve you coffee and a piece of pie long after the kitchen closed.
    Don’t try to order dinner too late though. If you did, that was usually the only time. After Mrs. Murphy spelled out the rules for you, in her ever charming Irish kind of way, you knew better than to ask again. Mrs. Murphy was in charge and that was that. Thank you very much.

    Anyway, Bobby was a favorite of Mrs. Murphy’s. Starting from the day he saw her across the street from Larry’s house, walked over and offered to help in the garden. Especially so when he brought in extra help. It didn’t take long for Mrs. Murphy, in her eyes at least and her heart for sure to view Bobby as the grandson she never had.

    She had a couple of beautiful granddaughters. We knew them, but they attended school at Holy Cross Catholic High School. We’d see them around town now and then and in the Cafe’ fairly often and that was about it.

    So Bobby, without getting into too many details - I think Mrs. Murphy put two and two together pretty well - told her he owed a most kind gentleman a small favor. To be repaid with dinner at Mrs. Murphy’s Cafe’.
    When Mrs. Murphy found out Phil would be accompanied by his wife, she became most interested. Not so much that she thought here was a love match she could monitor and perhaps help along, but just the simple fact that having a woman in the Cafe’ was a bit of a rarity. Although what Irish Grandmother could resist a little matchmaking? She catered mostly to businessmen, warehouse workers, farmers and the always present guys from the oil patch. It wasn’t that women weren’t welcomed into the Cafe’, just that it was a bit uncommon. Mrs. Murphy was glad Bobby had come in early and told her about his guests. It gave her enough time to put together a very special meal. One not on the menu and one Bobby hadn’t seen before. At least not seen in Mrs. Murphy’s Cafe’.

    Phil and his wife were treated well as was Bobby. Mrs. Murphy went so far as to sit down with them after dessert and have a cup of coffee. A bit of a shocker for Bobby, as he, as well as us, had never seen her join a customer at the table before. She was a great talker and a tease, and there wasn’t a soul in town who didn’t like her, but joining a customer was totally out of character.

    When the end of dinner came, she would have none of Bobby’s money and none of Phil’s either.

    It’s fair to say too, that Phil and Bobby fairly waddled out of the Cafe’.
    Phil’s wife, a pleasant dark haired girl made the polite comment that she was quite full and the meal had been extraordinary. A simple comment that said it well. Nothing more need be said.

    Once in a while we’d bring in a favorite girl, and in some cases, a new girl, on a first date, into the Cafe’ just to see how she did with Mrs. Murphy. Kind of a small test, although we never thought of it that way at the time. Most of the girls passed with flying colors.

    Mrs. Murphy figured we would choose well when it came to the opposite sex. We never realized either, that Mrs. Murphy considered us her adopted grandsons. She’d been blessed with two beautiful daughters, and in turn blessed again with two beautiful granddaughters.

    She called us "her lads" whenever we saw her, and whenever we went into her café.. I didn’t know for sure how she felt about us until many years later when I ran into one of her granddaughters in the old hometown.

    We were both about 40 at the time, and Mrs. Murphy’s granddaughter was easy to recognize with her classic Irish beauty not having changed a bit. The flaming red hair was a bit of a giveaway too. She told me Mrs. Murphy always spoke well of us and worried greatly when several of us were drafted into the Vietnam war.

    For us, Mrs. Murphy was kind of an adopted grandmother. She was a darned nice lady and a credit to humanity. We always liked helping her and didn’t think too much about giving up one of our Saturday afternoons off to help her start her garden.

    When Mrs. Murphy died, I was attending a two week company school out of town and found out about it too late to attend the funeral.

    The town did well by her though. She rode to her final resting place in a splendid hearse. Followed by a small caravan of Fire Trucks and Police Cars. As well as several oil company pickups. And a whole long string of private cars. The turnout for her funeral was so large that downtown was virtually deserted. No one could ever remember seeing such a turnout before.

    She was well known locally and was a much loved lady. Mrs. Murphy’s Cafe’, as had Mrs. Murphy, closed down forever. Along with a piece of our hearts.

    02-06-2004, 07:47 PM
    Mikes Cafe’

    One of the pallbearers at Mrs. Murphy’s funeral was Mike Willis. Not a surprise to anyone who knew the two of them. Although a few wondered as Mike ran the other Cafe’ in town that also catered to the dock worker and warehouse guys as well as the oil patch guys. Most thought of them as erstwhile competitors and they were, but they had great respect for one another.

    The little fact that Mikes Cafe’ was open 24 hours a day, closing only on Christmas and New Years made it a given as one of the places to go for the working guy. Ladies were welcome too, but not often seen. Not that the Cafe’ was a rough and tumble place, it was a smooth running operation kept so mainly due to the efforts of the waitresses. The cooks, and Mike was the head cook, did their part in keeping it down to a friendly and mild roar.
    All it took was a look from Mike or a word from one of the waitresses and things calmed down pretty quick. The rules were simple, behave yourself or you were out. Easy enough for us, we were just a ragtag bunch of skinny 17 year old wannabee hot rodders.

    Mikes Cafe’ was pretty much run by a couple of friendly no-nonsense waitresses, big Dot, and little Dot - short for Dorothy, as you probably guessed. Big Dot and little Dot for the obvious reason that big Dot was about 5'10" tall, and while not slim, not fat either. Same deal with little Dot, not slim, not fat, she was an even 5' as well as we could figure it. And kinda good looking too. In fact, both gals were good looking, but they were out of our league for sure. Heck, these were working women about 10-15 years older than us and could more than hold their own with most any man who wandered into the place.

    For us, a bunch of somewhat ignorant characters, we just kept quiet and were grateful that our folks had taught us good manners. We used em here for sure.

    Nobody ever called em Big Dot or Little Dot to their face, we just called em Dot. Best to stay on the good side of these two gals. They were friendly and easy to like, they just didn’t stand for much nonsense. A little kidding, ok. But only a little.

    They were the dayshift waitresses most of the time, evenings were taken care of by Millie.
    Millie was about the age of our moms and for the most part we treated her pretty much like our adopted mom.

    It always seemed to me that Millie liked the way we treated her. She enjoyed the friendly teasing and gave it right back. Bud was a special favorite with her. She was forever bringing him some little something extra.

    Mike, was a for sure no-nonsense guy. He didn’t put up with much, although he put up with Big Dot and Little Dot. He may have been the owner, but the two gals virtually ran the place.
    And truth to tell, they made it easy for him, he knew it, and wasn’t about to upset the applecart.
    He had a popular and smooth running Cafe’ and why mess with success. Probably why he didn’t say much, but always had a friendly smile.

    Mike was one heck of a cook. He learned it in the Navy, had it all together in the cooking department and really enjoyed what he was doing. The Cafe’ put out a hamburger plate that was the best in town. In a couple of towns for that matter.

    The local burger stands, several in fact, put out good burgers, but they couldn’t hold a candle to Mikes. The great burgers being the main reason we ate lunch there whenever we could.
    Mrs. Murphy’s had great food, but Mikes Cafe’ had the burgers.

    For that reason too, the local clientele was on their best behavior. Nobody wanted to get kicked out of Mikes Cafe’. A few had and were grudgingly let back in. Probably because Mike realized the guys had to eat somewhere.
    To me, Mike was like an old seafaring captain. Quiet, helpful, knowledgeable and absolutely no-nonsense.

    Our introduction to the Cafe’ had come about for a variety of reasons. For me, my dad worked in the oil patch along the coast and he was one of many oil patch guys who frequented the Cafe’.

    Dad, a mechanic, got called out at night and on weekends quite often. Sometimes for vehicle problems, sometimes for problems at the oil wells and sometimes for problems at the generating plant. It was more than interesting for me, to see the wide variety of equipment that he maintained. A good experience too.

    Thinking back on it, I’m still amazed at some of the clever and well thought out field repairs that he and the other mechanics accomplished. Many times with limited materials and equipment.
    Interesting part with some of the field repairs they engineered is that they were better in some cases than the original setup and were still operating several years later. And are probably still there. If it works, it works.

    Since these were, how shall I say it, pre-litigation - if that’s even a word - times and because I had an unswerving interest in things mechanical, especially cars and even more especially, modified cars and hot rods, I liked to go along when dad got called out.

    Usually ok with dad if it wasn’t going to be too late or if it was on a weekend. Now and then, the job turned in to an all nighter and I’d end up sleeping in the oil company pickup truck. Usually though, I tried to stay awake and help, ending up doing the go-fer thing many times. The go-fer thing consisting mainly of getting tools out of the pickup for dad.

    It’s funny when I think back on it. I started going on call-outs when I was eight years old. Quite an experience for an eight year old. A good introduction to the real world.

    We’d drive out the coast highway to the lease, once there we’d throw what tools dad figured he’d need into the back of the company pickup, back it out of the shop garage and drive up the dark winding and steep dirt roads going up the coastal mountains where the oil wells were.
    Dark and winding because most call-outs were either near sundown or after dark. Sometimes it was so foggy you couldn’t see much of anything. Other times it was so clear and dark that the stars would take your breath away.

    It was always a surprise, at least for me, when we started seeing the glow from the lights on the drilling rig. The darkness back in the coastal canyons was about as dark as it ever got. Anywhere.

    Sometimes, if we were lucky we’d see some of the coastal mountain wildlife. Deer, fairly common, a bobcat now and then, but the very best was a mountain lion. Kind of made me stop and think.

    At eight years old, my friends and I were allowed to hike all over the hills above town. We knew how to read tracks fairly well - courtesy of our Cub Scout manuals - and we’d see lion tracks every now and then. We figured with our BB guns and walking sticks we were safe enough. After seeing the lion cross the road in front of us and seeing how big he was, I had a definite change of heart about the safety afforded by a BB gun and a couple of companions with walking sticks.

    Once we pulled into the well lighted drilling rigs, sometimes still drilling, sometimes not, the cold would cut right through you. Especially if it was foggy. The roughnecks loved it when the rig came to a halt, they’d just curl up in the doghouse on a bench next to a stove and go to sleep.
    Course then, the pressure was on dad to get it running again. Usually accomplished in a few hours in most cases. Then the driller would roust out the guys in the doghouse and it would be back to work again.

    Most times when we pulled up, the guys on the drilling rigs would take one look at me, smile and ask dad if I was on time and a half. I had no idea what time and a half was. Once they explained it, I thought, that’s the stuff for me. Time and a half. Only a dream to a lawn mowing, paper route kid. Straight time for me and not enough of it.

    The best part about the callouts was dads company paid for a meal. Which usually meant a trip to Mikes Cafe’. It was a whole other world to a little guy. Imagine, going into a restaurant that was actually open after midnight and ordering darned near anything you wanted.

    Mikes Cafe’ served all the hot coffee you wanted and large, large portions of food served on really big plates. The plate size I got used to and thought nothing about it. An overheard comment from a newcomer about a stack of pancakes probably says it all. "Them ain’t pancakes, them is manhole covers".

    Granted, a lot of food for the average guy, but just right for a growing teenager. Just right too, for the hard working dock, warehouse and oil patch guys.

    With Mrs. Murphy’s closed down and the chrome shop right down the street from Mikes, it was a natural for us to start going there. And like Mrs. Murphy’s, we took our girl friends in there for a late night cup of coffee and pie. The waitresses loved it and went out of their way to make the girls feel right at home.

    That was one great thing about our town, there was always someplace to go. The Frosty Shop on Friday or Saturday nights if not much in the date department was going on. Even if you had a date, stopping in for ice cream afterward was great. When the Frosty Shop closed at midnight, we still had Mikes Cafe’ as a place to go. As far as we were concerned, midnight in a lot of cases was still early.

    02-06-2004, 07:51 PM
    About a year after the sailing into the beach escapade with the little Deuce roadster, Bobby’s grandmother’s 56 Chrysler 300-B was wrecked. We were aghast as we thought it was one of the coolest cars Detroit ever brought out. Bobby’s grandfather had worked in the oil patch for a while, got into the supervision end of it and eventually quit to run his own oil field supply business.

    We thought Bobby’s granddad was the coolest old guy in town. Not many old guys, at least old to us, would buy such a great car. It was obvious we had a lot to learn.

    The Chrysler Hemi was held in awe by most of us. And to have one, even remotely attached to our little gang was too cool. We always liked to look it over and many times Bobby’s granddad would be washing or waxing it or even simply changing the oil when we dropped by.
    We didn’t care, we liked to look at it and dream. To a man, we could all imagine the great big engine sitting under the hood of our 49-50 Ford coupes. And the Merc too, Larry was as lustful about horsepower as the rest of us. The Chrysler, being a 300-B with dual four barrel carbs was the frosting on the cake.

    Chrysler 300 was another one of those magical combinations of words. Something like the simple combination of 48 Merc, but on a much grander scale. Even grander than the magical words of Ferrari or Maserati. Chryslers were the bass players of the performance world.
    Ferrari and Maserati were just soprano’s as far as we were concerned.

    The Chryslers struck fear into the hearts of many would-be competitors. Of such stuff, dreams are made.

    The way the Chrysler got wrecked was just one of those stupid little things that could have been a tragedy, but was not. We thought it was a tragedy, but we realized too, better to have a damaged car, than a person hurt or even killed. We loved our cars, but humanity did come first.
    Bobby’s grandmother had parked the car in front of the feed store on the highway leading toward L.A. A delivery truck, in fact looking for the feed store, and having passed it by once already, turned around and headed back. The driver now looking at addresses across the street instead of where he was going. As happens many times, the truck drifted into the bicycle lane rear ending the beautiful Chrysler at about 50 mph. He hit it so hard that the Chrysler and truck went to about the fourth store down before the driver got the whole mess stopped.

    Thank God Bobby’s grandmother was in the feed store at the time. No one was hurt in the crash, the truck was not hurt and simply backed off the now smashed Chrysler.

    The Chrysler was really smashed. The truck had shoved the trunk lid just about to the rear of the front seat. The Chrysler rear bumper was still about where it belonged, just that the great majority of the rear of the car now occupied the center of the car. In a way, it looked like one of those flat bed trucks you see at the dealers, the one tons purchased sans bed or box, but have the basic cab and front clip.

    Bobby’s grandmother had the Chrysler towed home. She thought she could get her golf clubs and other stuff out of the trunk. As it turned out, the golf clubs were history too.
    The towing company dumped the Chrysler off onto her large driveway. She lived a ways out in the country in a large house sitting on a two acre lot with other large houses in the area. Almost an estate, but not quite.

    About two days later she showed up in a new Volkswagen. We couldn’t believe it, Bobby’s grandmother probably could have bought most any car she wanted, but she wanted the Volkswagen. Bobby’s grandmother was full of surprises, but this was the best one so far.
    It made sense to her, all she wanted a car for was to bomb around town, hit the golf course with one or two of her girl friends and run errands here and there. As she put it, she was getting tired of wrestling the big old Chrysler around. It was ok when her husband was alive, but since she was doing the driving now, she wanted something reasonably quick, fun to drive and easy to park.
    As far as she was concerned the Volkswagen had all these abilities and more. For the Chrysler?
    I can see the question in your mind.

    Bobby simply asked his grandmother if he could buy it. Grandma told Bobby he could have the darned thing if he would just get it out of her sight. We were to find later that she paid for the Chryslers salvage value so she could do what she darned well wanted to do with the it. She figured too, Bobby was a lot like his grandfather and if his grandfather liked the big old Chrysler then Bobby probably did too. She knew as well, Bobby was skilled enough to make use of any parts he got from it. Although I don’t think she had a clue as to how much sheer horsepower she was turning loose. And where it would go. She knew the little roadster was Bobby’s first love so perhaps some parts could be used there. It made no difference, grandma would simply wait and see what would happen.

    Bobby got the roadsters transmission repaired, the axle and frame horns straightened out just a few weeks after the beach fiasco and had been driving it all this time.
    As luck would have it, Bobby’s grandfather had built a two car garage on the back of their property as he’d planned to have a serious shop in there. Mainly for woodwork, he was a skilled craftsman. So Bobby got the gang together and with a borrowed Ford tractor we dragged the poor old Chrysler into the totally empty two car garage.

    With a borrowed A-frame, quite a few hand tools, some hacksawing of the exhaust pipes and a bit of work, we soon had the dual four barrel Chrysler engine/trans combo liberated and hanging on the A-frame hoist chain.

    Since the tires were undamaged, Bobby gave a pair to me and a pair to Don for the back of our Ford coupes. Don’s, a 49 and mine a 50. They were just the right size for the big & little combo we liked to run. Aside from the engine and tires, there wasn’t a whole lot we could use on the Chrysler. We cut up most of it for scrap. The doors, front fenders, hood and radiator did get pulled as a unit and were sold to the Chrysler body shop for a fair price. The rest of it, including the 300-B badges, special trim and seats all got taken to the dump. I cringe now when I think about it, but at the time it didn’t seem to be all that special and we were mainly interested in the engine anyway.
    Bobby offered his grandmother the cash from the parts he’d sold, but she told him to keep it for all the hard work he’d done. What a classy lady, she knew the Chrysler engine was what Bobby wanted. The money was just frosting on the cake.

    With that, and money he’d saved over the last year he bought a Schiefer aluminum flywheel, a good clutch, Hurst motor mounts and an adapter to bolt the Chrysler engine to a Packard floor shift 3 speed. Along with a few other goodies. The exhaust system was made from scratch.
    The original exhaust manifolds were used and the exhaust pipes as well as the tail pipes were made from u-bends.

    The whole job was one of the best engine swaps we’d ever been involved with. It was clean, simple and well engineered. The big Chrysler engine looked right at home in the little Deuce roadster.

    One thing Bobby did have to do, was add an extra leaf to the front spring. The Chrysler was heavy, but as far as we were concerned, it was going to be worth it.

    The rear end got swapped out too. An Oldsmobile rear end with a 3.78 diff - a popular swap for the era - was cut down and the axles shortened at Henry’s Machine shop in the San Fernando valley. Henry’s being one of the very first Southern California shops to cut down axles. Maybe there were more, but Henry’s is the one we knew about. About a one hour trip from home, it was not a big deal to drive there.

    Narrowed rear ends were just starting to come into their own on the dragstrip, but were a novelty on the street. Most guys just stuck em in and let the tires hang out. Even with fairly deep wheel backspacing, the tires still hung out beyond the fenders of most cars that had a rear axle swap. This was the first street car in the county and the first one I ever saw on the street with a narrowed rear axle.

    With a few small items knocked out by Bobby’s machinist dad, as well as the requisite firewall modifications Bobby did himself, the Chrysler engine had found itself a new home.

    The poor old 48 Merc engine, magical name or not, sat forlornly in a corner of the garage.
    The King, usurped by the new King. Long live the King.

    Bobby got the engine swap completed pretty fast and the price, all things considered, was pretty reasonable too. Fire up day was a snap. Since the engine was a good running, well maintained one when wrecked, it was still in great shape and turned out to be a good runner in the little roadster. It fired right up and ran great. Since Bobby had taken his time and had also taken a lot of care, there was nothing left to do but drive it around the block. It did run a little warm, but a new radiator core we installed a few days later took care of that.

    Since the Chrysler was so darned wide across the heads, the hood sides were left off until he could figure something out. The hood top remained on.

    After working out what few bugs the roadster had, one of the first trips Bobby took in it was to his grandmothers house. He wanted to show her what he’d accomplished and she was interested in seeing it too. She’d been talking to her daughter, Bobby’s mom, and they were interested in how the whole thing would work out. Both of them being sweet and gentle ladies, somewhat unaware of horsepower/weight ratios, thought it was nice that Bobby was getting a modern engine for his old car.

    I rode over to grandma’s house with Bobby as I liked his grandmother and it was always nice to see her. The plan I had in mind was to simply wait at the curb until they came back.

    Since it was summer, the top had the back window unsnapped and was hung out of the way.
    Which made the rumble seat a viable option. I’d ridden back there a few times, although not with the Chrysler engine. Grandma got in the passenger seat and acted like any young woman about to embark on an adventure into the unknown. Not an older woman trying to act young, Bobby’s grandmother had a young outlook on life and was willing to try most any new thing. She figured since Bobby loved this old car, she wanted to see what it was all about.

    It wasn’t long until she got the message. Bobby, ever the careful driver, took care to simply cruise the roadster out of town and onto the quiet Coast Highway going north. Grandma made the fateful mistake though, of asking if the new engine was much faster than the old one.
    Bobby thought about that one for a while and asked her if she was sure she wanted to know.
    She smiled her sweet smile and nodded in the affirmative. By now, Bobby had let the roadster slow to around 20 mph and looked around for any potential problems. Seeing none, he slid the Packard trans into low and nailed the big Chrysler.

    Grandma got firmly pinned into the seat back and was hanging on gamely. Things got worse for her when the tires stopped spinning and Bobby grabbed second gear. That really shoved her back in the seat. Not to mention her hat came off and went sailing out the back window.
    Right by me, it happened too fast to even think about catching it. Around 70 or so, Bobby grabbed high and once the little roadster hit 85 he let off the gas. Grandma had lost her breath there, but when she got it back we heard her say, "Son of a Bitch". We were flat amazed, no one, to our knowledge had ever heard this kind and genteel lady cuss before. And we never heard her cuss again. Not even at times when you might have expected it.

    She was a lady through and through, but the hard accelerating little roadster had pretty much taken her by surprise.

    We turned around, drove back and found her hat on the side of the road. It was a bit dirty and stained, but she didn’t mind. She retired the hat to garden duty and that was it.

    She did tell her circle of friends at the golf course about it and it wasn’t long until a few inquired if they might have a ride in the roadster too. Bobby, ever the gentleman, took any of his grandmothers lady friends for a ride in the roadster if they so desired.

    We noticed more than a few of them started viewing their slow and sensible four door sedans with a critical eye after riding in the roadster. It wasn’t long until several of the ladies were driving European touring sedans and a couple showed up in new Corvettes. Both of them, bright red with the white insert. Not so much for the prestige factor, but for their good handling and performance in both the European sedans and the Corvettes.

    Course the Corvettes had the performance end of it covered quite well. To the extent that one of the Corvette owning grandmothers blew off more than one would-be hot rod. A bit of a surprise to the hot rod owners to be sure. As they put it, "who knew that an old lady could drive like that?"

    It wasn’t long before Bobby was giving Roadster rides to several of the young ladies in town.
    Many of them the daughters and granddaughters of the ladies at the golf course. Bobby liked dating them, but he never seemed to find the right one. I thought for a while, Bobby was perhaps doomed to be the consummate bachelor. A handsome devil he was, for sure and more than one young woman had lusted after him.

    I think Bobby just got interested in girls later in life than we did. The little Roadster had been his all-consuming interest for most of his life. And to a great extent, it still was. The rest of us had gotten interested in girls early on, but for most of us, the great problem was, the girls weren’t too interested in us.

    The little Roadster was a magnet of sorts for some of the young women, but only for a while.
    When it turned colder, all but one dropped out of the picture. The one who stayed, Bobby eventually married. Kind of funny how they met. Then again, maybe not so funny. Just one of those simple little things that happen while you’re cruising through life.

    Bud, one of the more outgoing and personable characters in our group had gone through grammar school, junior high school and high school with a young woman named Gail. They’d been friends for a long time, not the boy friend girl friend thing, just friends. Bud knew Gail’s family and especially liked her mom. Gail’s mom, a character in her own right, enjoyed crossing swords with most anyone who was willing. Especially so men, and even more so, young men.
    The crossing swords bit was more of a verbal fencing match than an argument. She was an intelligent, well informed lady and in most cases, matching wits with her would have you looking like the unarmed man. She was a liberated woman long before the term crept into the language.

    Bud enjoyed a good conversation with a witty opponent so much that we figured his going out to Gail’s house was just a simple pretext for visiting with her mom. Gail knew her mom enjoyed the visits with Bud, as well as the visits with other young men she brought home now and then, but Bud was about the only one who could, and did, stand his ground, make an even match out of it and enjoyed the verbal jousting as much as her mom did.

    Gail’s mom was home recuperating after a gall bladder operation and Bud wanted to go
    out for a visit. With his 47 Chevy coupe up on jackstands for new brakes, and waiting for the shoes to get back from the relining shop, he asked Bobby if he would run him out to Gail’s house.
    Bobby, always willing to do a favor for a friend was pleased to do so.

    The fifteen mile or so run up Prado Road and out on Canyon Road toward Via Lindero to Gail’s house went pretty quick. Bobby parked the roadster in the wide graveled driveway and they walked up to the door. Gail’s dad answered the door and motioned them in. Bud introduced Bobby to Gail’s dad and younger brother Tommy. With the formalities out of the way, Bud and Bobby went to the back of the house to see Gail’s mom.

    She was propped up in bed, in the back bedroom and acknowledged the introduction to Bobby - who was standing in the door - with a wave. Bud went into the bedroom to talk with her. From what Bobby could see, he wasn’t required in the conversation and wandered into the dining room and sat down at the table to talk with Tommy.

    Bobby had heard Gail’s name mentioned casually by Bud now and then and knew they were long time friends. Gail went to Via Lindero High School which explained why Bobby had never met her. Looked like he wouldn’t meet her either as she’d taken the family car into town earlier.
    To the library to study as Tommy put it. Although the look on his face indicated it was a likely story. Likely or not, Bobby figured it was probably the old sibling rivalry thing. Tommy was 12 and in his mind he was ready to start driving. Living out in the country seemed to wear on him a bit and you could tell he was ready for the freedom offered by a drivers license and a car. Even so, he still had a four year wait ahead of him. Sixteen was the minimum age for a regular drivers license in California.

    It wasn’t long until Tommy left the dining room after deciding Bobby wasn’t very interesting. Bobby, ever patient, was just marking time sitting alone in the dining room.

    It wasn’t long until he heard the crunching of tires on the gravel driveway and saw headlights light up the small garage across the patio from the house. He could only see enough to figure it was a gray & white 57 Ford hardtop, but couldn’t see who was driving. As it turned out, he didn’t have to wait very long to find out.

    The Ford rolled into the garage and the headlights went off. Bobby sat there listening intently and finally heard the engine shut down and the car door open. The next sound he heard was a big scream and then a crash. Along with the sound of a car door slamming. And then the sound of another car door slamming.

    By now Bobby was real interested. Especially so when he heard one more crash, this one louder than the first. He went for the dining room door that opened onto the brick patio between house and garage. He only had time to open it and step down the one step when a blonde haired girl in a white blouse and light colored skirt came out of the dark and ran headlong into him. When he tried to step back through the door, he tripped on the step and fell backwards into the dining room banging his head on the tile floor.

    The knock on the head put Bobby out for a few seconds. He came to in time to see the blonde, who had been lying on top of him, sit up, ending up straddled right across his stomach with a confused look on her face. About this time Gail’s dad and Tommy came boiling into the dining room to see what the heck was going on.
    What was going on was not much. Bobby was still dazed, but awake enough to see the good looking blonde who was still sitting on his stomach. Tommy said nothing. Her dad started to ask what was going on, when the blonde interrupted and said, "nothing was going on". She’d run into the young man lying on the floor because of her stupid little brother.

    Bobby figured this must be the Gail that Bud had mentioned so many times. He also figured, and rightly so, she was pretty well wound up and pretty darned mad. Bobby, by now, very much awake just took it all in. Gail was seething with anger at her little brother and told him he damn well knew she was afraid of spiders and had deliberately put his big glass pickle jar with the Tarantula in it on the bench next to where the car was parked, knowing she would see it.

    It was a perfect trap, when she swung out of the car and turned around she was eye to eye, so to speak with the fearsome looking spider. And promptly took a swing at it which knocked the jar to the cement floor where it broke. That was enough for her, in a panic and fearing the Tarantula was on the loose it was back into the car, slide across the seat, out the other door, crash into the paint shelf knocking several cans onto the floor and run for the house. Tommy, who we later learned could sometimes be a pain, took that moment to slide out of the dining room for parts unknown.

    After Gail’s little tirade slowed down, she looked down at Bobby with a shocked look on her face. About the time she realized where she was sitting, and being very much a lady, she blushed the brightest crimson Bobby’d ever seen. Bobby, ever the gentleman, said, "you must be Gail".

    Gail just nodded and got off Bobby. She stayed kneeling on the floor though and asked Bobby if he was alright. He said he was, but he still felt a little dizzy. That was enough for Gail, she’d knocked this good looking young man down and it was up to her to make it right. As far as Bobby was concerned, it was alright. He hadn’t seen such a good looking girl in a long while.
    Even though the meeting was sudden and a bit strange to say the least, Bobby was a gentleman and never mentioned it again. At least the part about Gail sitting on his stomach and forgetting where she was while she read the riot act to her brother.

    Gail went to the small couch at the back of the dining room to get a pillow, but by now Bobby was sitting up. Gail helped him over to the couch where he sat down for a bit. The knock on the head had been a little harder than he first thought and he still felt a little dizzy. Gail thought they ought to take Bobby to the hospital, but Bobby told her it wasn’t necessary and he’d be ok in a few minutes. They sat on the couch for a while, with Gail holding Bobby’s hand and rubbing his forehead. Gail’s dad, who by now had lost interest, motioned Bud back into the bedroom and wandered back to the front of the house. Gail’s little brother was nowhere to be seen.
    Tommy figured he was in enough hot water with Gail and being absent from the scene was a decidedly good idea.

    Gail realized Bobby was enjoying the hand holding and the rubbing of his forehead and hair and in truth she was enjoying it too. She didn’t stop though, she just kept on, looking into Bobby’s eyes all the while. Before long, she leaned over and kissed him. A small shock to them both. Ok with Bobby though, and a touch surprising to Gail.
    Gail sat back and told Bobby "I don’t know why I did that".
    Bobby told Gail "I’m glad you did".

    From the sudden and somewhat violent introduction to the soft and gentle kiss it had been the strangest few minutes of Bobby’s life. Something just clicked between them. Bobby fell for her, hard, and that’s not counting bashing his head against the floor. Gail in turn, fell for Bobby, but she was a little more circumspect about it. All in all, an interesting end to an interesting evening.

    After the dust settled a bit, Bud was trying to say goodnight to Gail’s mom and as happens so many times, it turned into one of those long conversations that occur when you’re standing in an open door on your way out. Sometimes that’s where the most interesting things are said.
    Good in a small way. It gave Bobby and Gail some time to themselves.

    After all the goodbyes, Gail walked Bobby and Bud out to the wide gravel driveway where the roadster was parked. Gail was fascinated by the car. Bobby, a bit of a no nonsense kind of guy asked her if she would like to go for a ride in it next Saturday. Gail told him she’d like that very much. An interesting start to what turned out to be a long term relationship.

    Bobby took Gail for the promised roadster ride. To say that Gail loved riding in the little car would be a bit of an understatement. We’d seen some of the local girls who seemed to like Bobby enjoy the roadster as well. But when the cooler weather came along, their excuses were many and varied. Far as I was concerned it was truly an indication of a fair weather friend. The roadster was ok as long as the warm summer days and nights were on, but when the weather cooled off so did they. I think Gail surprised a couple of the girls Bobby had dated. They figured she would be like the rest and eventually opt for a guy with a car that had at the least, a real roof and genuine roll up windows. With a heater being a decided plus.

    Not to be though. Gail loved the roadster and the cold weather didn’t slow her down a bit. The way she figured it, she had a knit cap, mittens, a warm jacket and she brought her own blanket along. She’d snuggle up next to Bobby, sharing the blanket with him and they went many places in many different kinds of weather and enjoyed it all.

    One of the girls Bobby had dated - I’d say old girl friend, but it never went that far - saw them come into the Frosty Shop in the roadster on a cold fall night and was heard to say "The girls from Via Lindero must be tough".

    Well, we weren’t so sure the girls from Via Lindero were tough, but it sure looked that way.
    We just figured they were smart.

    Bobby realized it was hard on the roadster to run in the rain and tough on him as well. Seems like no matter how he dressed, he’d still get wet driving to work in the rain. Besides, he didn’t like all the miles he was putting on the roadster just doing the driving to and from work. He enjoyed driving it, but didn’t want to run it into the ground. With that in mind he started looking for another car, or even a pickup. To Bobby’s mind, a pickup would be a good idea with all the car stuff he did and sometimes did for others.

    He ended up buying a 46 Chevy pickup from the local hardware store owner. The little truck, one of the seriously ugly ones, but as it is in many areas of life, ugliness is only in the eye of the beholder. These neat little trucks have a charm all their own. We were always Ford guys, so we were a bit prejudiced as far as the cars went. Engines though, another matter entirely. We liked the Olds engines, but we loved the big Chrysler Hemi’s. The make of car was not important to Bobby, he liked most cars and could see em for what they were.

    The truck was driven as it was, until the babbit bearing six let go. He swapped in a later model Chevy six, with a powerglide of all things, and just kept driving it. With a pair of the always favored Smithys, it had the great sounds of years past. Since the little truck didn’t have bumpers, front or rear, Bobby made some out of six inch channel. He made a sturdy lumber rack out of 1 x 2" rectangular tubing as well. When it needed paint, which it really did, even from day one of Bobby’s ownership, he painted it.

    Remember the disgusting pastel green six ball Bobby stuck on the Roadster shift lever?
    It’s still there, but it was removed for a short trip to the paint store where he had the guys mix him up a gallon to match.

    The paint job was a good one, Bobby always did good work, but the color was something else.
    Sorta looked like what Pistachio ice cream puked up might look. A crude description perhaps, but it fits well.

    02-06-2004, 07:53 PM

    Summer of 59 I got a little more serious about my 50 Ford Coupe. Bobby and I stuck a stock 53 Olds 303" engine in it, complete with hydramatic trans. Along with a Spicer station wagon rear axle out of a 53 Ford wagon that was a total bolt-in. Cool part about the 3.89 wagon rear end was the bigger 11" brakes, a distinct improvement over the stock 10 inchers orginally on there. The front brakes were an easy upgrade too, the 11" front brakes off the same donor car were a total bolt on. A set of Velvetouch sintered metal brake shoes and the little coupe hauled down from highway speeds pretty good.

    It was an easy swap. Hurst motor mounts and frame adapters used at the front. A home made transmission mount bolted to the transmission tail shaft bolts with longer bolts took care of the mount there. A little revamping of the 2nd-high shift arm on the stock Ford 3 speed column shift along with a re-bent Olds shift rod, made selecting the desired gear in the hydramatic easy.
    Easy at least, if you were used to it. I was, and the guys did ok. My girl friend didn’t like it too well though and was forever selecting the wrong gear.
    It wasn’t anywhere near fast, but it was no slouch either. For sure, all the stock and mildly built flatheads were easy pickin’s.

    The little coupe was a nice little car. I bought it in 1957 from a guy in Arroyo Verde who was leaving home for the Navy. A total stroke of luck that I found it. Bud and I were running around up there one day in his 47 Chevy coupe after body surfing a couple of the Arroyo Verde beaches and we saw it sitting in front of a body shop, dust covered, dead battery and all. A bit sad and forlorn looking, it looked just like what I was looking for. The body shop was glad to get it off their parking lot and the owner was glad to get out from under the body shop bill.

    Worked out great for me, I got a car with a freshly cherried body, although not much had been needed and the price was right. Getting it home was easy enough too. We hooked up a tow rope and pulled it out of the body shop onto a side street, dragged it a ways until the residual magnetism in the generator got enough voltage in the system to fire the engine. It ran rough for a minute or so and then it cleared out. A quick trip to the nearest gas station to air up the tires and fill up the tank and we were in business.

    02-06-2004, 07:57 PM
    The Black 40


    Bobby’s roadster was still running the big Chrysler engine. Same as it always was, it had never been rebuilt. No small wonder as it was virtually a new engine when it was removed from Bobby’s grandmothers wrecked car. In fact the heads and pan had never been removed.
    The engine had been improved with the addition of a Herbert roller cam, still ran the factory dual quads, a set of hand made headers, quite a bit of chrome and it was sheer pleasure to look at.
    No one, in my opinion has ever built a better looking engine. The mild build up made the little roadster the fastest car in town. Proven more than once in the occasional street race.

    Bobby didn’t race the roadster very often, and as it turned out, he didn’t have to. He’d only had to shut down a few contenders for the title. The latest challenger was a new in town, Olds powered, black primered, 40 Ford standard coupe that some considered the fastest car in town.

    Kinda funny how the 40 ended up labeled as the fastest car in town. I think it was a perceived notion as nobody seemed to know anything about any other cars he’d beat to get there, and in fact we’d not heard of any other races he’d been involved in. Granted, it was a bit of the "gunfighter thing", wherein a guy gets a reputation and never gets called out.

    It was easy to see how the 40 got it’s reputation, it was a fearsome sounding car. And pretty fearsome looking too. With it’s engine topped by six 2 bbl carbs, the exhaust dumping into a pair of hand built headers and then into big set of collectors along with a four speed trans it sure looked like it could do the job. With the big cam it ran, along with the headers and big collectors it had the sounds. Running a set of 8" slicks on the street all the time just added to the mystery.
    Nosed & decked, no front bumper, just a couple of small chrome plated nerf bars there and totally covered in black primer, it had the looks too.

    The whole car sat down low and had that good 40 Ford stance. Not extra low at both ends like a typical custom, but low in front and the rear sitting down a little lower than stock. The topper was a set of the single bar flipper hubcaps. These were popular with some of the older guys, but no one in our group ran them. We figured they were pretty much passe’. On the 40 though, they were just the right touch and set the car off well. It was a combination we’d not seen before.

    With the black interior, the inside of the car was almost invisible at night. Along with the good looks and the good sounds it carried an air of mystery too. It had a few custom touches as noted, but it carried itself more like a rod. Kinda hard to overlook the serious sounds coming from the built Olds engine. It was guaranteed to grab the ear of any half way serious rodder. It grabbed us for sure and we figured we were way past the half way serious stage.

    First time it rolled into the Frosty Shop, conversation came to a stop. I think for a lot of us, we felt like maybe this was the wolf and we were just a bunch of sheep. Bobby didn’t say much, he just listened to it pretty intently. It sounded - how shall I say it? It sounded "bad". Really "bad". The 40 looked fast just sitting still.

    I don’t know what it is about the 40 Ford coupes. They can look slick. They can look cute - as the girls put it although we’d never call a guys car cute. From the girls though, it was ok. They can look great, when simply stock and they can look mean. All it takes is the right color and the right stance. The little 40 had it in spades.

    When the 40 parked, Bobby got in the roadster, which was my signal to get in too, fired the big Chrysler and we rolled out of the Frosty Shop and headed for home. Not many noticed us leave as most had wandered over to check out the 40. The 40 owner though, he noticed. He watched us all the way across the parking lot, out the driveway and probably watched us go down Main street. He was listening too. It was apparent he had a practiced ear and he’d picked up on the good sounds of the big Chrysler. Bobby didn’t say much after we turned out on Main street and were headed home, but I could tell he was thinking about something.

    As time went by, and we hit the Saturday night hot rod hangout at the Frosty Shop, we started seeing the 40 coupe there fairly often. As well as hearing more and more stories about how fast the coupe was. After a while, we started asking some of the rumormongers: Just how fast? Who had he raced? And who had he beaten? The answer to the questions were, least with the guys we talked to, "I don’t know, it’s just what I heard."

    Which brought me and Bobby back to the gunfighter thing. Simply put - at least in the hot rod world, and only sometimes - you don’t have to race anybody, you just have to show up in the right car.

    As fate would have it, and maybe the constant questions by the other guys at the Frosty Shop gave it a boost, it was pretty much a given that a street race would get set up between Bobby’s roadster and the 40 coupe. No bets made and no money to change hands. Just the unwritten title for the fastest car in town. Like always, as had happened more than a few times in the past, a few side bets would probably be made.

    So it was with the 40 coupe, somewhere along the line, especially if you’ve been resting on your laurels, so to speak, somebody will call you out. I say the race was set up, but it wasn’t set up so much as it was acknowledged. Bobby and I were hanging out in the Frosty Shop on a warm Friday night when the black 40 came in.

    Bobby walked over and said to the owner, Vince, "Prado Road?".

    Vince nodded in the affirmative and that was all it took.

    Of course, none of this had gone unseen by the regular gang of hot rodders. It was easy to see something was up. Once they put together the little fact that the top on the Roadster was removed and Bobby had gone over to talk to the coupe owner for a very short time, it was apparent what was going on.

    One of the big problems in setting up a race at the Frosty Shop was that everybody there wanted to go along and watch. Unless you were careful and a little sneaky, when the competitors pulled out, a whole lot of other cars would pull out too. Before long, there was a caravan of cars headed out. Once the cops - an astute group anyway - saw the caravan of hot rods and the like headed out of town they’d simply join the caravan. Which put the kibosh on the whole thing.
    Which is pretty much what happened this time around. Although we didn’t get much of a caravan formed. Once the black primered 40 coupe pulled out, and with Bobby’s Roadster right behind, the cop parked across the street in the high school parking lot - where they could keep an eye on the Frosty Shop - fired up the cop car, hit the red lights while turning onto Main Street, killed the red lights and just dropped in behind the coupe and Roadster. There wasn’t even time for the guys who had been running for their cars to join in, let alone catch up and make up a caravan.

    The cop never stopped us and it was apparent he knew exactly what was going on.

    That was enough for us. The coupe turned for downtown, we were right behind and when we hit Santa Cruz street, we turned north, headed for home and gave it up for the night.

    The cops didn’t spend all their time parked across the street from the Frosty Shop. Just now and then, which was enough to keep us on our toes. It was a good place for them to take a break.
    The Frosty Shop had good burgers and even better coffee. For the cops, taking a break and showing the flag now and then by parking across the street was a two-fer for them.

    The rest of the night ended up being a quiet one from the cop’s viewpoint. Once the rest of the guys had started for their cars and once the cop car had pulled out they gave it up for the night as well. There was virtually no one left at the Frosty Shop.

    The way the Frosty Shop was built, you couldn’t see Main Street traffic from the parking lot out back until it passed right by the front driveway. It was on the S/W corner of Main Street and San Clemente Street facing Main. Main Street ran east/west and San Clemente ran north/south.
    Cool part was the alley paralleling main street dumped out on San Clemente street to the east or Catalina street one short block to the west.

    With Catalina one block west of the Frosty Shop and having a stoplight there, more than a few eastbound low to second gear passes as well as the occasional street race had been run off right by the Frosty Shop. A stunt generally perceived to be a dumb one. For several reasons. The biggest was the group of kids who usually hung out in the front of the Frosty Shop and the potential for disaster was considerable. Not to mention the cops parked across the street now and then. Especially so on Friday and Saturday nights. The cop cars parked in the high school parking lot were easily spotted from way down the street.

    Even so, more than a few would-be drag racers found themselves signing on the dotted line after blasting by the Frosty Shop when they thought they could get away with it. Some of them were surprised more than a few times. Even after figuring the coast was clear and thinking they’d been smart, looked ahead, decided there was a decided lack of a police presence at the high school parking lot and went for it.

    Bad enough to get a ticket. Getting one in front of your peer group was the last straw for more than a few. It was really embarrassing to get nailed for a dumb stunt. In most cases, the perpetrators getting the ticket ended up tagging themselves as idiots and just went home. It was too darned tough to hang out at the Frosty Shop after one of those.

    Like I said, the cops weren’t dumb, every now and then they’d just park the cruiser right in amongst the hot rods and hang out there for awhile. Most of them we got to know after a while and for the most part they were ok guys. One in particular was a bit of a hard case, but we learned to avoid him for the most part.

    The absolute very best pass that ever went by the Frosty Shop was done by one of the older guys who ran a very nice 57 Chevy half ton and usually hung out at the Merles Drive In further east on Main street. We’d seen him at the Frosty Shop now and then, just as he’d seen us when we stopped in at Merles for a late night soda.

    He’d put together a nice little dragster and had just gotten it running. Powered by an injected Chevy engine on gasoline. The car - very much like the 160 mph Chevy powered junior fuelers that were running right around 160 mph at the time - was probably capable of running 130-135 mph or so.

    The owner and his partner, along with another guy driving the pickup pulled into the Frosty Shop late one Saturday night, the little dragster tagging along on a trailer and the whole shooting match cruised through the parking lot and exited via the alley to the west. We later found out, they’d unloaded the dragster in the muffler shop parking lot at Catalina and Main. Deciding the coast was clear, they lit off the engine, idled around the corner on the green light headed east and nailed it.

    We could hear it coming and the ground fairly shook. It was a moment frozen in time as we all stood there and watched it go by. Not a soul moved. The driver let off the gas just about even with the Frosty Shop driveway, but there was no way he could make the corner into San Clemente street.

    The little dragster was probably clocking 60-70 mph on the 25 mph speed limit Main Street after running a little over a couple of hundred feet. It was a bit of history for sure. I don’t think anybody ever topped that one.

    He did get in reined in enough to make the right turn into the next street down and came idling back through the alley behind the gas station across San Clemente from the Frosty Shop and then turn south on San Clemente street. Once straight on San Clemente he nailed it for 30-40 feet and shut off.

    I don’t know who called em, but we could hear the sirens getting pretty close and it sounded like there were more than a couple of cop cars on the way. With it being near Midnight and the noise from the little dragster fairly shaking the ground, there must have been some more than interesting calls received at the police station.

    The dragster guys were pretty sure they could get away with it. They had a great plan laid out and it worked great. Right up to the critical point.

    The dragster owner and his partner figured after the history making pass they could just coast down San Clemente and into the open garage at the owners grandmothers house, shut the door and they’d be home free. All except for one thing.

    The guy they’d corralled to drive the pickup had probably drank more than a few beers. After the dragster was fired and pulling north out of the muffler shop parking lot onto Catalina, he started the pickup trailer combo up and turned south onto Catalina and went through alley behind the Frosty Shop. I don’t think anybody saw him as we’d already run out to the front of the Frosty Shop to see what the heck was going on.

    The big failing in the whole plan was the pickup driver. Instead of taking the trailer home, he parked the pickup in front of the owners grandmothers house keeping well short of the driveway. As fate would have it, he’d parked well short of the wrong driveway and the dragster trailer was blocking the proper driveway. The timing was well nigh perfect as the little dragster got down to the turnoff point just a few seconds before the cop cars hit the Frosty Shop.

    They were well and truly screwed as the last cop in, turned off Main Street going south on San Clemente and as soon as he’d seen the dragster sitting by the curb a ways out in front of the pickup trailer combo he knew exactly what had happened. It was only a few seconds before the other three cop cars were down there. Quite a few kids walked down the street, but after being threatened with a curfew arrest, they all came back. The town had a 10 O’clock curfew for kids, but the unwritten rule was as long as you were behaving the cops didn’t hassle you.

    The owner of the dragster was handcuffed and tossed into the back of the squad car as was the not too swift driver of the pickup. The owners partner, as guilty as the others just did the old blend into the crowd trick. After the guilty parties were hauled away and the local tow truck on scene the cops left. The crowd, for the most part had broken up, except for the few who wandered down to take a close look at the dragster now that the cops were gone. The tow truck driver was figuring out how he was going to tow the vehicles to the impound lot when the partner stepped up to help. He got a few of the guys to help push the dragster up on the trailer and get it tied down. The tow truck hooked up to the pickup and after making a comment that the guy helping him - the dragster owning partner - sure knew his way around race cars he pulled away with a strange smile on his face.

    We didn’t say a word.

    The Frosty Shop was a popular place. It wasn’t always the wannabee hot rod gang or even the occasional street racer who hung out there. It was a great gathering spot for most of the young people in town. Not to mention a great spot for seeing some pretty nice cars, both local and from out of town. Even when most of the hot rod group left for the evening, business didn’t slow down a bit. There were still a lot of kids there, many of them coming in on foot and more than a few in the family car. Not to mention the few kids who owned their own totally stock car.

    The stock car bit being one we never figured out. Guess they just viewed a car as another appliance and that was good enough for them. It didn’t make any difference. Getting to the Frosty Shop was the important thing. No one really cared how you got there.

    The race, not forgotten by us, and as it turned out, not forgotten by Vince either. It was still on. Just a question of when.

    The next Saturday night rolled around just like the calender said it would. Like most Saturday nights, Bobby and I were at the Frosty Shop. This time in my Olds powered 50 Ford coupe. The coupe, with the good running stock 303" Olds engine backed up with a stock hydramatic was a good runner and held it’s own most times. No matter, it didn’t stand a chance against the killer Olds powered 40 coupe.

    We were parked in the back of the Frosty Shop parking lot when the 40 coupe slid by heading east on Main. Vince spotted us standing next to Larry’s 50 Merc and just gave a very slight nod of his head. Bobby did the same. The cop, parked in his usual spot across the street in the high school parking lot watched the coupe roll by, but didn’t seem to think anything about it.

    We gave it a few minutes, Bobby and I got into my 50 coupe, fired it up and rolled down the side alley out of the Frosty Shop parking lot. Larry’s Merc was right behind. All of us, headed for Bobby’s house. It wasn’t far and dragging the Roadster out of the garage didn’t take too long. Larry volunteered to sit in the always breezy rumble seat. It wasn’t too bad. You could turn sideways and hunker down out of the wind pretty well if you had to. It wasn’t a big deal in spring or summer. Riding back there during some of the cold snaps that drifted in during our usually mild winters were a different matter entirely. We lived in a mild climate that was - most times anyway - perfect for owning a Roadster.

    We didn’t say much on the 10 mile ride out to Prado Road. It was one of those dark summer nights with a warm and soft wind flowing over the roadster. The big Chrysler engine just spun along, quiet and smooth, making conversation in the roadster easy. Even so, each of us, lost in our own thoughts, wasn’t saying much of anything. Just rolling along and listening to the good running Chrysler and the soft hum of the tires on the black pavement was enough.

    It wasn’t long until curvy and winding Canyon Road dropped us out at the Prado Road turnoff.
    Prado Road was a great place to race. About four miles long, it had an absolutely straight one mile run near the north end. The best part was it’s wide, smooth and well paved surface.
    Compliments of the state as it were. Prado Road was a connecting Road between Canyon Road and the Coast Highway at one end. Locals called it Canyon Road, but that was the old name and it was really a state highway. Just one of those great California two laners that wound through the canyons and orange groves.

    What made Prado Road really great was, there were no side roads and no homes for miles.
    Just a whole lot of orange orchards. In the spring - as it was when this little adventure took place - when the blossoms were on, you could smell Prado Road before you got there. Rolling through a blossoming orange grove on a warm spring night in an open roadster is an experience like no other.

    Sure enough, when we got there, the 40 coupe was parked just past the little bridge over the creek which was at the start of the straightaway heading south to the coast highway. You darned near couldn’t see the 40 until you were right on top of it. The first giveaway was when the chrome rear bumper came into view.

    Vince and his friend, James, were sitting on the bridge railing waiting for us. We parked and got out. Not much was said, Vince asked if it was ok to have James do the start. Fine with Bobby. Kind of hard to cheat when the starter was about a hundred feet down a dark Road and was using a flashlight to signal with.

    The start technique was simple. Keep the flashlight on until the cars were lined up. Once both drivers were ready, the flashlight went off which was the signal to bring the revs up. With the revs up, the flashlight went on and the race was on.

    It was a good, dead even start. I thought the 40 would get the jump on Bobby’s Roadster with the slicks he ran, but he spun the tires a bit on the start. Probably because he’d pulled out of the dirt directly onto the blacktop’s right lane and didn’t roll too far before stopping. Bobby spun the tires on the Roadster a little further than he usually did and got into a drift with the rear end swinging slightly out to the left. The Roadster tires weren’t slicks, just a pair of the softest compound 8.20 x 15's he could find. With the torquey Chrysler and the light weight of the Roadster, finding traction was always a problem.

    Both cars had the drivers feathering the throttle a bit until they started getting a bite in low gear and then it was full throttle and a hard shift to second for Bobby. The Roadster straightened out and started pulling hard. Kind of surprising to James, not so much to us, Bobby found long ago that the little Roadster did it’s best when short-shifted and let the torque do the work.
    Torque was one thing the big Chrysler had in spades,

    The 40 shifted into second gear right after Bobby did, but with the lower ratio of the 4 speed trans second gear as compared to second gear in Bobby’s Packard 3 speed, the 40 still had the tires spinning a touch and hung the rear end out for a bit. Nothing bad, just one of those subtle drifts you get into when there’s not much traction. The 40 finally started getting some bite about half way through second gear, but I think that was where the race was won for Bobby. Bobby had started pulling the coupe right after he hit second and with the coupe still spinning the tires in low and part way through second, Bobby’s little Roadster had a half length on him right there.

    Both guys stayed hard on the throttle and went all the way through the rest of the gears, but that was pretty much it for the coupe. He never did catch up and in fact was still losing ground when they shut down at the end of the quarter mile run. Bobby had beat him by two car lengths. A clear winner in our book, and as far as Vince and James went, a fair win for sure.

    For us, an exciting race and one in which we had a great view. Close up too. After the cars started we walked out onto the road and watched the race from the back. A pure sort of music for us, a small group of fervent gearheads if there ever was one. With the tires spinning, the engines pulling hard and the sweet sounds from the exhaust splitting the quiet night it was pure music.

    You could easily tell which car had shifted, and when, as the chirp from the slicks on the coupe and the tortured howl from the street tires on the roadster each time they changed gears was clearly heard.

    Bobby and Vince got slowed down ok, turned around and headed back to pick us up.

    The trip back to town was pretty quiet. For us, more than a few smiles. The little roadster had seen us through once again. It was a great little car and we all loved it.

    The cop sitting in the high school parking lot, same one as last night, did a bit of a double take when he saw Bobby’s Roadster, trailed by the 40 coupe, turn into the Frosty Shop driveway.
    He sat up straight and you could tell he was thinking something had gone on. Too late for him though. It was all over with.
    Vince as it turned out, was a more than nice guy although a pretty quiet one. He’d enjoyed his reign as Fastest Car in Town for as long as it lasted. As he later admitted, he’d raced and beat a few guys in the town he came from, but hadn’t really raced anybody here. He’d just let the other guys do the talking and pretty much kept his mouth shut. The other guys were just some locals who decided the 40 sounded real fast and looked real fast. And a friend of a friend knew that it was fast. Then, by gosh, it must be one heck of a fast car.

    It was fast too. Just not fast enough when the chips were down.

    We’d see Vince and the coupe in and out of the Frosty Shop now and then and sometimes just running around town. I think the loss to Bobby’s Roadster rankled him a bit. Even so, he never said anything about it. After a few months went by, we didn’t see the coupe at all.

    Now and then we saw Vince, usually as a passenger in James’ bright orange 58 Ford half ton.
    James’ pickup was a neat truck in it’s own right. It had a TJ tuck & roll interior in orange & white, a dropped front end, chrome wheels with baby moons and a McCulluch blown 272 Y-block that was no slouch in the acceleration department. Not a contender for the fastest car in town title even if he did surprise more than a few of the local Chevy trucks. As far as racing for top dog went, he was at a severe disadvantage running a truck that was considerably heavier than most of the fairly light coupes and especially so, the even lighter weight roadsters that were in town at the time.

    We’d heard through the grapevine that Vince’s 40 was down for a rebuild, and the word was it was really gonna be a fast one when done. The grapevine, dependable as always, at least it was in the hot rod game, was usually right.

    Rumor had it that Vince got hold of a 394" Olds engine out of a rolled 59. We heard too, that he’d taken more than one trip to CT automotive in North Hollywood. CT being one of Southern California’s premier speed shops as well as a race engine machine shop. Not to mention they turned out stroker cranks by the dozens. The way the stories went, Vince had bought the "whole shootin match" in the form of a 3/8" stroker crank and kit including some .030 over 11.5/1 pistons. Which knocked the already big 394 inch Olds out to 440 cubic inches.

    It sounded like Vince was going to take a serious stab at being the for-real fastest car in town.
    We were interested, as was Bobby. More to see how the 40 ran than about a race. If a race was going to happen, it would happen. We’d see then how fast the 40 coupe was.

    Vince didn’t say much about the 40 and James didn’t say much either. They were friendly enough, but kept to themselves. As it turned out, it made no difference.

    The 40 coupe came to a sad end. As did the life of the driver.

    Bobby, Larry and I, along with our dates were in Larry’s 50 Merc coming back from Arroyo Verde, the beach town to the north. A tourist oriented town for the most part, it had great restaurants, big movie theaters and was a great place to take a date on a Saturday night.

    Leaving Mikes Cafe’ a little after Midnight and running the Coast Highway through town, we turned north on Prado Road to take Bobby’s girl friend Gail home. Gail lived on a citrus ranch just off Canyon Road several miles up from the Prado Road intersection. Always a nice drive, it was to be quite different this night.
    When we got near the end of the long straightaway leading to Canyon Road we saw a long set of skid marks leading to the little bridge that was the start line for many of the Prado Road street races. Larry thought the skid marks looked fresh and you could see where the right side of whatever car it was went onto the shoulder. The Merc had been slowing down ever since Larry spotted the skid marks and slowing down was the normal thing to do anyway. Right after the bridge was a hard left turn and then a couple hundred yards up was the intersection with Canyon Road. When we got closer we could see where something had hit the right side bridge abutment of the concrete bridge. There was a lot of broken glass glittering in the light from the headlights. Looked too, like whatever hit the abutment had gone into the creek.

    Larry pulled the Merc up short of the bridge abutment and left the engine idling with the lights on. Larry, Bobby and I got out. The girls got out too. It was deathly quiet and all you could hear was the soft burble from the exhaust pipes and the quiet sounds coming from the little Merc’s stock flathead engine.

    There weren’t even the normal sounds you’d hear around a California creek on a warm summer night. It was so darned still and quiet that it was eerie. The girls were a bit spooked and truth to tell, they weren’t the only ones. We were a little spooked as well.

    Larry, Bobby and I walked up to the bridge abutment and could just barely see a glint of light reflecting off what we guessed to be a window from a car down in the creek. Shining Larry’s beat up flashlight down in the creek didn’t show us much more than the reflection we’d seen in the light from the headlights.

    Well ... a guys gotta do what a guys gotta do. Larry gave Bobby the flashlight and we started down the embankment toward what was more than likely a wrecked car. Larry stayed up on the Road with the girls. At least we thought he was with the girls. Susan, Larry’s long time girl friend and JoBeth, my somewhat on again, off again girl friend stayed up there.

    Gail though, she would have none of it. She was a bit of a fearless and headstrong girl and the little fact that she was in the middle of her schooling at a college for nurses, she figured she was probably the one who could help.

    Once we got to the bottom of the embankment and waded into the shallow stream we saw that it was Vince’s 40 Ford coupe. The main thing we recognized, besides the black primer, were the single bar flipper hubcaps. The grille was smashed flat, darned near up against the firewall. The 40, now facing south at the end of what probably had been a high speed run to the north. It was apparent the coupe hit the bridge abutment at a high rate of speed, switched ends and flew backwards into the creek. Hitting the far bank with the rear of the body, which was smashed almost as bad as the front. Then it slid down the dirt bank with the whole car ending up in a very shallow pond of water in a gravelly stream bed. The long skid marks we’d seen made it apparent the coupe was traveling at a very high speed when it struck the bridge. As well as the coupe was sitting nose down in the creek about a hundred feet from where it struck the bridge.It sailed a long way through the air after the initial impact.

    The coupe windshield was smashed on the drivers side. Approaching the coupe near the right front fender, or at least where the fender should have been, we could see through the passenger side of the windshield that somebody was still inside. Just sitting there, with a badly beaten and bloodied face, kind of laid back against the seat back and leaning over against the rolled up drivers side window. A really strange tableau and one I’ve never forgotten.

    Nothing was moving. The only sounds were the barely heard idling Merc engine and the quiet trickle of water running down the creek.

    We waded around to the drivers door, but it wouldn’t open. It didn’t look good from what we could see. We went back around to the passenger side and the door opened after a bit of yanking and pulling. Looking inside, Bobby and I found ourselves pretty much in shock finding Vince like that. We really didn’t know what to do next.

    That was the point where Gail took over, she climbed into the passenger side of the seat, leaned over and checked the drivers pulse. After a little bit, she slid back out. She’d found no pulse and Vince was dead. We didn’t think she’d find a pulse anyway, Vince had smashed into the windshield pretty hard and he didn’t look anything like he should have.

    Bobby and I were feeling a bit queasy by that time. I think Gail was too. Although she handled it a lot better than we did. Bobby and I both went downstream a little ways and threw up. It was short and quick, but it didn’t really make us feel any better. Gail was breathing in short little bursts, but she handled it ok.

    We climbed out of the creek, the three of us with soaking wet shoes and Gail with dirty skirt and a good cut on her knee where she’d slipped and banged into a rock. She was bleeding a bit, but it just didn’t make any difference to her. Sometimes, some things, just don’t matter.

    Larry got an old, but clean, car washing towel out of the trunk and JoBeth got it tied around her knee. Our little group, so full of life and fun, right up until we stumbled onto the 40 coupe with Vince inside was pretty quiet on the ride into town.

    Since Mike’s Cafe’ was one of the few places open late, and was open 24 hours in fact, we pulled in there to use the phone and call the cops. A cup of coffee sure wouldn’t hurt either.

    The girls got out of the car and started for the Cafe’. Bobby, Larry and I were a little ways behind. We weren’t in any rush to start making phone calls and the girls wanted to see if the Cafe’ had any bandages for Gail’s knee.

    When they got to the door, an oil patch worker came out and held the door open for them.
    The girls entered and then we heard a couple of short, high pitched screams from all three. The oil patch guy was standing there trying to figure out what went wrong.
    When we came through the door, it was dead quiet inside and the girls were just standing there. Looking down the aisle, we could see why they screamed. We kind of felt like screaming ourselves.

    There sat Vince and James, having a late night cup of coffee before heading home.

    Man, what a shock. We were sure we’d seen Vince sitting dead in the 40 out on Prado Road.

    The girls didn’t say a word, they just turned and headed for the ladies room. Leaving Vince and James sitting there wondering just what the hell was going on.

    Bobby went down to their booth, sat down and explained to Vince what we’d found and why the girls, as well as ourselves were upset. Vince, hearing about his 40 lying in the creek bed with a dead guy sitting inside was a bit upset too. He didn’t know whether to be mad or what. He did ok though, he just sat there, not saying anything. James was utterly quiet.

    Bobby got some change from the waitress and called the Highway Patrol on the Cafe’ pay phone.

    Vince told us he and James were going to head out to where the 40 was and asked whether we were coming along. For us, we’d seen about as much as we wanted to see, and didn’t really care to see it again.

    Vince and James climbed into James’ pickup and headed out. The girls came out of the ladies room after a bit. They had Gail’s knee bandaged up ok. Even so, it was still bleeding a bit, but Gail didn’t want to go and get stitches. She wasn’t afraid, she just didn’t want to take the time.
    Turned out to be one of those scars that last a lifetime.

    We had coffee and the girls called home, each in turn, explaining where they were and what was going on.

    By now, it was rolling over 3 o’clock in the morning and we left the Cafe’ to take the girls home. Susan and JoBeth got dropped off first as they lived in town. The four of us still had to travel Prado Road to take Gail home and we weren’t looking forward to it.

    The red lights from the one CHP and two County Sheriff’s cars, the yellow lights from the two wreckers on scene as well as the lights from the ambulance could be seen long before the turnoff.
    There was another CHP officer just down from the wreck and he stopped us. When we explained we were taking Gail home and had to turn up Canyon Road he let us through. With the admonition to drive slow. After what we’d seen, driving fast was the last thing on our minds.

    When we turned the corner up from the little bridge, we passed the ambulance as it started to pull out. Looking back, we could see the two wreckers had the coupe partway out of the creek and now that we could see a little more of it we saw that it was smashed even worse than we thought.

    We’d seen Vince and James sitting on the open tailgate of James’ pickup a little ways down from one of the parked sheriff’s cars. We waved at them when we went by, James waved back in a half-hearted kind of way, but Vince just sat there. He was pretty dazed by it all.

    No small wonder. Vince was like us in that he’d owned the 40 coupe pretty much right after he got his license. He’d spent a lot of effort and money in building it up. From what we could see, all of it gone due to the uncaring and stupid thief.

    It probably sounds we did a lot of street racing. Not really, the street races were few and far between. Even though it was a simpler and quieter time, along with the little fact that we had many quiet and deserted roads to choose from doesn’t make it right. We never hurt anybody, lost a car, or even scratched one street racing.

    I’m not counting the loss of Vince’s 40 coupe here. The 40 and the driver, came to an end for several reasons. The most prominent ones being inexperience and stupidity. Not to mention the dishonesty factor.

    The street races were few and far between, at least for us because most guys knew just how fast the little roadster was and didn’t care to go up against it. Especially so, after Bobby beat the black primered 40 Ford coupe. Not many challengers came along after that.

    Larry took Bobby and I back to Prado Road the following afternoon in his Merc. Entering Prado Road from Canyon Road on a quiet Sunday with virtually no traffic allowed us to drive the one mile straight at a slow pace while we tried to figure out what had happened.

    Since we were pretty much in - at least in the knowing about it department - on most of the street races that went on out there, we knew that no one had been racing out there for several weeks. At least nobody from our town. Every now and then we’d run into a couple of cars from Via Lindero doing the street race bit. Lindero was about 20 miles away and the next town up the line on Canyon Road going inland

    Sometimes we’d stay and watch, most times we’d leave right away. Just depended on the traffic and how many other cars were there. With our sort of stand out cars and even if we were doing something as innocent as just passing through, we figured it was a good place to stay away from. Just driving through the scene of a street race in a street race looking kinda car could get you strongly considered for a ticket. In fact, if you were a kid or young adult, especially if known to the local cops as being part of the local hot rod gang and stumbled onto a street race, more than likely you would get a ticket anyway. Even if you were driving dad’s plain old Buick.
    Discretion definitely being the better part of valor here.

    It was apparent something had gone on here. At the north end of the straightaway, just down from the bridge was a ferocious set of double tracks where somebody had really lit up some fairly wide tires in the right lane. There was a short break and then the double set of tracks set in again and went a long ways. We figured this was probably from Vince’s coupe as the four speed cars would burn all the way through first and second if they had the power. The marks we saw were way more than what was usually seen.
    The long skid marks from Vince’s coupe leading off the road and onto the shoulder going up to the bridge abutment were as fresh as they had been the night before.

    Next to the long burnout tracks was a more modest set of black stripes in the left lane that softly faded away indicating to us that the driver in that lane knew what he was doing. A ways out from the end of the first set of marks was a short stretch of rubber marks where second gear was hit. One more little short set of black marks where third gear was hit and that was about it for the left lane. Our guess here was, the left lane car was also a four speed.

    When we got to the south end we found another set of equally ferocious and fairly wide strong black tracks in the right lane, going north. Same pattern as the long and black set of tracks at the north end. In fact, these may have been worse. It didn’t take too much figuring for us to realize that a street race had gone down the night before. At least going south although the single set of burnout marks going north kind of threw us. There were no indications of a race going that way.

    It was a small mystery perhaps, but it loomed large in our minds and wasn’t answered for quite a while.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~

    End of part 1
  2. NoSurf
    Joined: Jul 26, 2002
    Posts: 4,148



    Godspeed Jay.
  3. hotrodladycrusr
    Joined: Sep 20, 2002
    Posts: 20,762


    You and I are thinking alike today. I just had to read a story of Jay's (Doofus and Whiney) and bring it back to the top for others to enjoy.
  4. You bet,I'm sure some have never took the time to read Jays storys.

    I read were Jay never intended to publish his storys but graciously allowed us to enjoy the wonderful storys.

    I have just re-read this one with damp eyes,,,HRP
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009

  5. scottybaccus
    Joined: Mar 13, 2006
    Posts: 4,109


    Up once more...

    Thanks Jay.
  6. WelderSeries
    Joined: Sep 20, 2007
    Posts: 765

    Alliance Vendor

    everyone have a look...
  7. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,369


  8. rbantique
    Joined: Jun 12, 2008
    Posts: 6,404

    from maine

    It's been a cold rainy morning here in Maine so I decided to fire up the stove and catch up on my list of stuff to read... I had printed out & read pt 1 two years ago...
    I reread it this AM and printed out pt 2 as it is still raining, the chair by the fire is comfortable, & Jay sure had a way of telling a tale..

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