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The Red Roadster - Part 2 reprised

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

  1. The Red Roadster - Part 2

    Life got back to normal after the loss of Vince’s coupe. At least it did for us. Vince was back to driving his dad’s 49 Chevy pickup. We thought until he could get enough cash scraped up to get another 40, but then we saw him driving his dropped in front, twin pipes, almost stock 40 coupe and things got confusing for a little bit. Turns out the wrecked 40 wasn’t the one we’d seen him in when he first came to town. Guess we lost track of that one somewhere along the line.

    Vince loved the 40's and figured maybe he’d build another one if he could find a suitable candidate. This time around with a few improvements. We figured that was a definite maybe. The 40 coupes were getting hard to find. Vince’s Olds powered 40 had been one well built car and we’d been most impressed with it. Not to mention the little fact that it went like the proverbial bat out of hell. All of which put it right up there near the front of our list of all-time most desired cars. We had several on our favorites list, the 40 coupes being one of the front runners for sure.

    Course, like any other hot rod guy we wouldn’t have balked at the usual suspects either. The Deuces, the 33's & 34's, 39 & 41 coupes, all Fords, as well as the occasional cut down Model T roadsters we’d seen running around. All of them were at the top of the list. I really liked my 50 Ford coupe and I liked Larry’s more than nice 50 Merc coupe just about as well. Even so, we still lusted after the cars recognized by most as traditional hot rods and we’d always accepted them as such.

    The Blue Coupe

    Times were changing. The good running 55-57 Chevy’s had been around for a while and were tough to beat. The recently introduced 409 powered Chevy was right up there with the front runners. At least as far as the drag racing end of it went.

    Even so, these cars with their good running engines and porky weight bodies were no match for Bobby’s Chrysler powered Deuce roadster. At least not on the street. It may have been a different story at the drag strip though. In the end, it didn’t really matter as the little roadster had never been run at the drag strip. Bobby had gone to the trouble to stick in a small 4 point roll bar and we did take the car to one of the dragstrips close to home. Trouble was, we weren’t up to snuff in a couple of areas, the car couldn’t pass tech and was not allowed to run. It was a small disappointment, but in the end, it made no difference. We ran our cars on the street, engaged in the occasional street race, and falling right square into the fat, dumb and happy category we figured we were doing ok.
    For the most part we were. Right up until the blue coupe rumbled into the Frosty Shop late on a Saturday night. The Frosty Shop was a great place to end a date. It was always a treat to grab a milkshake or root beer float at the end of the evening and see what was cooking as far as the hot rod scene went.

    We were just standing around, checking the action at the Frosty Shop after a Saturday night dinner and movie date with the girls. Triple date as the girls called it. Seems the six of us spent a lot of time together. The girls were with us, sitting in Larry’s Merc talking to one another. We were standing outside talking to Bud, who was parked next to us in his little 47 Chevy coupe. The girls, Gail, Susan and JoBeth liked hitting the Frosty Shop about as much as we did.

    When you got right down to it, it offered a little bit of something for everybody. From the jocks hanging out after the Friday night football games to the young married couples stopping by after an evening of tennis on the lighted courts at the high school to the always present hot rod gang as well as kids on foot who came in to see what was going on. Heck, even older couples came in now and then. No surprise there, good ice cream is good ice cream.

    The Frosty Shop put out a pretty fair burger and some great milkshakes, but the real taste treat were their Taquito’s. They sold em by the dozens. And more often than not, a dozen was just right for one guy. They weren’t real big as far as size went, but the flavor was something else.

    Bud’s 47 hadn’t changed much at all over the years he’d owned it. Pretty much stock, factory light blue paint, whitewalls, little hubcaps, lowered a touch in front, a set of duals and a great blue & white TJ tuck & roll interior and that was about it. Bud, an easy going and patient guy if there ever was one liked the car just like it was and didn’t really want to make any changes. Being a died in the wool owner of a stock engined, mostly stock car didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the street racing bit. He always liked to go along when he could. Bud liked the fast engines, but he’d come to the conclusion way earlier than we did that perhaps running a killer engine in an everyday car wasn’t the smart way to do it.

    Bud was like the rest of us. He dated pretty often and ended up double dating with us when he did, but for the most part he didn’t have a steady girl friend. Seems he made friends with the young ladies fairly easy and our girls thought he was nice and good looking and polite and had most of the qualities any sensible young lady would want and they just couldn’t figure out why he didn’t have a steady girl. It worked out well for Bud, seems the girls, our three girls at least, were always trying to fix him up with somebody. Bud, polite and gracious always went along with it and most times would date the newest young lady for a while and after a bit of time went by, it seemed they just drifted apart. It got to the point where Bud was darned near a full time project for the girls as far as finding him a potential mate went. For us, we just figured Bud hadn’t found the right girl yet. As it turned out, we’d hit that particular nail right on the head.

    We felt the presence of the blue coupe before we heard it. We started picking up on one of those deep rumbling bass sounds that you feel before you hear. For sure, something was coming.
    We weren’t the only ones to notice either. More than a few of the guys as well as several of the girls heard something coming and were, for the most part either looking down Main Street to the west or simply watching the driveway.

    A few seconds later we heard the distinctive sounds from a big engine with a really big cam dumping into a set of equally big collectors slow down for the Frosty Shop driveway. We couldn’t see it yet, but for sure somebody was driving a serious car with a really serious engine.

    We weren’t disappointed either. What turned into the driveway was the all-time baddest 50 Chevy coupe we’d ever seen. It looked like something right out of the pages of Drag News. It was the standard 50 Chevy dark blue, almost a metallic color, with a few primer spots here and there. It ran a straight axle with parallel leaf springs as well as a pair of what must have been four or five inch wide slot mags on the front with equally skinny front tires. In back, a matching pair of fairly wide slot mags shod with the popular at the time - at least with the dragster guys - Bruce slicks. An all out drag racing slick for sure. The coupe was jacked up a bit too.

    Not sky high like so many did when emulating the "gasser" look of the early 60's, but more like some of the early jacked up a touch full-on competition cars were. Enough to get it up a little higher than stock, but not so far as to go crazy. It was apparent this was no road racer, but it probably handled ok on the corners all things considered. With it’s louvered hood and louvered deck lid along with the no-bumper front end - just a pair of little chrome plated vertical nerf bars there - and what looked to be a 2 ½" diameter, chrome plated, "gasser" style rear bumper with the ever-present screw on caps, along with the clear plexiglass side windows the Chevy looked, as well as sounded the part.

    It was easy to spot the Olds rear end underneath and once it idled the length of the short Frosty Shop parking lot, we decided it was running a least a 4.57 diff. A touch low for the street to be sure.

    We were all pretty much taken by the car as we’d seen nothing like it on the street and only seen a few late models set up that way at the San Fernando drag strip. Once he parked, a small crowd gathered to look the car over. Surprisingly, Bud wandered over. Kind of a new one on us. Bud liked cars and especially liked fast cars, but he, like us, generally didn’t go out of his way to wander over to look at one when it first came in. Kind of a guy thing. I’m sure you understand.

    Bobby, Larry and I had been looking at the car so intently, we’d failed to notice the occupants and in fact, hadn’t really looked at them until Gail remarked that the girl in the car was quite striking and very beautiful. She was quite beautiful, a little nicety we’d totally missed, but one that had not slid by Bud.

    Both the driver, a blond guy about 20, and the girl, a blonde about 19, were fit, tan, and with their light colored hair, they looked like any other California kid who’d just walked off a California beach.

    Once the crowd thinned a bit, we walked over to join Bud and got a small shock. The driver, who by now was out of the car and talking to Bud was speaking with an Italian accent. Kinda threw us for a minute. The hot rod coupe and the accent was just one of those things that didn’t seem to go together. Bobby and I, both of us being fairly quiet guys, didn’t say much. Not so, good old Larry, an extrovert if there ever was one. First question out of his mouth was to ask why such a blond guy would be speaking with an Italian accent. The driver, who’d introduced himself as Roberto smiled and nodded his head. The girl in the coupe smiled softly and didn’t say a word. Roberto explained he was from the north part of Italy and had only been in the states for the last five years. The north part of Italy didn’t mean much to us until Roberto explained that a great many of the Northern Italian people had blond hair. Along with the little fact that his maternal grandparents were Austrian.

    Looking at Roberto’s coupe was a pleasure. There were no secrets with it either. With the inner fender panels missing, the engine was quickly identified as the fairly new 409 with it’s dual quad intake and oddly shaped rocker covers. It would be difficult to mistake the 409 for any other engine.

    Bobby asked Roberto how in the heck he’d got hold of a 409 when the only way to get one seemed to be, buy the car that it came in. The answer was simple, and in several ways, typical of many of the hot rod parts we ended up with.

    Roberto’s older brother, Francisco - although Roberto called him Frankie - was headed out for the golf course one Sunday when Roberto decided to tag along. Ok with big brother, but Roberto would have to pull his own weight by doing the caddy bit. Roberto, didn’t really like playing the game, but he enjoyed spending the day at the golf course as well as spending time with Frankie. As it turned out, this was a most fortunate day indeed. The golf course starter had paired Frankie and his friend with a couple of guys from Corona, California, a small town south of San Bernardino. Turns out they worked at the Corona Chevy dealer and one was the service manager. Somewhere along the line, Frankie and the service manager had got to talking and as guys are wont to do, traded information on what they did for a living and where they worked.
    For some reason - Roberto never did figure out why - the service manager let slide the information that they’d just replaced, under warranty, one of the new 409 engines that had spun a main bearing. He thought it was kind of funny that one of the performance engines let go with less than a thousand miles on it.

    Course, once he mentioned those magic words of 409, Roberto was all ears. Turns out the engine, a long block with pan, timing cover, rocker covers and lacking only a distributor, intake and exhaust manifolds was sitting in the GM salvage pile and available for a modest price. The service manager figured $200. ought to do it. Roberto told him he’d be down in Corona first thing in the morning to take a look at it.

    Roberto was fortunate he worked in the family machine shop in Lindero and could take a day off on short notice. Provided he worked Saturday to make up for it. Roberto enjoyed the peace and quiet of the closed down shop so giving up a Saturday was no big deal.

    He made the trip down to Corona, arriving before the Chevy dealer opened. The engine was exactly as the service manager told him and the deal was done. Roberto loaded the engine into the shop pickup, headed back for Lindero and got there before the lunch break. All in all a good day and it was only starting.

    We could see Bobby eying the Chevy coupe and doing some deep thinking. Kind of taking the measure of the car so to speak. To be sure, it was an impressive car. It was a standout and it appeared to be very fast.

    Bud was standing there too. Not saying anything though. He was just listening and stealing glances at the beautiful young woman inside the Chevy coupe. Roberto didn’t seem to notice Buds surreptitious glances, but we did. The girls were watching Bud as much as they were watching Roberto and the girl in the car. They just sat back in the Merc and took it all in. You could see exactly what was on their minds. It reminded me of Mrs. Murphy and her great pleasure at playing matchmaker. Especially so when one of her matches worked out, the couple got married and started out with a good life. Things like that were what Mrs. Murphy lived for.

    Sometimes it seemed like the girls had been taught the matchmaking bit by Mrs. Murphy, but probably not. For all I knew, not much teaching was required and it’s just something that comes natural to the ladies. They seem to excel in the matchmaking department anyway.

    Bud, totally intrigued by the young woman in Roberto’s coupe, would not push it. Bud had a great respect for other people, their possessions and their relationships. He’d be the last one in the world to move in on another guys girl. Roberto hadn’t noticed Buds glances, but the girl in the coupe did and politely smiled back. Which we figured pretty much made Buds day. It wasn’t every day a pretty girl smiled at you. Since she was a stranger, it just made her soft smile all the sweeter.

    In the next few weeks we saw Roberto drift in and out of the Frosty Shop most every Saturday night. Each time accompanied by the beautiful young woman. As we got to know Roberto a little better, he’d tell us a little more about the 409 as well as about himself.

    Interesting part about Roberto and it may have been due to his Italian background and his tendency to be very open with people, he held no secrets back. At least none we were ever aware of as far as the coupe went. As he put it, with a car that looked and sounded like his, there was not much hope of disguising anything or getting any concessions for a street race, so he just told it like it was. The coupe would never be mistaken for a sleeper.

    After he brought the engine back, they tore it down and found all the bores but one in fairly good shape. That one had gotten some water in it due to being stored outside in the weather.
    Digging a little further it was easy to see #2 main had spun a bearing. Caused by an insert that had the oil ingress hole mostly blocked due to a bad mismatch with the block oil hole.
    The block wasn’t really damaged as the crankshaft had taken the brunt of the damage. It was scored too far to just turn it and install undersized bearings. Roberto’s brother Frankie, no stranger to hot rod engines because he did most of the machine work on the few that were built in Lindero, told Roberto he ought to take the crank into CT in North Hollywood, get it welded by one of the guys who welded up the stroker cranks and bring it back so Frankie could turn it back to standard.

    Which is what Roberto did. Well, mostly what he did. Once he got there and explained the problem, the CT counter guy mentioned that here was an opportunity to build a half inch stroker motor with some serious displacement. Roberto thought so too. He’d already saved up a pretty good chunk of money to build the Chevy coupe and was about ready to buy a junkyard 327 and go that route until the 409 showed up.

    CT knocked out a half inch stroker, repaired the damaged main bearing journal as well as supplied a set of rods and 11/1 pistons along with a full set of rings and bearings. Frankie bored the 409 block .060 over. That combined with the half inch stroker gave Roberto a 480 cubic inch 409. As far as we were concerned it was a massive motor. Nothing at all like the 303" Olds I was running and for sure not like Bobby’s 354" Chrysler. As Larry put it, it was a torque-monster. Roberto agreed that it was. He did run a low geared diff in the car, a set of 4.33's and not the 4.57's we suspected, but they were very low for the street as well as being lower than most street/strip cars used.

    As Roberto put it, now he had an engine, but still had to get the rest of the pieces. The four speed, a T-10 with Hurst shifter from a wrecked Corvette. A distributor from a wrecked 348 powered 58 Impala. Bellhousing and dual quad intake were easy. Those were ordered directly from the downtown Chevy dealer. The dual four barrel carbs were a pair of AFB’s originally installed on the 425" Buick Wildcat as a single carb.

    Roberto found the first carb the first time out, but it took a couple of months and more than a few trips to several of the county junkyards to find the second one. Seemed like everybody wanted the Wildcat carb because it was larger than the standard factory issue 409 dual quad carb. The difficulty in obtaining the second carb was no surprise to anybody who ever built a car. Some days, you win one, some days you don’t.

    A Schiefer aluminum flywheel and Weber clutch rounded out the driveline as did the swapped in and stock width Olds rear end. Roberto ordered the deepest backspace he could get when he bought the slot mags for the rear. Even so, the 9" wide slicks, about as wide as you’d find on a streetable car, whether on the street or at the strip still stuck out a bit.

    Sounds kind of crazy running slicks on the street. One rainstorm or one puddle claimed many a hot rod running slicks. For a while there, it was the accepted thing to do. At least until some of the so-called cheater slicks came on the market. At least these things had a semblance of tread on them and the car wouldn’t go out from under you at the slightest hint of moisture.

    The little blue coupe was dragstrip legal, but had never been on one. Roberto liked to bomb around town with it and engage in the occasional street race. Ending up the winner in each case so far. Roberto, pretty much like Bobby did first time we saw Roberto’s coupe, gave Bobby’s roadster a good close look first time he saw it. It was apparent to us, even though there was no talk of a race, it looked like there would be on somewhere along the line. When, we didn’t know. Neither one of them had said a word, but you could tell they were thinking about it.
    Roberto’s little blue coupe had cleaned the clocks of the top street runners in Lindero and taking a win over our towns fastest car would be a feather in his cap for sure. The fastest car in two towns, and maybe even the fastest car in the county was a title not to be sneezed at.

    Roberto noticed Bud’s interest in the young woman who always accompanied him on his forays into our little beach town. He never said anything though. If nothing else, Roberto was more than polite. The young woman? She never said anything, she just smiled her soft sweet smile. Seemed she was more than content just to be with Roberto.

    It all came to a head late one Saturday night when Bobby, Larry and I had taken the girls out for dinner and a movie and Bud had tagged along mainly because the girls insisted he do so. They were great girls, that’s for sure, and Bud was more than pleased as he’d been dateless for many a Saturday night in the last few months. Nobody’s fault but his own and he was the first to admit it.
    Bud didn’t mention it, but we all knew, in his heart he longed to meet Roberto’s girl friend, but Bud was a good guy and true to his values he wouldn’t interfere where he didn’t belong.

    Ending up at the Frosty Shop once again, the three girls were sitting in Larry’s Merc and my 50 Ford coupe was sitting alongside totally empty. I don’t know why, but we seemed to use Larry’s Merc for most of our double dates and the triple dates, although this night we’d ended up taking both cars for the seven of us. Like always, the guys ended up at Roberto’s coupe talking cars and important guy stuff and the girls ended up once again in Larry’s Merc talking about equally important girl stuff.

    Once again, it took our fearless and headstrong Gail to get the ball rolling. She’d decided enough was enough. She got out of the Merc and marched resolutely over to Roberto’s Chevy coupe and told him it was time he introduced his girl friend to the rest of us. Emphasizing that his girl friend couldn’t spend the evening just sitting in his coupe. Roberto’s reaction was not at all what we expected. His face broke out in a broad smile and he started laughing. For our Miss Gail, that was a bit much and she just stood there with her arms folded and tapping her saddle shoe clad foot on the pavement. Now Gail, or Miss Gail as we liked to call her for fun, had a pretty calm demeanor, but she was one of those girls you didn’t want to get mad. Especially if she got mad at you. We’d only seen it happen a few times, but when it did, we were sure glad we were not on the receiving end. She wasn’t loud, but there was no mistaking the little fact when she reached the limit where her temper could no longer be held in check.

    Roberto, no dummy, soon noticed the serious expression on Gail’s face. As well as the toe still tapping on the pavement. He apologized for laughing, but he still had a broad smile on his face.
    Gail was still standing there and we wondered what would happen next.

    Roberto started to explain and then he started laughing again. Now our Miss Gail was starting to get really mad. Bobby walked over to where he could intervene if necessary, but Roberto held up his hand and motioned him to stop. Once again Roberto apologized and once again he still had the smile on his face. This time though, no laughing. Roberto told Gail that the whole deal about the young woman in his coupe being his girl friend was just too much. Especially since the alleged girl friend was his sister. A stunning bit of news for all of us. We just figured that Roberto coming from a country with a culture differing from ours and perhaps operating a little differently where affairs of the heart were concerned, we’d pretty much decided, both en masse and individually that she was off limits.

    Now it was Gail’s turn to react. She handled it well. Without batting an eye and with her soft and sweet smile she asked Roberto if the young lady in question would like to get out of the car and meet us all and especially if she would like to meet the other two girls. The answer, a simple and quiet yes. For the young woman in the coupe, a touch of bewilderment, but as Roberto explained to her in rapid fire Italian and she caught the gist of the story she put her hand over her mouth and smiled broadly. I think she giggled a little too.

    By now, Susan and JoBeth, no longer able to contain their curiosity got out of the Merc and walked over to where Gail was. The young woman slid across the seat, got out on the drivers side and Roberto introduced his sister Victoria to all of us individually. Roberto was a gentleman from the old school for sure, he had something interesting to say about all of us. Saving Bud for last, he made an especially long introduction with part of it in Italian and we didn’t have a clue what was said there. It must have been ok, because Victoria was smiling politely at Bud and seemed most pleased to have met him.

    With the introductions over, Gail, Susan and JoBeth took Victoria back to the Merc where they all climbed in and were soon engaged in girl talk. About what, we weren’t sure, but we had our suspicions. No doubt it concerned Bud and Victoria.

    For us guys, me, Bobby and Bud anyway, a small touch of confusion. But only for a little while. It wasn’t long until we were back on the car thing again. It was our all encompassing interest and as far as we were concerned our main reason for being.

    Roberto finally asked Bobby if he wanted to race. No jockeying for position, no advantage requested, just a simple and straight heads up drag race. Bobby was of a like mind and nodded his head in the affirmative. The girls knew what was up, they’d been there before. They didn’t like it much either, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. It was just one of those things we did and even though they didn’t directly go along with it, they tolerated what they called our moments of stupidity. Or, to be more exact and quoting them exactly, "you guys are stupid." The girls, not bashful and a bunch of straight shooters anyway, didn’t mince words about how they felt. They knew we’d do it anyway, so why fight it. We knew we’d do it too and figured we could live with the stupidity label.

    The girls decided they’d go to Mike’s Cafe’ and have coffee until we were finished with our foolish little game. Gail got the keys to the Merc from Larry so she could drive the four of them down to the cafe’. Granted, Susan was Larry’s girl friend, but she didn’t like driving a stick shift. Gail, one of those girls who could drive anything had no problems in driving the Merc, and in fact liked it much better than my 50 Ford coupe with it’s unmarked shifter. The shifter being a simple connection between the 2nd-high shift arm on the stock Ford column and the Olds hydramatic trans. It worked ok if you were familiar with it as I was, but for someone new to the car it could be troublesome.

    We needed a 3rd car anyway as Roberto’s Chevy coupe only had a front seat and Bobby’s roadster got crowded with three in front. The roadster had a rumble seat, but when it was cool out, like it was this evening, we weren’t overly wild about highway travel back there.

    The girls pulled out of the Frosty Shop driveway in the Merc, Roberto was right behind in the Chevy coupe and four of us in my 50 Ford coupe took off down the alley. It worked well, no one seemed to have put it together and since it was getting late anyway, they probably figured we were headed home.

    We ran the 50 over to Bobby’s house and dragged the roadster out. Good thing his folks were sound sleepers. Seems like we’d hauled the roadster out of the garage on many a late night so we could engage in a street race, or at the very least just bomb around town in it. Bud and Larry stayed in the 50 with me and we left Bobby’s house about five minutes before he did. Keeping in mind that a two car caravan of hot rods always attracted unwanted attention from the cops. Especially when we were headed out of town.

    We headed west and got on Canyon Road headed back to the east a couple of miles out of town. Bobby planned to do the same thing. After running the old and familiar ten mile run, we hit the Prado Road intersection, turned off and after crossing the bridge we spotted the chrome plated "gasser" bumper on Roberto’s coupe.

    It was another one of those more than dark nights, quiet and with the sky just full of stars.
    The whole scene eerily reminiscent of the race with Vince’s 40 coupe a couple of months back.
    We parked the 50 behind Roberto’s coupe which was sitting on the shoulder of the road a couple hundred yards down from the bridge, got out and just stood around, not saying much at all. Pretty soon we could hear Bobby’s roadster running up Canyon Road, slowing for the turn onto Prado Road and once he got near the bridge, the headlights from the little Deuce hove into view.
    Bobby pulled up in the left lane and stopped. If anyone came along, we were far enough down that we could easily get out of the way.

    The only sounds were the slightly radical idle of the Herbert cam equipped Chrysler and the aggressive exhaust note coming out of the tailpipes. A pleasant sound to any car guy and one we never grew tired of. Accentuated for sure by the quiet surroundings.

    Roberto fired up his coupe. What a mean sounding SOB. With the collectors still capped and the exhaust dumping through a pair of big round truck mufflers, it was still noisy. The noise factor probably increased by our guilty consciences.

    Bobby sat there in the roadster, the big Chrysler softly idling with the great sound that it made. Roberto pulled into the right lane, backed up a ways and came forward with a very short burnout which cleaned off any dust he’d dragged up off the shoulder of the road. It was apparent Roberto really knew what he was doing and there would be no mistakes made as Vince had done when he left the tires of the 40 coupe covered with dust after pulling onto the road.

    Larry was down the road with the flashlight and after Bobby and Roberto spun up the engines and blipped the throttles to clean em out, both drivers indicated they were ready. Larry turned the flashlight out and both cars ran the revs up to where they liked em for the start. When the flashlight came on, Bobby and Roberto dropped the clutch at just about the same time making for an equal start with both cars.
    They lunged off the line together and we figured we’d see a replay of Bobby short shifting the Chrysler and getting a jump there. Both guys short shifted to second so they could get some traction. When Bobby hit second, the Packard three speed trans came unglued and tossed gears, pieces of the case, oil and small parts all over the pavement. Roberto’s car lunged ahead in second and was about ready for the third gear shift when he noticed Bobby’s car was way behind. Seeing that, he got off the throttle, slowed down and hung a u-turn.

    I think Roberto was more disappointed than Bobby was. We were too, it would have been a good race. Figuring we could handle getting the roadster towed home we told Roberto to head for Mikes Cafe’, so he could pick up his sister Victoria and tell the girls we’d be awhile. It was easy to see that Bud wanted to ride back with Roberto, so we told him to go ahead. With three of us, we could handle towing the roadster back with the 50. Bud though, an always faithful friend and one you could depend on decided to stay with us.

    As it turned out, we were glad to have him. We ended up having to turn the roadster around by hand and to top it off, it wouldn’t hardly roll. With most of the transmission lying on the road, the tailshaft was still binding on something. We ended up having to pull the driveshaft just to get the roadster to roll easy. With four of us, it went fast. Larry and I got the 50 turned around and hooked up the tow rope to the two little nerf bars in front while Bud and Bobby pulled the driveshaft. While we were waiting for them to finish, Larry and I kicked all the broken parts off the road and using a coffee can for a shovel we covered most of the oil with some dirt.

    Kind of a small paradox there. Even though taking part in a totally illegal street race, we were doing our part in being good citizens. Go figure.

    The Packard trans let go for the usual reason the Packard transmissions let go. Namely, strong gears and weak case. Seems like the Packard transmissions would eventually break in a car with some horsepower. We towed the roadster back to Bobby’s house, parked it in the garage, cleaned up and headed for Mikes Cafe’.

    It was a little after two in the morning when we got there and found the girls gone. Millie, the night waitress told us Roberto picked up Victoria a little after Midnight and the girls had run out of patience around one o’clock and left. With the mention that Larry’s Merc would be at Gail’s house. Made sense to us, the girls had no problem in figuring things out. Although I think they had us figured out a little too well. They were probably ticked off at us a bit, but we figured they’d get over it. We hoped so anyway, we didn’t have a whole lot of choice at the moment.

    As it turned out, they were ticked off at us way more than a bit. We found that little bit out when we saw them the next day. Gail was mad at Bobby and told him she’d had just about enough of the street racing bit. The hot rods were ok with her, she just didn’t like Bobby involved in illegal races and she didn’t want him exposed to the dangers involved. She left it up to him whether he wanted to continue as it had been or to clean up his act as she put it. Susan didn’t like it either and didn’t want Larry involved in street racing. She didn’t issue an ultimatum as Gail had done, but the message was clear.
    As for me, JoBeth didn’t issue any ultimatums at all. We’d had a bit of an on again, off again relationship and this time she was through for good. A bit of a surprise to me, I thought I’d been doing well. Apparently what I was doing was not paying attention. I guess she’d been thinking about going her own way for a while anyhow and this was simply the last straw. When I thought about it, not too big a surprise after all. Live and learn they say. Well -- I was learning, but sometimes not fast enough.

    That made life interesting for a while. Now I was in Bud’s shoes. And well worn shoes they were as far as the dateless bit went. Bud started seeing Victoria, or as she preferred to be called; Vicky. It looked like it was going to be a long term relationship. It looked like Vicky had been talking to her brother Roberto about the street racing and it appeared he was about ready to quit doing it too. Probably about time for all of us to quit. Some of us were on the verge of marriage, some were starting careers and all of us were realizing what a dangerous endeavor it could be.
    Part of growing up from what I could see. At least it wasn’t like some of the unfortunate souls who’d gotten involved in wrecks and hurt someone or worse. I’d hate to have that on my conscience for the rest of my life. We were good kids, just a bit misguided at times. Although the word "misguided" doesn’t really fit here. The misguiding we’d done all by ourselves.

    Roberto still came into the Frosty Shop, but now he was driving the shop truck from the family machine shop. Courtesy of his generous brother Frankie. Frankie was the one who usually took the pickup home, but figured he could do without it for a while until Roberto got a car that was a little more streetable than the killer Chevy coupe. The shop truck was a nice little 56 Chevy pickup, white in color, running the stock small block that came in it, and sitting at stock height. The only big changes being a set of chrome plated stacks at each corner of the cab, running blackwalls and a set of chrome wheels with baby moons. Along with a simple and well done hand painted sign on the doors that said, "Marrone Bros. Machine Shop." The Marrone brothers being Roberto’s dad and uncle.

    Roberto really liked the shop truck and ended up talking his dad, uncle and brother into selling it to him and they could get a new shop truck. Pretty much ok with Frankie as he’d been eying the new Chevy pickups anyway. Ok with dad and uncle too. It was an arrangement that worked well for Roberto. He still had his dragstrip legal 50 Chevy coupe. The coupe was originally built for the dragstrip, but ended up being so much fun on the street that he drove it there and had yet to take it to the races.

    It didn’t take much thinking for Roberto to see that all that was required to hit the drags, the real drags, the legal ones, was a tow bar, light bar and a set of stock rear wheels and tires for towing. The closest dragstrip, San Fernando, was only 55 miles from Via Lindero and 75 miles from our little beach town. Which kinda makes you wonder why we ended up doing the street racing bit. We lived in a 75 mile radius of three dragstrip’s. Another one of those go figure things we all wondered about from time to time.

    Gail soon forgave Bobby. All it took was his promise of no more street racing. Susan and Larry didn’t have much of a disagreement over the whole thing. I guess from Susan’s point of view it wasn’t as dangerous watching as it was driving. Bud and Vicky never did have a disagreement over it. It was enough for Vicky that she got her brother to quit.

    As for me, I was still without a girl friend and had been ever since JoBeth and I parted ways. I was thinking about things though. Namely, how could I build the little Olds powered 50 Ford coupe into a viable drag car. Looked to me like about six months of heavy duty saving and scrounging could get the 50 built up to the point where I could race it successfully in C/Gas. All the while hoping it would still be streetable enough to drive for a while until I could get a pickup or stock car for towing. I was aiming at having a fast little car that could have some success in C/Gas or more than likely in the new C/MP class. The MP standing for Modified Production.

    Modified Production was similar to what the gas classes started out to be. As time went on, with the 10% engine setbacks allowed in the gas classes as well as other race oriented things, the gas classes got too radical to have a car that could double as a race car on weekends and drive to work on weekdays. At least as far as having a competitive car went.

    Time slid by and we got to know Roberto a little better. By now, he was spending most of his weekend time in our town, bringing Vicky along as a favor to Bud and occasionally dating local girls.

    The girls - our girls that is - were still in the matchmaking business although now it was Gail, Susan and Vicky. JoBeth was still friendly with the girls, but now she spent most of her time with her new boy friend. A nice enough guy, but we figured he was boring because he drove a stock car and didn’t seem to do much of anything interesting.

    The girls matchmaking, now aimed at Roberto instead of Bud, although now and then they’d try to get me to go out with one of their - as they felt - eminently eligible girl friends. The girls had nice friends, no doubt about that, but I just wasn’t interested.

    Bud was walking on cloud nine now that he was a steady item with Vicky. He deserved it too. Bud was a nice guy and deserved a nice girl friend. With Bobby, Larry and Bud now doing the triple date thing, once again in Larry’s dependable Merc, Roberto and I ended up spending a lot of time together. Since we were hot rod guys, and Roberto was still a bit of a stranger in town, it was only appropriate that we check in on a few of the hot rod projects underway around town.
    A couple of them we visited hadn’t made much progress, but it was all new stuff to Roberto.
    The third one though, that was an eye opener. At least for Roberto.
    We’d driven by Vince’s house on Foothill Road, saw James’ pickup parked in the wide driveway and the lights on in the garage out back. I spun the 50 around, went back and parked at the top end of the driveway. We walked down the long driveway to see how Vince was doing with his new project. About half way down, Vince’s german shepherd looking lab-shepherd mix dog named Jewel came running out to see what was going on. Roberto stopped and stood there which is generally the thing to do. Jewel was a pretty good guard dog for the most part. If you met her once and were properly introduced you were her friend for life. She didn’t forget either. Even if you hadn’t been by in awhile. I introduced Jewel to Roberto and she decided that he was now one of the family, so to speak.

    Vince got Jewel when she wandered into the Fillmore Fire Station where he worked. Vince loved dogs and hadn’t been without one for most of his life. Once Jewel calmed down and went back to lying on the patio furniture we walked into the garage. Vince’s new 40 was looking pretty good. They had the stroked Olds engine and four speed they’d recovered from the wrecked 40 mounted and hooked up. The body had a fresh coat of black primer and they were just finishing up a pair of front nerf bars for it. It was uncanny how much the new 40 resembled the old one. Right down to the single bar flipper hubcaps. To my way of thinking, a hubcap that really belonged on a custom, but they were a nice touch on Vince’s 40. The 40's deck lid was shaved, the hood was nosed and they were just waiting to get it back from the L.A. louver shop they’d left it at last week. That and a new radiator core, along with some wiring and completing the plumbing meant fire-up day was not too far away.

    Strangely, Roberto didn’t say too much when he met Vince, and he didn’t act as interested in the 40 as I thought he would be, so we didn’t stay too long. After leaving I asked Roberto what was wrong. He told me the 40 in Vince’s garage was a dead ringer for the one he’d raced on Prado Road quite a while back. He’d seen the pictures of the wrecked coupe in the paper and since the wreck didn’t happen while they were racing, he just kept his mouth shut. Roberto, like us and like the local authorities, didn’t have a clue about who the dead kid found in the 40 was. About the only thing they came up with was that he wasn’t a local.

    Roberto’s description of the race pretty much jibed with what we’d figured out. Roberto came into town in his 50 Chevy coupe and he stopped at Merles Drive In at the east end of town. He grabbed a burger and coke and met a couple of the older guys who hung out there and talked to them for a while. Even though it was a Saturday and not too late, Roberto was supposed to finish up a job at the family machine shop early on Sunday morning so he decided to call it a night.

    He cruised down main to the west end of town where he entered the Coast Highway headed west. Once he got out of town and was about two miles from the Canyon Road turnoff, he saw a black primered 40 Ford coupe sail by in the other lane headed east and going fast. Roberto just figured he was gonna get a ticket if he didn’t slow down.

    It wasn’t long until Roberto noticed a pair of headlights in the rear view mirror rapidly gaining on him. Once the headlights caught up, the car was right behind and followed him around the corner entering Canyon Road. He could see that the headlights belonged to the same fast running 40 coupe he’d passed going the other way just a couple of minutes previous. The headlights dogged him the whole 10 miles to the Prado road turnoff. Roberto’s way home was to keep going on Canyon Road, but not being adverse to a challenge he decided to turn onto Prado Road and see what would happen.

    Sure enough, the black 40 turned in after him. Roberto cruised on down to the bridge, crossed it, pulled into the left lane and stopped. The black 40 pulled up alongside. Roberto didn’t have a clue about who was driving it. Didn’t make much difference, he’d never seen the car before anyway. Well, he figured, this is as good a place to race as there is around the county and it looked like they were alone, so why not?

    Roberto already had the four speed in low and brought the revs up to about 3000. And sat there waiting. He didn’t have to wait long, the 40's driver hit the gas pedal and dumped the clutch all in about the same motion which really lit up the tires on the 40. Roberto engaged the clutch quickly and smoothly and with the 40 absolutely frying the tires he pulled past it near the end of low gear. A quick shift to second and that was about it for the race. The 40 had simply spun the tires way too much, way too long and there was no way it could catch up now.

    Roberto ran the Chevy coupe through the gears, letting off at around a hundred which left plenty of room to stop and was a touch surprised when the 40 blew by him still accelerating. That was enough for Roberto, he figured this guy was crazy and he wasn’t going to mix it up with him anymore. He spun the Chevy coupe around and ran smoothly through the gears until he was almost at the bridge. He could see the headlights of the 40 in his rear view mirror way off in the distance as it was just now getting turned around. Roberto crossed the bridge, checked for traffic and blew right on through the stop sign. He figured this was a good guy to leave alone. As far as Roberto was concerned, this whole escapade had been a little too weird.

    Headed for home he halfway expected to see the mysterious 40 coupe pull up behind him, but he didn’t see it again. At least not until the next morning when his brother Frankie showed him the picture on the front page of the paper which showed the wrecked coupe on the front page. It was badly smashed, but it was easy to recognize. The single bar flipper hubcaps were still on it. The paper told the whole story too, at least as much as they knew. Pretty much what we knew until this latest revelation by Roberto. The coupe was stolen out of Vince’s garage, the driver killed in the wreck and that was about it.

    What the paper didn’t know was what we figured out as far as the race had gone. With the new information from Roberto, it looked like it had gone down exactly as we figured. A street race, then a single run, way too fast to slow down for the bridge and then the wreck. I’d bet too, the CHP and Sheriffs on scene had pretty much figured out the same thing, although they didn’t know what we knew as far as the burnout marks being very fresh ones. As it ended up, we didn’t know as much as we thought we did. Even though the cops weren’t positive there was a second car involved, to them it made good sense and their thinking was that a second car was involved. That part didn’t really matter as they had no way to prove it. Course, the mark of many a good cop is a strong bent of curiosity. That and a bit of doggedness in sticking with an investigation.

    The one who figured it out a couple of weeks after Roberto confessed, was the same hard nosed Sergeant we’d learned to steer clear of. Seems he had it in for hot rods and he’d rather give one ticket to a hot rod owner than two tickets to a pair of stock car drivers. We never found out why, but some of the older guys figured it had something to do with a kid who lived down the street from the Sergeant many years ago.

    The kid owned a hot rod with loud pipes, drove too fast in the neighborhood and generally was a thorn in the Sergeants side. The Sergeant, just a patrolman at the time, took it upon himself to ticket him every chance he got. Right up to the point where the kid lost his license for a week, then for two weeks and eventually he lost it for six months.

    Well -- the Sergeant paid too. When you get right down to it, it’s tough to pick on the kids. Even the little ones will get you when you’re not looking. Every time the kid lost his license it wouldn’t be more than a couple of days until the Sergeant had a flat tire on his personal car.
    Interesting part was, it was always the same style roofing nail he was picking up. Other interesting part was, the kids dad was a roofing contractor. I’d say go figure here, but as you can see, not much figuring required.

    The other cops thought it was funny. They figured the Sergeant was a bit of hard nose and the little fact that he couldn’t catch the kid sabotaging his tires made for a lot of kidding as to what kind of detective he was ... or wasn’t.

    Even though the Sergeant was not a detective, the Captain encouraged all his guys to keep checking on whatever case they were involved with or even curious about. More than one case had been broken by a patrolman who had either been digging away at the files or just paid attention to what was going on. That was the case this time. The Sergeant was digging through some of the state-wide missing persons flyers when he thought he recognized a name. A little more digging and he found the name of a kid who matched the description of the body and the date fit. He’d disappeared a few days before the 40 was wrecked. A couple of phone calls to the San Mateo PD up near San Francisco got him the information that the kid was still missing and a phone call to the kids folks verified it.

    One reason the whole deal fell through the cracks, the kid, 17 at the time, never had a license and had never been fingerprinted. He got into one of those arguments, a serious one, with his folks and stormed out of the house saying he was going to join the Army. Maybe that was where he was headed, but at 17 you needed your folks to sign for you and it was apparent he didn’t know that and his folks didn’t know it either.

    When the Sergeant put the whole thing together they found the kid had a cousin in Arroyo Verde, the beach town just to the north of us. The cousin had a friend in our town who knew Vince who knew that the Arroyo Verde cousin liked hot rods, so he took them by Vince’s garage to show them the 40. Vince, always friendly and open, welcomed both of them into the garage and after showing them the coupe, tossed the car keys into the rollaway tool box top drawer like he always did. It was a bad habit that came back to bite him.

    The kid came back into town a few months later and remembering where the coupe was, where the keys were and having met Jewel, Vince’s fearless watch dog who remembered the kid as a friend, stealing the coupe was easy. After what Roberto had seen, driving it was the hard part. The no license kid had taken driver’s training at his High School and did know how to drive. Just not very well. Especially so in light of what happened when he got behind the wheel of Vince’s fast little 40 coupe.

    The part that bummed Vince about the whole deal, aside from the major bummer of losing his coupe was that he’d only driven the coupe with the new stroker motor one time. And not very far at that. Just over to James’ house, down to the Frosty Shop, back to James’ and back home.
    That was it. Short and sweet, but fondly remembered. After that little piece of information floated around town, helped along by the local newspaper, interest in the whole deal kind of died down. Roberto and I never talked about it again. We let the sleeping dogs lie. As far as I know he never told anybody about his involvement and neither did I.

    02-13-2004, 12:31 PM
    Ford Coupes and Merc Pickups

    Bobby had been busy in the few weeks since the Packard trans let go in the race with Roberto’s coupe. He tracked down and bought a Ford BW T-10 four speed. Along with an adapter and clutch disc required to make the swap. A little juggling with the trans crossmember so the stock Ford trans mount could be used and he was home free.

    Replacing the bent driveshaft with one made at his dad’s machine shop and getting it balanced at CT Automotive in North Hollywood made for one smooth running little Deuce roadster. The four speed did it’s part as well. The Packard trans shifted ok, but the four speed was so slick and smooth, there was no comparison.

    The local machine shops, at least the ones who catered to the oil patch would many times move the local hot rodders driveshaft projects down the list if oil patch work came in. Fair I suppose. After all, the oil patch, along with the local citrus farming industry was pretty much the bread and butter for most of the town. Even so, sometimes it put our cars down for longer than we’d planned. In Bobby’s case, he was fortunate the shop wasn’t too busy and his dad knocked the job out after hours.

    Roberto’s machine shop was pretty much the same way as far as relying on the oil patch and citrus industries went, but the nice part here was, they did their jobs as they came in and everybody had a fair shot at it. Unless it was a for-real emergency. When that happened, none of us minded getting set back in line. At least, not too much.

    The trouble with running a hot rod as an everyday car is the one simple discovery that everyone who gets into the hobby learns. Sometimes you have to take them down for several days or weeks or longer for some projects or repairs. Then life gets tough as far as getting around town for little things like chasing parts, running an errand, hitting the Frosty Shop and even going to work. Course, without work, no hot rod goodies or spending money, so we did realize the importance of being at work along with doing a good job while there. It worked out ok for Bobby while the roadster was down, Gail had a job close to his so she could pick him up and drop him off. It got to where Bobby and Gail were seeing a lot of each other. The rest of the guys in the gang were happy for both of them. It looked too, like marriage was definitely on the horizon.

    After a while, my 50 coupe started looking pretty good. The wannabee hot rod gang had slowed down a bit, but only a little. We’d finally gotten to the point where we needed paint and upholstery. By now, we’d built our cars up to the point where they were pretty fast for what they were. No earth shaking world beaters, just nice little cars. With fresh paint and upholstery they looked so much better, we were surprised we hadn’t done it long ago. For all of us, we’d forgotten what a struggle it was to simply to buy the car and then struggle through the buildup. Paint and upholstery were quickly forgotten in the low budget struggle for speed. Kinda made the cars more - complete - for lack of a better word.

    Course as the old saying goes, a hot rod is never done. There’s always some small detail and sometimes a large project that’s right around the corner. For some rods, it means they spend a lot of time in the garage. A few of them turn into hangar queens and never get out. We saw more than a few hot rod projects turn into a box laden, dust covered lump in the garage.

    The Olds engine in the 50 had a lot of miles on it by now. Even so, it was still dependable and a good runner, but it was starting to use some oil. I was thinking of an overhaul to get me by for a while, but Larry, good old stock flathead engined 50 Merc coupe driving Larry stumbled onto a 58 Olds J-2 in a Via Lindero wrecking yard. The price was right, but it had two small problems.
    Somewhere along the line the desirable three 2 barrel setup had been removed. We weren’t surprised, they were in demand and worth a few bucks so we understood why it was gone. The junkyard owner didn’t know it was a J-2 engine, but it didn’t really make much difference. They were pretty similar to the standard Olds engine, same 10.0/1 compression ratio as the other 58 Olds engines although the 58's were half a point higher than the 9.5/1 57 engines. The nice point about the 58 engine was it’s 371 cubic inch displacement. A considerable increase over the 53 engine with it’s - at least in our minds - meager 303 cubic inches.

    The missing intake was one small problem, but the sticking point was the junkyard owner wanted to sell the engine and slant-pan hydro as a complete unit. Since I had a good hydro in the coupe and retaining it would mean the 58 engine was a total bolt-in I balked at that one. For a while anyway, the junkyard owner was standing firm and in the end I had no choice but to buy the whole ball of wax. We did talk him into throwing in the driveshaft as part of the deal.

    The so called slant-pan hydros were Oldsmobiles attempt to help lower the transmission tunnel height. Since the hydros were a physically large transmission, they’d simply rolled the transmission about 15-20 degrees, left side down, to get the shift rod and lever down and out of the way. It sure looked weird to us. Since the coupe already had an enlarged transmission tunnel to accommodate the regular 53 hydro, the slant-pan hydro wasn’t required. It turned out to be a non-problem in the end. The slant-pan was sold to a local who’d fried the hydro in his 57 Olds while towing a trailer. I recouped the extra money spent and had a good start toward buying an Offenhauser three two barrel setup. Heck, if the factory triple intake worked good on the J-2, we figured an Offy would work just as well, if not better. There was enough money left over to invest in an Engle #153 cam and kit including adjustable rockers and a set of the Iskenderian aluminum valve retainers. Course that meant a set of good racing valve springs was now out of the picture as the hot rod fund was pretty much depleted. It was ok though, since it was slated for street duty, I didn’t plan to rev the Olds very high anyway.

    It was all coming together pretty well, Bobby had scrounged up a set of Drag-Fast collectors for me, the oval style and we were in the middle of building the fenderwell exit headers. A bit of an undertaking for sure as we had to cut and fit all the tubes to make it work. At least we didn’t have to make the flanges, we got a set of those from CT and the mandrel bent U-Bends were obtained from a local muffler shop. With the coupe down, I was learning the bus system pretty well. I got a ride now and then and every once in a while was allowed to borrow mom’s 55 Ford four door.

    Mom, doing the mom thing, required me to take her to church if I wanted to use her car on Sunday’s. I think she was trying to do a little matchmaking to boot. As she put it, the church was a good place to meet nice young women. It was too, there were a lot of girls there my age and only a couple of guys in my age bracket. Which made for a considerable surplus of girls.
    Interesting part about all this was, the other moms figured since I was in church, I must have been an ok guy and darned if a few of them didn’t shove their daughters my way. A new one on me for sure. Most moms weren’t too wild about having their daughters go out with a hot rodder. Hot rodders still had that touch of outlaw about them. More perceived than true, but it could be a problem now and then.

    They were nice girls for the most part, but I wasn’t really interested in them and to be fair, they weren’t too interested in me either. So it worked out well for all of us. The young ladies and I would talk now and then and when we did, it made the moms happy. My mom was happy because at least I was attending church a little more regular than I had in the past, not to mention I was meeting nice young ladies. Course, meeting was one thing and dating was another, but mom never said anything about that.

    It seemed like it was taking forever to get the coupe running, but as it always does, at least to those who stick it out and keep plugging along, that magic day finally comes. Fire-up day. Fittingly, on a Sunday morning. Not so fittingly for mom. She was a bit put out at my deciding to skip church for something that could always be done later.

    Bobby and Larry were there to give me a hand. Roberto did plan to come over, but ended up working most of Sunday after early Mass. He was finishing up on an emergency job for some piece of machinery out of the Lindero citrus packing house that was sorely needed for Monday morning.

    Bobby brought along a really nice carburetor linkage setup for the triple carbs that he’d made. Just a straight linkage deal tying all three carbs together at once. I didn’t really care for progressive linkage as most of the progressive linkage stuff made at the time was just fragile junk. The straight linkage also chosen because the three carbs we were running all had idle circuits. Not like the J-2 setup where the end carbs have no idle circuits and their throttles are controlled by a vacuum diaphragm. A nice setup from the factory for sure, but the J-2 carbs were darned near impossible to find and I wasn’t about to spring for a new set.

    We ended up using three good Rochester carbs, all matching numbers from two barrel equipped Chevy’s. #7013008 if I remember right. We tried to find the larger and more desirable Rochester’s out of the Pontiacs, but like always, the circle track and drag race guys had beaten us to them. Pontiac two barrels were a rarity in most any Southern California junkyard. Since the Chevy carbs we got were out of darned near brand new cars and looked very clean, we elected not to rebuild them. Figuring they would work ok as they were and all we did was clean em up.
    The only part missing was the piece of linkage between the 57 Ford hanging throttle pedal and the carbs. That turned out to be a non-problem too. Part of the linkage Bobby brought along was a rod that was just a little too long for what was required and the threads were started in a lathe. All that was required was to drill the throttle pedal end out to fit the bolt, spin some more threads on the rod by hand, measure, cut it to length and we were in fat city.

    The last fly in the ointment was the shifter. Not to mention the new headers had a conflict with the lower column shift arm. Shifting the hydro with the 2nd - high arm of the stock Ford column shifter was working ok, but it was a bit of a drag. It was easy for me or the other guys, but the girls had trouble shifting it and it was kind of a chancy deal. Since it relied on the detents in the hydramatic trans, it didn’t take much to knock it into another gear. With reverse being at the bottom of the shift pattern, I could see where the right circumstance could cause a most interesting chain of events. It was never a problem, but I still worried about it. The fix turned out to be a simple one. The hydramatic’s were getting more popular all the time. Especially so with the guys who liked the popular B&M hydro trans. They were using B&M’s very nice floor shifter for both racing and the street I bit the bullet and sprung for one of those.

    Fire-up day turned into pretty much of a non-event. We spun the Olds engine over with the starter, spark plugs out which was the usual way we built up oil pressure in an engine and one that worked well. Although today’s method of removing the distributor and spinning the oil pump up with an adapter and electric drill motor is far better. Once we had oil to all the rockers and were showing 60# on the gauge, we stuck the spark plugs back in, connected the wires, primed the carbs with the electric fuel pump and lit it off. It fired right up and held oil pressure ok. We let it run for 20 minutes to break in the cam like the Engle tech guy recommended, ran the valves, got the carbs adjusted to a 650 rpm idle and we were in business. Nothing left to do but take it for a test drive.
    The extra 68 cubic inches along with the Engle cam and triple carbs made a world of difference. What had been a pleasant and good performing little coupe had now turned into a bit of an animal. Hard starts with the 303" engine had never given us too many problems. It launched with very little wheel spin because I’d learned to feather the throttle until the first second shift was completed. With the 3.45 first gear of the hydro coupled with the 3.89 rear end, the coupe came off the line pretty well if you kept the wheelspin under control.

    With the large increase in torque and horsepower from the bigger engine, we ran into quite a bit of rear axle hop. A potentially damaging reaction that happens when sudden amounts of torque were applied. The rear springs wound up which had a tendency to unload the tires allowing them to start spinning and then they would unwind and come down hard, grab some bite and start the spring wrap-up process all over again. It only took a second, and then the rear tires were bouncing up and down, leaving the pavement by several inches. In most cases, it wasn’t too long until you had the driveshaft lying in the street or a broken axle. For the guys who ran the weak Ford or Chevy three speeds, it was usually the transmission that let go.

    The fix was easy and fairly quick. Installing a set of Traction-Masters took care of the whole thing. Traction-Masters were a simple deal. A piece of 1" or so tubing welded to a couple of sawn off shock absorber rings made the control bar. They were then mounted one end on tabs welded to the rear axle spring plate and the front mounted to a single tab welded onto the frame near the front spring pivot.

    Traction-Masters were commercially made and available for most cars, but we had a gas welder for making the tubes and Bobby had access to an arc welder for welding the tabs to the spring plates. We installed them and wired the front of the tubes to the spring. Then we ran the car over to the local muffler shop so they could arc weld the front tabs in with the weight of the car on them. Not a bad way to do it. We were assured of proper placement of the front tab minimizing any problems due to the slightly differing arc of the leaf spring front and the traction bar. The differing arcs - contrary to what some thought - were a non-problem. The slight differences were compensated for by the rubber shock absorber bushings we used in the traction bars.

    With the coupe up and running it proved out to be a dependable little car.

    I applied for and got a job with the power company which meant that I worked a rotating shift and had days off during the week. For the most part, it worked out well, except for the occasional times something was going on over the weekend and I was stuck working. It was a good job, interesting and paid well, so it was a small sacrifice to make. The guys were good too, when they went to the races, they usually planned it around my schedule so I didn’t really miss out on too much. As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise.

    The guys, all of them, were spending quite a bit of time with their girl friends. They included me when they could, but I always felt like the odd man out. The girls still did the matchmaking bit now and then, but to a degree they’d given up on me. Bobby and Gail planned to get married next year. Larry and Susan were thinking strongly about it too. Bud and Vicky were spending most all of their free time together. Especially since the Marrone’s had welcomed him into the family with open arms. Bud, being a good Catholic as Vicky was, had a bit to do with it too. Besides being the same religion, Bud was a personable young man with good manners. He used them too. It wasn’t too many of the girls he took out, as well as their moms who didn’t take note of it. Bud was, to put it simply, a really polite guy.

    The Marrone’s religion was important to them, as it should be, and it wasn’t long after Bud and Vicky started dating when Vicky’s aunt Carmen asked the ever important question during one of the Marrone’s typical large Sunday dinners with the whole darned family there. Roberto told me later that his mom lit up like a light bulb when Bud told them he was Catholic. Carmen liked Bud and had hoped so. Vicky’s mom had resisted asking him straightaway as she was a most polite lady.

    By now, even Roberto had a steady girl friend, a nice Via Lindero girl named Mattie he’d met at Mass one Sunday. Roberto figured his aunt Carmen was involved in a little matchmaking and perhaps pushed them together a tiny bit, but that was ok with Roberto. Carmen was one of his favorite people. He was quite smitten with his new girl friend and between the busy machine shop and her, we didn’t see too much of him.

    Except for the times we hit the races. Roberto was a died in the wool hot rodder and wasn’t about to give that up.

    About once a month he towed the 50 Chevy coupe down to San Fernando drag strip. When we could, most of us went along. Including Roberto’s brother Frankie. Frankie was only a couple of years older, but he was the older brother and was saddled with the familiar responsibility of watching out for the younger siblings. Even when the younger ones were all grown up. Frankie acceded to his mom’s wishes to go along with Roberto and take care of him. As it was, Roberto was bigger than Frankie and didn’t need too much care, but as it turned out Frankie liked the races too. At least attending them. He wasn’t too fired up about having his own race car, or even owning a hot rod. He preferred his cars stock. The newer the better.

    With me getting mostly week days off and with the guys working on the weekdays I was pretty much on my own. I did quite a bit of cruising in the 50. It was a fun car to drive and I enjoyed just getting in it and going somewhere. And nowhere. Sometimes both at the same time. Heck I even took mom out for breakfast to Mikes Cafe’ now and then. She was pleased, big Dot and little Dot, the two day waitresses though it was great that a young man would take his mom out for breakfast. Mom was pleasant company and enjoyed it. I think she enjoyed the strong accelerating little coupe more than she would admit, but the truth was, I was a little starved for companionship during the weekdays off. There were very few people working a schedule like mine.
    I decided that another project would give me something to occupy my time. Truth was, I didn’t like racking up all the miles on the 50 that it was getting with the 20 mile run to work and I’d been looking for a"work car for a couple of months. Salvation came in the form of a very nice 51 Mercury, M1, half ton pickup. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Mercury pickup until I saw one down the street. It belonged to the 15 year old who lived there and it’d been sitting at the side of the house for about a year. I walked down there one afternoon after work to ask about it and found the dad was more than ready to sell it. He’d bought it for his boy, so he could learn about cars and have one ready to go when he started driving. The kid had taken to driving it around the neighborhood even though he had no license and definitely did not have permission from his folks. The driving came to an end when the folks came home sooner than expected one day and they found the pickup sitting down the street with smoke coming out from under the hood. Seems the kid had seriously overheated the engine and was trying to get home before his folks did. He didn’t make it. One look and his dad could see where the block was cracked and to top it off, the kid had shorted out the wiring harness burning up most of the wiring under the hood and up under the dash.

    Dad, a reasonably smart guy, was lacking in automotive expertise and more than willing to part with the pickup for a reasonable sum. He figured it was worth at least a hundred bucks at the junkyard so that’s what he was asking. Not a problem for me, I had the cash, but better yet, I had the knowledge required to put it back together. At least most of it. I’d probably need help on some of the stuff, but I could handle most of it on my own. The best part was the absolutely cherry body, nice stock interior and all the trim pieces were still there. Amazingly the bed only had a few dents. Nothing like the farm pickups I’d seen around. Most of those looked like they’d been hauling rocks and boulders and more than likely they had. The little pickup had been a well cared for shop truck at the Arroyo Verde Mercury dealer.
    My dad had long ago given up thinking the garage was a place in which he could park his cars.
    He’d built a carport adjacent to the garage and pretty much let me have the two car garage for my own shop. Other than his rollaway full of mechanics tools, table saw, planer, joiner and carpentry tools hanging over the workbench the garage was, for the most part, empty. His only request was that I take care of the two family cars, his and mom’s as far as washing & waxing them and changing the oil. It was a great arrangement that worked out well for us. Dad still mowed the lawn, it was one of his great pleasures for a Saturday morning. Ok by me, I didn’t mind helping him, but mowing the lawn never was one of my favorite jobs. Still isn’t. Damned thing just grows back so why encourage it?

    Bobby and Larry came down to give me a hand towing the Merc M1 up the street to my house. It took us a while to get used to calling the little Merc pickup an M1. It was the same size and body style as the Ford F1 half ton, just that to our ears it sounded strange. An M1 to us, was the 30 caliber carbine that was showing up in gun shops all over the country as they were sold off by the government as surplus.

    Bobby thought the Merc pickup was most cool and donated the 48 Merc engine he’d pulled out of his roadster. It was still in good shape and had been carefully stored away ever since it was pulled in favor of the big Chrysler that he put in the roadster. Installing the 48 Merc engine was an easy swap and the whole project pretty much fell together. We rewired the whole truck from front to back with good quality plastic covered wire from the parts house. Which got rid of any potential problems from the cotton braided wire. We’d chased more than a few shorts with that stuff.

    Since the pickup paint was a faded dark green, but still in good shape, and the doors still had the Arroyo Verde Mercury sign on them, I ended up shooting it in red oxide primer and painting the wheels a bright yellow. The guys thought it was an offbeat combination, but I liked it.
    The small Mercury hubcaps polished up pretty well and the not too big and not too little set of big & little blackwall tires set it off pretty good.

    I’d seen a wire wheeled 30 Model A coupe down in Covina the previous summer with the same color and paint combination. The only difference was it ran wire wheels. I’d been struck by how good it looked and figured the same combo would look good on the Merc pickup.

    The pickup was stock height for the most part. Although the nose sat down a touch as most pickups seem to do. It had a reasonably good stance all things considered. The topper to the whole thing was when Roberto came up with a nicely polished twin two barrel intake manifold for it. He’d found it for dirt cheap on one of his forays into the San Fernando Valley and LA. It was sitting on the back of the shelf for used speed parts at the Service Center speed Shop in Compton. Since not too many were building flatheads, he got it cheap and brought it home with him. A small gift gratefully received. It wasn’t long until a pair of Pep Boys rebuilt 94's were bolted on and it was installed on the nicely painted 48 Merc flathead. The bright red paint, the always favored traditional color for hot rod engines, was nicely offset by the chrome acorn covers on the head stud nuts and intake manifold bolts. That was the extent of the hot rod stuff for the Merc engine. It was still running the stock heads and stock cam. It looked cool though, with the chrome air cleaners on the wide set carbs and the offset generator mount. Heck, Larry had even dredged up one of the wrap around chrome covers for the generator from somewhere.

    Just like the big Olds in the 50 had done, the little Merc flathead fired right up like it had been running yesterday. Smooth and quiet was the word. For the engine anyway. The exhaust was more than noisy as we’d removed most of the old single exhaust system from the truck as duals were next on the list. I’d stopped by and talked to the guys at the local muffler shop while the engine swap was going on. They had a pair of tailpipes in stock that would fit the pickup and a pair of Smithy’s were in the plans as well.

    The local muffler shop was one of our favorite places to go. We did what work we could. I owned a gas torch and could weld, but sometimes, if you wanted the job done right, a trip to the muffler shop was a necessity. The shop, J & L Mufflers, had a father-son team who’d tolerated our comings and goings since the day when Bud and I had come in with our bicycles to get a broken part welded. More often than not, we found a hot rod at the shop and we were allowed to look it over from top to bottom and once we found out they ran a jalopy at the Arroyo Verde jalopy track south of Arroyo Verde we were hooked. The car they ran was a 32 Ford five window coupe on a 32 frame with roll bar added. Power was a built GMC six cylinder engine and they did well with it. To us, it looked like a hot rod, highboy style, but it wasn’t until you got close and could see all the dents under the white paint that we realized another classic Ford hot rod had been sacrificed to the circle track wars. Even so, we thought it was a cool car and several times we got out our dads to take us to the jalopy races after we’d bugged them enough.

    We ran the Merc pickup down to the muffler shop and left it for the day. When we picked it up, it had new tailpipe’s sticking out the back, perfectly aligned, that being a trademark of sorts at the shop and a pair of the good quality muffler shop chrome tips were installed. You could get chrome tips at the parts stores, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the ones we got at the muffler shop. Best part were the great sounds emitted by the Smithys mufflers. For some reason they had a sound that no other muffler ever matched. When you heard em, you knew what they were. Didn’t matter if they were on a Chevy six or Ford flathead V8.

    The Merc pickup turned into a great little runaround vehicle. It drove well, turned out it had darned near brand new brakes on it, probably due to the good upkeep it received at the Mercury garage and it was a fun truck to drive. Good looking too, at least as far as I was concerned.

    Kinda funny, in a way and in a way too bad for the 15 year old down the street. When the truck left his house, he didn’t seem particularly bothered by it, but now that it ran so great and looked so good, it was pretty obvious he wanted it back. Too late now as the saying goes. Sometimes the gold we search for is already in hand and we just don’t look close enough.

    Dad, for a short while anyway, thought I wasn’t being too smart in getting another vehicle.
    He figured one was enough for any sensible guy. For me, as far as cars were concerned sensible went out the window a long time ago. In the end though, he approved. He’d borrowed it once to take some trash to the dump and when he brought it back he told me it drove pretty good and that I’d done a good job on it.
    Dad ended up using the little pickup pretty often. He called it the "hot rod truck" and enjoyed going to the nursery and the hardware store with it. I think he was finding out how useful a pickup can be for a home owning family guy who liked landscaping and carpentry. For a short while there, I was beginning to think I’d built the truck for dad. Even so, no big deal, I still had the coupe and I’d been driving it at least two or three times a week.

    02-13-2004, 12:34 PM
    The Yellow Convertible

    With a Wednesday off, the Merc pickup up and running and the coupe not really needing anything I was just kinda wandering along. There wasn’t much of anything that needed to be done around the house. At least nothing I really wanted to do. I figured I’d clean up, head downtown and at the least, get a cup of coffee.

    When I went outside, I found dad’s car sitting in the carport. He’d taken the pickup to work.
    Kinda funny, he liked the little pickup, enjoyed driving it and didn’t have a problem admitting it. I think he enjoyed showing it off to the guys at the oil patch garage. He liked cars, but working on cars, trucks and oil field equipment all day burned him out on having a hobby car. Aside from the yard, landscaping and occasional carpentry projects, dad’s other consuming interest was golf. He liked it, I didn’t. Nuff said there.

    I pulled the coupe out of the garage and figured this was as good a day as any to take it for one of it’s two or three times a week runs. Mikes Cafe’ was my intended destination. I never got there.

    I’d seen James’ orange 58 Ford pickup sitting in the Frosty Shop when I went by and swung back in to say hello. I backed the coupe into the parking space next to James’ pickup and walked up front. James was sitting on the bench soaking up the sunshine and having a cup of coffee. He worked at his dad’s hardware store and could take lunch whenever he wished. Today was an early lunch because he’d been running late and skipped breakfast. I grabbed a cup of coffee and we had a few minutes to talk before he had to head back. Well, great - alone again. I was beginning to feel like the last of the Mohicans. Wandering back to the coupe with my coffee, I figured if nothing else I’d listen to the radio and drink coffee.

    Since it was summer, the Frosty Shop was quiet, not too much to worry about as far as having the parking lot fill up with high school cars and kids. Not that it was a problem, just that sometimes, not having a crowd can be nice. The high school, right across the street had an open campus policy and when the lunch bell rang the Frosty Shop was inundated with kids looking for lunch.

    With the coffee about gone, I was thinking about getting another one when I caught a flash of yellow out of the corner of my eye. Turning into the Frosty Shop was one of the slickest 54 Fords I ever saw. It was a bright yellow convertible, not the orangy yellow like the taxicabs, but a good bright lemon yellow. It had black wheels, blackwall tires and the small Ford hubcaps with beauty rings. Nosed and decked, stock height, the black cloth top set it off to perfection. Inside were two girls, the passenger, a younger girl around 12 and the driver about 19 or 20. She swung the convertible around and backed into a parking space one over and parallel to the coupe.

    I was listening to the convertible’s engine pretty hard when I looked up and saw her looking right into my eyes. I was mesmerized for a few seconds. I’d never seen eyes that color. They were kind of a gray-green if that makes sense. The young woman driving was very beautiful. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. Truth was, I didn’t have a clue as to what to say. She looked away, got out of the car and stood there for a moment while the 12 year old get out. They walked up to the front of the Frosty Shop ordered sundaes and sat out there on the bench enjoying them, watching the traffic go by and just enjoying the nice summer sun.

    By now, I’d forgotten about any more coffee and was content to just steal a glance now and then. She was truly beautiful with her short and almost blond hair. She was wearing a light summer dress that was a good match for her hair color and her lightly tanned skin. Not that I knew much about color combinations, but on this girl, the whole package fell into the absolutely perfect category. To say that I was a bit stunned was putting it mildly.

    All too soon, they finished their sundaes, tossed the cups in the trash and walked back to the convertible. I hoped I wasn’t hanging out the window with my eyes bugging out, but I couldn’t stop looking at her. I didn’t even see the 12 year old get in the car. The driver paid absolutely no attention to me. I didn’t know if that was bad or good. Good could be that I got to speak to her. Bad could be that I was looking like a total idiot and she couldn’t wait to leave.

    Sometimes we get lucky though. When she rolled the starter over on the Ford, the engine wouldn’t catch and it smelled like it was flooded. A couple more tries and she gave up. I was thinking, great, now here’s my chance me being an ace mechanic and all. She got out, opened the trunk, got a small wrench and a screwdriver, walked around front, popped the hood and wiggled up on the fender so she could reach inside. I didn’t have a clue on what she was doing, but it was apparent that she knew exactly what to do.

    As fate would have it, the wind picked up and the first good gust blew her dress right up over her head. Leaving me looking at a great pair of legs and a pair of light blue panties. Not to mention being a touch dumbstruck. She slid off the fender, pulled her dress down and asked me if I’d enjoyed the view. Not being the most suave guy around, and especially not being too suave right now, I told her the truth.

    The truth being, "If I told you I didn’t, I’d be lying".

    She didn’t say anything and went right back to what she was doing. I gotta admit though, the back view was just as nice as the front.

    What she was doing, was pulling the air cleaner on the front carb of a dual four barrel, teapot carb setup and tapping on the float bowls with the screwdriver handle. After a bit of that, she replaced the air cleaner, got in the car and after a short bit of cranking, it fired right up.
    Leaving the hood up and the engine idling, she put the tools back in the trunk and walked up to the front of the car where she was going to close the hood.

    The slight lope the engine gave off at idle got me curious enough to get out and look under the hood. I saw the dual Teapot carb installation and the cast aluminum Thunderbird rocker covers along with one of the weirdest headers I ever saw. What I was looking at was what would later be called a Tri-Y header. She didn’t say anything and stood there while I looked. When she figured I’d seen enough, she shut the hood and without a word got back in the car.

    Well, I may not be suave, but I’m not afraid either. I’d found that with the girls, you were either accepted or refused. Simple as that. Kind of the nothing ventured, nothing gained theory.
    I walked around to the drivers door and asked her if I could talk to her. She didn’t say a word and just kept looking at me with those beautiful gray-green eyes.

    Well, she didn’t say no and she didn’t drive off. I told her what I later realized has got to be the oldest line in the world, that being, "I don’t usually do this" and then, "may I ask you for your phone number?"

    When no answer or refusal came, I asked, "What’s your name?"

    No answer on that one either. Just that steady gaze from those beautiful eyes. She clicked the Ford automatic into gear and released the emergency brake. I figured I was all washed up and stepped back.

    They were just starting to pull out when the 12 year old piped up with "her name is Rebecca".

    Which drew a quick glance at the 12 year old from the beautiful young woman and a smile from the 12 year old. Thank God for 12 year olds. Couldn’t be too many beautiful young women named Rebecca driving bright yellow, hot rod engine, 54 Ford convertibles.
    To top it off, the 12 year old was waving an oddly shaped piece of black rubber out the window when they pulled out.

    For sure, it seemed Cupid had put his arrow right into my heart. Fat lot of good it did, I didn’t have a clue who she was or where she lived. I’d never seen the car before and didn’t have a clue where it came from. At the least, now I had a mission in life. A new project so to speak. Surely it couldn’t be too difficult to find a bright yellow 54 Ford convertible in our moderately sized town. My thinking was a touch simple minded. The main thought being she hadn’t told me to get lost and in fact didn’t say no. After I’d thought about it, I realized she hadn’t said yes either.

    Well, I had the typical male attitude. Even though she’d not said much at all, at least anything that resembled acceptance, I figured there was at least a chance. To paraphrase John Paul Jones, don’t give up the fight without fighting. Or something like that.
    That pretty much took care of my Wednesday day off. Thursday, a normal day off got pretty much shot due to a dayshift callout which ended up being a 12 hour day. Once I got off at 8 PM, there wasn’t much time left for searching. Didn’t matter, I was beat and went home early anyway.

    Friday, a better day for sure. At least I got off at 4 PM and there was always something cooking on Friday nights. I felt too, this would be an opportunity to at least start looking for the mysterious young woman and maybe even ask around a bit if anybody knew her.

    I’d tried using some of my vacation time earlier, but couldn’t get off work due to a shortage of guys in my classification. Some of them were on vacation. Figures, seems like every time I needed time off, somebody had beat me to it. This working for a living stuff sure was interfering with my life.

    At least one good thing was that Don was back in town. He’d done his four years and got an honorable discharge from the Army. He’d been in our wannabee hot rod gang in high school and even though he was a senior, he’d run around with us juniors quite a bit. It made sense to him and to us, there were more juniors doing the hot rod thing than the seniors were. The topper was that he still had his red 49 Ford coupe, mostly stock, with dual pipes, Smithys, a three 2 barrel setup and dropped in front a touch with big and little whitewalls. The 49 was stored in his folks garage when he joined the Army.

    Three 2 barrels sounds like a bit much for an otherwise stock engine with only a set of duals, but it worked for him. The 49, with the single stock 2 barrel carb, was about equal in performance with the other 49 & 50 Fords we ran and they all turned right around 66-67 mph at the drag strip. With no other changes other than the three two barrels Don’s car ran 70 mph. So much for the over-carburetion theories kicking around.

    Don was a guy who thought far ahead and figured hot rods were fun, but his real interest was flying. He’d gotten his private pilots license right before he joined up. He figured a private ticket would get him a leg up as far as getting into the Army’s flight school for helicopter pilots. As it turned out, it was some good thinking. He got into flight school, graduated and flew Army helicopters for the remainder his service time.

    I’d promised to come over and help Don get his coupe running the night before, but didn’t make it since I was still working. When I got to Don’s house around 6 o’clock Friday evening, I found him and his coupe out in the driveway. The coupe sounded like it was running ok, but it was leaking a lot of coolant out of a bad radiator tube. That pretty much ended his plans for Friday night cruising around in the coupe.

    Not too big a problem, I was driving my Merc pickup so we shoved the 49 back in the garage after draining the coolant. Looked like we’d have to wait until Monday to get the coupe up and running. Provided the radiator shop could pop a new core in for us.

    We hit the usual places for a Friday night. Merles drive in first so Don could check out what was new in town as far as hot rods went. We only saw a couple since it was still a touch early. Seems that hot rods like to come out after dark in the summer. We hit the Frosty Shop for a burger and hung out there for a while. I expected Bobby to come in with his roadster, but with both of us being pretty busy lately I hadn’t really seen much of him.

    I hadn’t said anything to Don about the young woman I’d seen in the yellow convertible. I figured since he’d only been back in town a couple of days he wouldn’t know anything anyway.
    I was keeping it a secret as well. Don’t know why. I figured if I shared the information I might find out she was already attached to somebody else. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to know that.

    No wedding, engagement or even a going steady ring was present when I saw her. Usually pretty good indicators of a young lady’s status, but not always. As things turned out, I should have mentioned it to Don. Maybe it would have saved a lot of time. Then again, maybe not. The whole deal turned into kind of a strange one.

    Friday night turned into one of those quiet ones. Not totally dead, but not far from it. Don and I decided to hit Mikes Cafe’ for coffee and pie and call it quits for the night. I had to work the next day anyway.

    As luck would have it, we ran into Bud, Vicky, Larry & Susan at Mikes Cafe’. They’d planned to hit the movies, but as things turned out they went to Mikes for coffee and the chance to sit around and talk. Hanging out at Mikes wasn’t a problem, at least not after the dinner hour rush. The waitresses enjoyed having the young ladies in the restaurant. As they put it, it brought a touch of civilization to some of the rough and ready characters from the dock and the oil patch. Kind of funny in a way, some of the roughest looking, roughly dressed guys you’d see anywhere were the best examples of what a gentleman should be. They tolerated us and our hot rods and in fact most of them got a kick out of our cars, but when it came to the fair sex, they were, to a man, gentlemen of the old school. I suspected there may have been a few who perhaps weren’t gentlemen, but Mike pretty much discouraged them from coming back after they’d proven themselves not to be gentlemen around the ladies.

    The ladies category included the waitresses too. They could more than hold their own with these guys and had us totally under control Mike treated the women who worked at the restaurant with the utmost respect and demanded others do the same. It wasn’t a problem for us. Our folks had done a good job in instilling respect for others and especially for girls and women. For the most part we had pretty good manners and used em.

    The guys were pleased at seeing Don and the girls were especially pleased. This was the first time they’d seen him since he came back. They had a lot of questions and it seemed for a while there, they were determined to ask them all at once. One the dust settled a bit, I asked where Bobby and Gail were and got a strange look in return. Bud told me they’d eloped to Las Vegas to get married.

    Boy -- I didn’t know what to say. Bobby and I had been pretty close for a long time and I thought marriage to Gail was far in the future. This was the first I’d heard of them getting married. We just sat there, more than a touch surprised by the news. Seems like things happen when you least suspect them.
    Susan explained that Gail’s dad, a tool pusher out at the Conoco lease at the beach had been offered a good job with an Alaskan oil company. It was a good opportunity and one he didn’t want to miss. For Gail though, it meant she’d have to leave nursing school six months before she got her license. Not to mention she figured she had a good start on a good life right here in the old home town with Bobby. Bobby agreed and since he and Gail were engaged anyway, they thought moving the wedding date up and getting married right away was the best way to go.

    Gail knew in her heart that Bobby was the right man for her, and she figured marriage was a ways away until her dad got the job offer. As happens so often in life, opportunity knocks, major changes occur and stuff just happens. Whether expected or not. Gail’s folks thought the marriage was an ok idea. Not so much that they wanted to see Gail leave, they loved her dearly, but they realized their lives were going one way and their daughters another. They loved Bobby as well and had already accepted him as part of the family.

    Gail’s folks loaded up their 59 Oldsmobile 98 with Gail’s aunt & uncle and all the luggage. Bobby’s folks loaded up their new Chrysler with Bobby’s grandmother and luggage. Bobby and Gail tossed a couple of small bags into the roadster and the whole caravan took off for Las Vegas.
    All this on the same Friday night that Don and I were running around at loose ends trying to figure out what to do next.

    A big surprise to the guys, but not so much to the girls. Seems they were much better than we were at keeping each other informed as to what was going on. The girls were happy for Bobby and Gail and so were we. For the girls, I think it was embarking on the grand adventure of life.
    For us, marriage was something that happened. But at least it happened to other guys. Not that there was anything wrong with it. Like any other group of guys, we were happy with the status quo for the most part. Working toward a goal was something we did well, but just to take off and get married, well ... that was serious stuff. I went home that night with more than a few thoughts swirling around in my head. The main one being the surprising news of Bobby and Gail’s elopement. And I was still trying to figure out how I was going to find the girl in the yellow convertible.

    Bobby and Gail didn’t have much of a honeymoon. They hit Vegas on Friday night, had a late dinner with the families, saw a few sights, got married on Saturday and drove home late Sunday morning. Which put them in town about 5 o’clock. Since everybody in both families was pretty much tired out from the quick trip to and from Las Vegas there wasn’t much done in the way of a party. Bobby took his new bride home with him where they figured they’d stay until they could find a house or apartment.

    Gail’s folks volunteered to pay for the rest of Gail’s schooling. They figured it was the least they could do since the family was pulling up stakes and heading for Alaska. Bobby figured he could handle it financially, but Gail told him this was something her parents wanted to do. The really cool part to all this, at least cool from a car-guys standpoint was that Gail’s dad gave her the 57 Chevy Belair hardtop he’d owned since new. A very nice, V8 powered, powerglide, well taken of car. Totally stock except for dual pipes and glasspacks, it was metallic bronze in color with a white top. I think Chevy called it "Sierra Bronze". The color turned into a popular one after the 57's came out and more than one hot rod was painted Sierra Bronze.
    The next couple of weeks, life started moving pretty fast for Bobby and Gail. Bobby was able to get a week off from the Telephone Company, but Gail still had to attend school.

    Bobby’s folks and grandmother went together and gave them enough cash to make a down payment on a nice house on two acres of land backed up to a lemon orchard his grandmother owned. The house, in a nice location, out of town just a little way, was like living in the country, but with the main part of town only four miles away. The neighbors houses were far enough away that it seemed like their house was the only one around. The best part, at least to our way of thinking was that it had an attached garage and a big sturdy barn that would make a good shop.
    Bobby had enough money salted away to buy quite a bit of what they needed to run a house.
    Like always, people came up with all manner of good furniture, appliances and things to give them and get the newlyweds off to a good start.

    Heck, my dad got in on it. He offered to toss in the funky old garage refrigerator. It would have worked well for him, his plan was to get a bigger one for the house and move the house fridge out to the garage. Mom liked the old house fridge, but she was ready for a larger and more modern one in the house. She wasn’t about to give Bobby and Gail that dilapidated old thing - as she called it - out in the garage either.

    In the end it worked out well for everybody except dad. Mom got a brand new refrigerator, Bobby and Gail got the nice one from the house and dad still had the old one for the garage.
    So much for bright ideas.

    Bobby and Gail were moving stuff in a little at a time and not living in the house yet, but things really got on a roll when Saturday came around. I was able to swap shifts and get off for the weekend and the whole gang showed up ready to help. Between my little Merc pickup, Roberto’s ex-shop 56 Chevy pickup and Bobby’s 46 Chevy pickup we hauled a lot of stuff out to the house.

    To top it off, on my first trip moving stuff to their house, I had the old house fridge tied down in the back of the Merc pickup, as well as a dresser and some boxes. Mom donated the dresser with the same thinking dad had tried to use with the garage fridge. She’d had her eye on a nice one for a while and couldn’t quite bring herself to buy it since she had a perfectly good one at home. Dad told her to get it anyway, but you know how moms are, they need a good solid reason. Giving away the nice old dresser was all the reason needed. Stopping the Merc pickup at the intersection with the Coast Highway, I was surprised to see the yellow convertible with the beautiful young woman driving sail past headed north. What a great piece of luck, I was headed in the same direction. Course with the load I had on board, and with the stock 48 Merc engine, by the time I got up to 50 mph, the yellow convertible was off in the distance. No way could I catch her. She was probably clicking off 65 when she went by me. With the load on board, a little discretion was called for and I gave it up. Seems like fate was having a good time at my expense.

    With Bobby, Larry, Roberto, Bud, Don, Little and me loading and unloading stuff from the pickups, Gail, Susan, Vickie, and Roberto’s girl friend Mattie directing and arranging everything, the work went pretty quick. At least it seemed quick. Everything seemed to roll along at a fast pace and it was late afternoon when we finally slowed down. We had most of the stuff moved into the house and the guys were sitting around on the back patio. Roberto went out to his pickup and brought in a custom built barbecue he’d built over the last few weeks. It surprised us a touch when he brought it in. He’d been saving it for the last. His contribution to the happy home, but he had plans for it.

    We were happy enough to have a cooler full of ice and beer. Roberto figured, and rightly so that the girls would be organizing things long after we moved stuff in. He decided he’d make dinner and the girls could either keep doing what they were doing or they could just take it easy.
    Roberto doing dinner was fine with the girls. It was a long day for all of us, and getting out of kitchen duty was a nice surprise for them.

    We all knew Roberto was a good cook and helped his mom out in the kitchen when he could. He liked to cook and figured that time spent with his mom was an apprenticeship program of sorts, very much like what he went through at the machine shop. We built an oak log fire in the already burned in barbecue and Roberto and Little left to pick up the very last piece of furniture and to hit the grocery store.

    When they returned, we were all sitting around with something cold to drink and waiting for the fire to burn down. We were ready to eat, we’d been busy all day and skipped lunch to boot.

    The girls wandered out to join us, but as girls are wont to do, they’d talk about house stuff for a while and then wander back inside to decide how a bit more of the arranging and organizing should be done. Not long after they’d get a couple of the guys to move the heavy stuff around. A small lesson for us, we figured once we carried the stuff inside and set it down, we were pretty much done with that part. Little did we know.

    Bobby’s grandmother brought over a beautiful Persian rug to cover the hardwood floor in the front room. Gail was thrilled and Bobby was pleased. Both for Gail and for his grandmother.
    Grandma was only going to stay for only a short while, but we convinced her to stay for dinner.
    Easy for us, as she was virtually our adopted grandmother and we all loved her.

    Finally though, the girls, all of them, including Grandma, had come to a halt and wandered out with their iced teas and soda’s. For a couple of them a cold beer was just right and they sat down and talked with us while the fire burned down. I was surprised to see Bobby’s grandmother ask for a cold beer, but she asked for a glass of beer instead of a bottle. Not surprising though, Grandma always was a class act and very much a lady. She told some great stories though and it was apparent she’d enjoyed life as she went along and been involved with some adventures of her own.
    Roberto put together a simple meal. Simple, in that the ingredients were simple, but the results were not. It turned out to be quite different from the typical California barbecue of salad, grilled garlic bread, grilled steak, foil wrapped potatoes cooked on the grill along with a side dish of barbecued beans. Add to that, a chilled beer to drink and life was just about perfect.

    Roberto explained that he’d learned most of his cooking skills from his mother, but he’d spent a couple of summers working at his uncles Italian Restaurant in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain when he was 13 and 14, right before he came to the United States. One of the house specialties at the restaurant was Bistecca alla Fiorentina. A steak much revered by those who fancy Tuscan Cuisine. Since specially aged T-bone steaks were used to make the real thing as well as an extremely hot fire augmented with a blower, Roberto figured he could cook a reasonable representation out of locally acquired T-bones and a lot of hot oak coals.

    Dinner was simple, a before meal appetizer was a cold vegetable dish drizzled with olive oil and as a nice touch, buttered and Parmesan covered sourdough bread salted lightly with garlic salt - the flaky style - toasted on the broiler in the oven. At least we’d gotten the oven up and running. Roberto threw the steaks on the more than hot fire and only cooked them for a short while on each side. Adding salt and pepper when they were turned. When he figured they were done, he pulled them off, added some more salt & pepper and drizzled some genuine Tuscan olive oil over them and let them sit for a couple of minutes before serving. Since he only cooked six steaks at a time, he sat the girls down at the big wooden picnic table and served them first. We’d set the table to give the girls a break, and Roberto had uncorked a couple of bottles of red wine and poured a generous glass for each of the girls.

    By now, things were really smelling good and we were ready for our turn. When our turn did come, Bobby, Bud and I refused the wine, but Roberto insisted we drink it with the meal. I’m glad we did. I never really cared much for wine, but whatever it was Roberto had brought was the perfect topper to a more than perfect meal. Making beer the perfect after dinner liqueur I suppose.

    What had started out as moving day for Bobby and Gail turned into a most memorable barbecue. The girls were a touch amazed at Roberto’s cooking abilities. Even Bobby’s grandmother was impressed and she was known as a pretty good cook herself. The guys knew Roberto could cook Italian quite well and had been to a few dinners at his home, but we had no idea he had such talent at the barbecue. High praise indeed from a bunch of Southern California beach rats and hot rodders who figured they’d been around more than a few barbecues. Roberto had the touch, that was for sure.

    While the others were sitting around the patio, just talking about things in general, I wandered out to the Merc pickup to get a small gift I’d brought for the house. When I turned around, I saw a piece of black rubber lying on the driveway similar to the one the 12 year old had waved out the window when the yellow convertible had pulled out of the Frosty Shop parking lot. I didn’t have a clue as to what it was. I went back to our little group and gave my present to Gail. She opened it, thanked me and that was pretty much the signal for the rest of the crowd to bring out the small gifts we’d brought along. All received graciously and with many thanks from both Gail and Bobby.

    When things quieted down a touch I brought out the black rubber piece and asked what it was. The guys didn’t have a clue. The girls, except for Gail were equally in the dark. Gail told us it was the blade guard for her ice skates. We had a roller skating rink in town, and another in the next town over, but Gail being an ice skater was a new one on us. There was a new ice rink just south of Arroyo Verde, built after the old one there closed down, but none of us had been there.
    Gail explained that when she was in junior high school, she’d spent several summers at a girl friends house located on Lake Arrowhead in the mountains above San Bernardino. The two on them spent a lot of time at the Bluejay ice skating rink among other places. To my mind that pretty much solved the mystery of where the young woman in the yellow convertible came from and perhaps where she lived.

    The moving day and barbecue came to an end around 10 o’clock and we started drifting off for home. I’d been thinking constantly about the fair haired miss in the yellow convertible and just couldn’t get her out of my mind. When I left, I ran down to the Coast Highway and instead of heading for home, I hung a right and headed up the coast for Arroyo Verde. My thinking was simple. I figured our local skating rink, as well as the one in the next town ran what they called double sessions on Friday and Saturday nights and stayed open till midnight. I was betting the ice rink south of Arroyo Verde probably did the same thing.

    Running up the coast in the little Merc pickup gave me some time to think. I wasn’t real sure why I was doing this, but I did know it was something I wanted to pursue. In the very short time since I’d seen the beautiful young woman in the yellow convertible, at least close up, I thought there was something there. Something not seen so much as felt.

    After a 20 minute drive I arrived at the Ice Skating Rink. Cruising the parking lot showed no yellow convertible present. So much for that idea. Even so, I figured it was still as good a way as any to find her.

    Over the next couple of weeks I must have made half a dozen trips to the Ice Rink on the weekends and was just about ready to give it up when Don mentioned he’d seen the yellow convertible sitting in the Ice Rink parking lot on a Sunday night. That struck me as a bit strange, because Sunday nights were reserved for private parties at our local Rinks and I figured the same would be true at the Ice Rink.

    Well, maybe so. I ran out there the next Sunday night and still no yellow convertible. I wasn’t ready to give up, but I gotta admit I was running out of ideas. I’d already mentioned to the guys that I was looking for the yellow convertible, but hadn’t said anything to the girls. I think they knew something was up anyway because their matchmaking efforts had slowly come to a halt. Either that, or they’d just given up on me.

    As luck would have it, and remembering there are two kinds of luck, fate stepped in. I’d just finished a graveyard shift on a Monday morning and was stopped at the Coast Highway intersection just down from the power station when I saw the yellow convertible sail past headed south into town. Driven, once again, by the beautiful young woman. I was driving the coupe and I saw her glance in my direction, but she probably figured it was just another one of those black primered Southern California hot rods, worthy of a quick glance, but no more. As far as I was concerned, this was my golden opportunity. With the big tri-power J2 Olds under the hood, there would be no replay of the attempted chase in the loaded down Merc pickup. I figured I could catch anything.

    When the traffic opened up a bit, I entered the Coast Highway headed south and nailed the throttle on the big engine. The mufflers on the coupe were free flowing and fairly quiet, having been originally slated for the big engine, four passenger T-Bird’s and they were reasonably quiet on the coupe. Trouble was, there was no disguising that sucking the hood down the engine sound from the three 2 barrels.

    I was running out the end of third gear, about ready to click it into fourth when I sailed by a CHP cruiser sitting in the beach parking lot. I saw the red light go on before he even started rolling. That was pretty much the end of the first break I’d gotten in this whole deal. I pulled over and stopped figuring why play dumb? I’d broken the speed limit in third gear, by a pretty good margin to boot, so why compound the problem?

    The big Dodge cruiser pulled in behind the coupe and a young officer got out. I figured there was no way I was going to get out of this one. My experience had been, the rookie’s tagged anybody and everybody. Didn’t make too much difference there, I’d been pretty blatant about flying down the highway and figured I deserved what I got. I got out of the coupe and just stood there. The CHP officer did likewise. He looked the coupe over from the back end, walked up and asked for my license and registration. Then he walked around to the front of the car, looked at the front bumper and looked once again at the registration. Returning to the rear of the car, he looked at the license plate there and looked at the registration again. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was for a bit. Then the light dawned. Don and I had gone together and bought a 50 Ford sedan for a parts car a couple of months back and I’d pulled the very nice front bumper off and stuck it on the coupe to replace one that had a couple of dings in it. I’d totally forgotten to replace the sedan license plate with the correct one from the coupe bumper. I’d been running around town with two different license plates on the car. Now the officer got real interested, figuring perhaps he’d stopped a stolen car at the very least. He had me raise the hood so he could check the frame numbers.
    I was standing there trying to figure out what all this was going to cost me when I saw the yellow convertible coming up the highway heading north toward Arroyo Verde. Once again, the young woman looked in my direction, took in the whole scene, looked right into my eyes, didn’t flicker an eyelash, smile, frown or anything. She just cruised on by. Well, great. That was two lost opportunities in about a ten minute span of time. The really bad part was having to stand there, watch her drive by again and I couldn’t do a thing about it.

    The rookie officer seemed to be satisfied with the ID on the coupe and turned out to be a level headed guy for the most part. Level headed in my opinion as he didn’t bust me as bad as he could have. He wrote me up for 65 in a 55 mph zone. Along with a white fix it ticket. No fine on these, just correct the problem, get it signed off by an officer and you were home free. Although in this case he wanted to see the paperwork on the parts car before he’d sign it off. By the time it was all over with I figured the yellow convertible was long gone so I gave up and headed for home. I was beat from a busy graveyard shift anyway.

    When the weekend came, Don and I hit the Frosty Shop on Friday evening to see what was up.
    We ran into Larry, Susan, Bobby and Gail, who were ending up a double date with root beer floats and watching the cars come and go. As usual, they were in Larry’s Merc. It wasn’t too long until Bud and Vicky came in and darned near the whole gang was there. The girls had settled into Larry’s Merc for girl talk, and the guys were standing around the outside doing the bench racing bit. Don was giving me a bad time about my recent ticket. Which drew the attention of the girls. They were a little surprised because they knew me as a driver who took it easy for the most part. Except for the occasional street race way out in the country. They didn’t like that part, but accepted it as another one of those guy things and something they had to put up with. Even so, I hadn’t been in a street race for a long time and in fact hadn’t been in much more than a couple of third gear smash on the throttle a bit when getting onto the Coast Highway from one of the on ramps in town.

    When I told the guys I’d been trying to catch a girl in a yellow convertible, they nodded and agreed that it was too bad I’d gotten stopped in the middle of a good chance to catch it. Mentioning the yellow convertible really caught the attention of the girls. This was the first they’d heard of it. As well as the first time they’d heard about the ticket. Which meant I had to explain the whole thing. The girls were interested now. Aside from the matchmaking they engaged in now and then, a good mystery was one of their favorite things.
    I mentioned I’d been driving to the Ice Rink on weekend nights looking for the yellow convertible without success and Gail asked me if I’d ever gone inside the Ice Rink. I told her that I hadn’t. She then asked, if the beautiful young woman I was seeking could be driving a different car to the Ice Rink. That was so simple I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it. Kinda funny how we get locked into a particular path or way to do something and somebody observing from the side can point out another way to do it. It was too late to hit the Ice Rink tonight, but tomorrow was another day.

    I was working day shift on Saturday, but it didn’t look to be a great problem. I’d get off at four o’clock, go home, eat dinner, clean up and head for the Ice Rink around seven. At least I thought I would. The swing shift guy called in sick and I had to split the shift with the graveyard guy. Which meant I didn’t get out of there till eight thirty the way things turned out. At least dinner was covered by the company. All I had to do was run home, clean up, get the coupe out and head north for the Ice Rink. By the time I got there it was right at ten o’clock and the first session group of skaters was leaving. Once again, no yellow convertible in the parking lot. Figuring Gail’s advice about driving the other car was right on the money, I figured I’d give it a shot.

    I bought a second session ticket along with a skate rental ticket and headed inside. I figured this ice skating thing couldn’t be too tough. I was a pretty good roller skater and spent quite a few hours at the local skating rink up to a couple of years ago or so. I’d dated a girl for about a year who was deeply involved with free style skating and she’d gotten me interested in it. At least up to the point where I could skate on an equal footing with most of the other skaters. At least the ones not involved in competition. The kids who skated competition were pretty dedicated and I didn’t see how I could spend that much time practicing and still have time left over for other things. I skated a few dance competitions with her, but she wanted to start competing in pairs freestyle. We parted ways when it became apparent that I preferred hot rods over skating.

    Waiting in line for the rental skates, I could see this ice skating thing was a touch different from the roller skating. At least in the style of skates used. Roller skates for the most part, at least in my area were pretty much the same. The speed skating roller skaters used a different style skate, but everybody else used pretty much the same one. High boots for men and women, big toe stops, double cushions and precision wheels. The ice skaters it seemed, used - from what I could see - three different styles of skate. Figure, speed and hockey. The skates handed out at the rental window were the hockey style. I figured they were as good as anything else.

    I got the skates and got em on, but I didn’t see the young woman I was looking for. Since I was there and liked skating anyway, I figured why not give it a shot. I’d always been curious as to what it was like.

    Turns out, it was different to say the least. The first big difference was having to walk across the rubber cushioned floor to the ice. It made sense even if I was used to skating wherever I wanted to go at the roller rink. Once on the ice, it wasn’t too bad, but it felt kind of clumsy and I was probably looking like a beginner. Kind of a disappointment for sure because I figured I ought to be able to ice skate darned near as good as I roller skated. Things always look easy, but when you get there it’s a lot different than you thought it would be.

    After I’d gotten the hang of just getting around the ice on the strange feeling skates, I spotted the 12 year old who I’d seen in the yellow convertible just gliding along backwards while talking to her friend. When she went past, she looked up at me with a bit of a quizzical look. A look of recognition I hoped. It was only a few seconds until she left the ice, went over to the office door and went in. That was kind strange.

    I thought I’d been keeping a pretty good eye on the office door, but what happened next was a total surprise. The beautiful young woman, skating backwards, came into view on my left and glided smoothly over in front of me. She skated easily along and watched me for a bit. She didn’t say a word, just glided along easily and glanced back from time to time. Suave devil that I am, all I could get out was a simple hello. She still didn’t say anything, just watched me for a bit and looked into my eyes with those beautiful gray-green eyes. I was totally awe-struck. She was dressed in a light gray pleated skating skirt and had on a short sleeved green sweater. This young woman was even more beautiful than I remembered.

    She held out her hand, which I took, and said, "come on browneyes" and led me smoothly off the ice.

    She walked me across the rubber cushioned floor to a bench, told me to sit down and take off my skates, asked what size I wore and said she’d be right back. I wasn’t about to argue, but I did wonder why. She came back with a pair of figure skates and told me to give them a try. With that, she walked away, stepped off the floor and with one strong push glided smoothly onto the ice. It was obvious she was a very good skater.

    What I hadn’t noticed was the whistle hanging round her neck. At least not until I heard it.
    I’d walked over to the skate rental window to return the first pair of skates when she whistled at a couple of kids who were skating against the flow of traffic and motioned for them to go the other way. Well -- that made sense, she worked for the Ice Rink. If I was a little smarter I would have figured it out long ago.

    The guy inside the rental window asked me if I was Rebecca’s friend. I told him the truth, that I’d just met her. He looked a little surprised, but didn’t say much.
    I walked over to the ice and pushed off from the rubber floor. This wasn’t too bad, these skates handled more like my roller skates. They were a lot easier to skate on than the hockey skates had been. The beautiful young woman glided smoothly over and asked me if it was easier skating on the new skates. It was a lot easier, it was surprising what a big difference the skates did make. She explained that most times the guys in the rental window handed out hockey skates and she’d noticed that experienced roller skaters had an easier time skating on the figure skates.
    The big difference being the hockey skates were pretty much flat on the bottom and the figure skates had a bit of rocker or bow to the blades making them react similarly to a roller skate.

    It wasn’t long until the 12 year old glided over which brought a quick and apparently meaningful glance from the young woman that pretty much silenced whatever it was the 12 year old was going to say. The young woman introduced the 12 year old as her younger sister Sarah.

    I told Sarah I was pleased to meet her, turned to the beautiful young woman and said "you are Rebecca."

    Rebecca smiled lightly, although that came to an end when Sarah said "told ja" and skated away.

    Which brought another one of those big sister looks from Rebecca. Sarah smiled and cut across the ice to join her girl friend. The whole evening was turning out way better than I hoped. At least now, Rebecca would talk to me, but not much. She was kind of a quiet girl, although very self assured. More so than any other girl I’d met before. With perhaps the lone exception being Bobby’s wife Gail. Gotta admit though, Gail would talk to you more than this girl did.

    And to be fair, Rebecca did have to pay attention to her job. As fun things tend to do, the evening went by in a total flash of time. Seems like it was just ten o’clock a couple of minutes ago and now it was midnight and the skating was over. I was beginning to realize how Cinderella felt when the clock struck midnight. I hoped I wasn’t turning into a pumpkin.
    I asked Rebecca out for coffee, but she turned me down. For two reasons, she explained. First, she had to take Sarah home and second, she didn’t really know me from Adam. When I asked if I could see her again, she told me to come by tomorrow night - Sunday - as that was private party night and she’d leave word at the ticket window for them to let me in.

    Pulling out of the Ice Rink parking lot, I was thinking what a strange and short evening it had been. Not only did I find the beautiful young woman, I’d actually met her and it seemed she was willing to see me again. I suppose it was just one of those too short and too perfect nights that stick in your memory. It did for me. The drive home in the coupe went by in a hurry. I went straight home and hit the sack. It had been a long day for sure, but strangely enough, sleep was hard to come by. I must have lain awake all night thinking the whole evening through. And thinking about the forthcoming evening.

    Mom was a touch surprised when she had to come in and give me a kick around ten o’clock.
    I was normally up and doing something, even if it was not much, by eight o’clock in the morning.She didn’t even ask if I was taking her to church. It was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere for a while and besides, it was my Sunday off. Suited me, all I wanted to do was drink coffee and wake up. Or wake up and drink coffee. However it worked out was fine with me.

    Most of the morning was spent vacuuming out and washing the coupe even though it wasn’t dirty. I thought I’d wash the Merc pickup, but once again dad had appropriated it for his own use. So I vacuumed and washed his blue & white 54 Olds 88 hardtop instead. A car with a lot of miles, but still in excellent shape due to Dad’s steady maintenance program. That took care of the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon. An all too short nap, a quick dinner and I was ready to head out.

    I was looking forward to seeing Rebecca and the clock seemed like it was standing still.
    Regardless, I made myself wait until six thirty and then headed out for the ice rink. I got there about seven and found no lines, no waiting. I told them my name and they let me in with not problems. Normally the Sunday night parties at the skating rinks, many times part of a church youth group deal, are closed to outsiders. At times though, if the group that rents the rink has a lot of no-shows, they’re willing to let other skaters in so they won’t lose money. All that’s required for the most part is a recommendation from the rink owner or in my case a prior arrangement by one of the rink employees. It made sense, no church group wants to allow a bunch of trouble makers in. Although at the rinks in my area - as it was at the ice rink - they hired an off-duty police officer to keep an eye on things. It was a small factor in keeping the rowdy element out of the skating rink and it assured parents that it would be ok to leave their children there for the evening.

    Skating rinks were a bit like pool halls as far as having an unsavory reputation. Said reputation a leftover from many years ago when they were thought to be hotbeds of sin and the like. The local rink operators, as did most of the rinks around the country worked very hard to maintain a reputation as a safe place to go.

    I went up to the rental window and asked for a pair of figure skates. Apparently it was a novel request to the guy inside. At least until he saw me and recognized me from the night before.

    The only comment he made was, "Rebecca’s new friend, I see".

    Darned if I knew what he meant about that, but I was darned if I’d give him the satisfaction of being curious and asking just what he meant. I saw Rebecca and Sarah out on the ice just gliding along. There were only a handful of church kids out there. Apparently the group had quite a few no-shows and the ice, as well as the rink itself was darned near empty.

    I skated out to them and Sarah, once Rebecca looked at her with that big sister look, glided silently away. With not a comment. What that meant, I hadn’t a clue. With the ice rink virtually empty of other skaters, it gave Rebecca and I a good opportunity to get to know one another.
    What I did find out about her was her great love for skating. She’d planned to follow a career in free style skating, but life, as it always does has a way of intruding and spoiling the plans of many talented people. Finances would not allow her to follow the competition circuit as would be required. She had the talent and she had the desire. Just that circumstance dictated otherwise.

    She was working hard toward a degree in marine biology and had a couple years of studies completed at the local junior college. Her plan was to attend the university at Arroyo Verde next year. It was easy to listen to her talk as she was intelligent, and had - even at the age of 20 - a wealth of experience to draw on. Course, I was a bit prejudiced. Just listening to her voice, which was as beautiful as the rest of her, was most easy and pleasant.

    I had time to talk as well, and we learned quite a bit about each other in the three hours of gliding around the ice. To her credit, Sarah, as Rebecca put it, could be a tease and had a strong mind of her own, left us alone and let us talk. I was rapidly falling in love with this young woman and felt privileged to be in her company. For her part, Rebecca was pleasant to me and would answer questions, but she was either a good poker player or was simply not too interested and just being polite. I had no wiles, schemes or grand plans, but I did have hope. I was just myself, a Southern California beach rat who loved hot rods, drag racing and body surfing. In about that order.

    02-13-2004, 12:38 PM
    Continuation of The Yellow Convertible

    The girls I’d dated in the past pretty much picked up on that and many of them gave up on me quite early in the relationship. At times like that I just let the river of life flow on and take me where it may. With Rebecca, I could see, and strongly so, she was the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

    I asked her if I could take her to dinner on the next weekend. The answer was a no, which probably reflected in my disappointed face. She explained she worked Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at the Ice Rink. As well as attending the Junior College during the day and studying at night. She figured if I could make it with my weird - at least weird to those who hadn’t done it - schedule on Thursday night, then she could too. Provided I would double date with a couple her dad would approve of. It made sense, she still didn’t know me well and the girls of the time were modest and cautious. As were their parents. It sounded reasonable to me, I figured I could get Bobby and Gail to come along and the little fact that they were married would help. At least I thought so.

    I told Rebecca I had the perfect couple for us to double date with and it seemed fine with her.
    Of course, I hadn’t cleared it with Bobby and Gail yet, but I figured they would more than likely be available. If not, I wasn’t above dragging my Mom and Dad along if I had to. It turned out Bobby and Gail were more than the perfect couple to take along.

    Thursday afternoon arrived, and none too soon for me. I borrowed dad’s 54 Olds and headed out to pick up Bobby and Gail. I figured it would be far better to show up in a nice stock car than to come idling up in a hot rod coupe. First impressions and all that.

    Bobby had gone to the extra effort in dressing up with a nice pair of slacks and a button down shirt. Gail looked more than beautiful in a soft yellow summer dress. Heck, I’d even forsaken the official Southern California hot rod dress of levis and t-shirt and was dressed similar to Bobby.
    Bobby just smiled and I think he knew how important this was to me and he was more than willing to do what he could to help. As for Gail, our Miss Gail, she positively glowed. She hadn’t set up this date, and had nothing to do with arranging it, but she would see it through as best she could. It was, in a small way, the best of two worlds for Miss Gail. A night out with Bobby and a chance to meet a new friend. Not to mention the little bit of matchmaking that I’m sure was in the back of her mind.

    We were pretty quiet on the drive out to Rebecca’s house. It was a ways out of town to the North which explained why we hardly ever saw the yellow convertible in town. Once we found her house, Bobby and Gail were getting a bit nervous about meeting Rebecca. Meeting her parents had them a bit worried. I don’t know why, Bobby and Gail got along with everyone.
    In truth, I was a bit worried too. Not so much worried about the parents, just that I wanted this date to go well.

    We walked up the front porch steps of a beautiful two story house set back from the road on a very large tree covered lot. It must have been two acres at the least. I rang the bell and it wasn’t long until the door opened. Standing there was a very large man who was dressed in levis, t-shirt and socks. Well I figured, so far, so good. It appeared that here was a man after our own heart.
    At least where the mode of dress was concerned.

    He looked at me. He smiled at Gail.

    When he saw Bobby his face lit up in recognition and he said, "Hi Bobby".

    Bobby said, "Hi Earl".

    You could have knocked Gail and I over with a feather. All I knew was that Rebecca’s last name was Armstrong and neither Gail or I had a clue that Bobby and Earl knew each other.
    It turned out Earl was an Edison Company transmission patrol foreman and ran one of the two man trucks that was dispatched out of the Arroyo Verde power station. I didn’t know Earl at all since we didn’t dispatch him or have a reason to talk to him. He dealt with the Arroyo Verde station or the switching center in Valencia. We went inside, sat down and listened while Earl and Bobby explained how they knew each other.

    The Edison company and the telephone company put in a new repeater station as a shared facility high up on a mountain. Bobby had given Earl and his lineman a lift off the mountain in a sno-cat during a bad snow storm after the transmission truck got stuck. The truck was left where it was until the storm was over. They were more than pleased to see each other and Gail and I, for the most part, just sat there and listened.
    It wasn’t too long until Rebecca came down the stairs in a light green summer dress. I stood up and didn’t say anything. She was so beautiful. My being quiet didn’t phase Earl at all. He introduced Bobby and Gail to Rebecca and told us to get home at a reasonable hour. On the way out the door he took me to one side and told me he was impressed that I was friends with Bobby - who he respected greatly - and that went a long way toward his willingness to let his daughter spend the evening with a young man he didn’t really know. Just one of those short talks the fathers of young women seem inclined to give any potential suitor, but I felt in Earls case, he was most serious. Although I refer to him as Earl, I made sure to call him Mr. Armstrong.

    Earl walked us out to the driveway and commented, "Nice Olds."

    It was a nice Olds, a well maintained eight year old car, it still looked like new and drove just about as good. It sounded good too, dad succumbing to the hot rod instincts of old had the local muffler shop install a set of duals on it not long after he got it. Like always, the mufflers were the much preferred Smithy’s and it had a nice mellow sound.

    I opened the passenger door for Gail and Bobby to get into the back seat and held it open for Rebecca. Gail had slid over no further than the middle and was sitting next to Bobby after he got in. Rebecca got in, ending up sitting next to the passenger door. It made sense to me, we didn’t know each other that well and her dad was watching to boot. To my surprise, and a most pleasant one as well, once we turned out on the little road leading to the Coast Highway, Rebecca slid over and sat next to me. As far as I was concerned, I was on cloud nine and it was Oldsmobile powered.

    We drove up to Arroyo Verde where I’d made reservations at the fancier of two restaurants out on the pier. Dinner and the rest of the evening was, at least as far as I was concerned, a raving success. We all had a more than good time. Gail, who usually drank only one glass of wine with dinner, had several. Bobby, who generally didn’t drink wine at all had a couple too. Since I was driving I opted not to drink and with Rebecca being underage at 20, she had none either. It didn’t make any difference, we enjoyed ourselves and had a more than pleasant evening. Bobby and Gail told a few stories on me and I told a few on them. Rebecca, it seemed was quite taken with Bobby and Gail and I hoped by extension, was perhaps a bit taken with me. She even told a few stories on herself. She told some serious stories as well, one being that her mother died when she was ten and Sarah was two. The girls were raised by their grandmother Pearl and their dad. They’d had an interesting upbringing as dad made pretty good money and their grandmother had some of her own. The three of them had spent many summers traveling, both locally and abroad. Earl, who never remarried, stayed at home and worked. As far as he was concerned, he couldn’t do enough for his mother-in-law and his daughters. It was a household full of love and fun.

    The reason for the many absences of the yellow convertible at the skating rink was that Earl preferred the girls take the family car - a light green four door 61 Chevy station wagon to the ice rink rather than have the convertible sit out in the fog and salt air along the coast. The convertible was purchased new by Earl a couple of years after his wife died. His wife had always wanted a yellow convertible and apparently her desire for one had rubbed off on Earl. He only drove it for a short while, but the memories were just too strong. The car ended up in the garage for the most part. Earl took it out every couple of weeks and drove it far enough to charge the battery and that was about it as far as driving the car went.
    It was an eight year old car with only 7200 miles on the odometer. His mom-in-law told him he ought to sell it, but Earl wanted to keep it for the girls. They’d grown to love the car as much as Earl did, but for a long while they weren’t aware of the tie between their mother and the convertible.

    Somewhere in all this, the convertible’s stock 239 cid OHV engine popped a soft plug, overheated and cracked the block. Earl blamed himself because he’d left it running in the driveway at a fast idle to charge the battery when he went inside. The phone rang and he got tied up for a while. All the time, the little convertible was pouring out it’s coolant and overheated right up to the point where the engine froze up.

    As Rebecca explained it, Earl was mad at himself for a few days, but soon realized that here was a chance to make the convertible the car he thought it should be. Earl was a bit of a hot rodder and he’d done a bit of dry lakes racing with a friend named Johnny. Johnny ran a flathead powered roadster at Rogers Dry Lake before the war. After the war ended, Rogers was a permanent military base and the racing was moved to El Mirage Dry Lake. They ran the roadster there until about 1950 when Earl got recalled and went to Korea for two years. That pretty much ended the dry lakes racing for Earl and Johnny. Neither one of them did much of the hot rod stuff after that. Not as far as racing went anyway.

    Johnny worked at the Arroyo Verde Mercury dealer and had a well deserved reputation as the guy to see when it came to making the Fords and the Mercury’s into fast running, good handling cars. He’d even done some of the engine assembly work on a couple of the Pan American Lincoln’s that ran in Mexico in the 50's.
    Rebecca told us - and we were flat amazed she remembered all the details - Earl and Johnny, found a good, rebuildable engine, a 292 out of a wrecked 55 Ford police car. It was bored .060 over which knocked it out to 301 cubic inches, had a pair of ECZ-G heads that were ported and fit with 1.64" 368 Lincoln exhaust valves along with a pair of hand built Tri-Y style headers. The cam was an Isky E2, the very same cam as the Ford EDB cam, which was supplied by Isky anyway. Intake was a factory dual four barrel manifold fitted with a pair of the #4000 teapot four barrels that came on the Lincoln’s. Preferred, as they were bigger than the Ford Teapot carbs.

    The Teapot carbs used to drive the car guys nutso as the common belief that they didn’t work was shown by the good running, overbored 292 to be a fallacy. Even with the fairly big cam, the car ran well and idled reasonably smooth, all things considered. It was the ideal combo for the automatic trans pulled out of a wrecked 57 Ford and bolted up behind the overbored 292.

    Earl liked driving the car and took exceptionally good care of it, but since the girls loved it so much he let them use it to the point where Rebecca considered it her car. Which pleased Earl no end. Rebecca wasn’t a daddy’s girl, but she had a good strong relationship with her father and respect flowed from both sides. Earl appreciated Rebecca for what she was and what she could be. Rebecca in turn loved her dad and was proud of him as well.

    It was quite an evening for sure. I didn’t think I’d learn very much about Rebecca, but was pleasantly surprised at how open she was. I think it had a lot to do with Gail. A beautiful and sensible girl, one liked by most everybody she’d met. The two girls hit it off well.

    I think Rebecca liked Bobby too. He always had been a good listener and he was fascinated by what Rebecca had to say. When you got right down to it, I didn’t say a whole lot. I was smart enough to realize the evening was going quite well and content to just sit and observe for the most part. Conversations are like music. The rests, or the silent parts if you wish to call them that, are just as important as the notes played. Fine with me, I liked hearing Rebecca talk and could think of no good reason to interrupt her. God knows, it took long enough to get her to say more than a few words to me. Even so, every now and then she would glance over with those soft gray-green eyes as if to ask, "am I doing alright?". For sure she was, I just smiled back, hoping all the while I wasn’t looking like a total fool.

    All things considered, I did ok. The only place I fell down was when I called Rebecca Becky.
    Her response, while not cold, was firm.

    She said, "My name is Rebecca".

    Fine with me, it was a beautiful name for a beautiful girl and I never called her anything but Rebecca after that short little interlude.

    All too soon, dinner was over. We left the restaurant and walked the pier for a while. Since the marina wasn’t too far away and easily seen from the pier, it looked interesting. We drove the Olds over to the marina parking lot, parked, and walked out on the breakwater. We didn’t stay long though. It was still summer and still warm out, but the cool ocean winds blew strongly across the breakwater. It was high tide and the waves breaking and turning into a fine mist at the end of the breakwater just added to the coolness Making it a little too cold for our two young ladies in their light summer dresses.

    Rebecca and Gail thought it would be more than nice to one day own a sailboat like the ones moored in the marina and even if you didn’t sail upon the seas of the world, at least sailing the California coast would be fun. Sounded reasonable to us. Although we’d be hard pressed to see ourselves at the wheel of a sailboat.

    We walked over to a small Cafe’ near the marina entrance and had coffee which gave the girls time to warm up a little. Afterward, it was a quiet but pleasant ride home. No one said much. I think for all of us and especially for me, it had been a most special night.

    It wasn’t late when we arrived at Rebecca’s house, just a little in front of midnight. We had no particular time to get home, but Rebecca had classes in the morning, Bobby and Gail had to go to work in the morning, so it made sense to make it an early evening. Easy for me since I was still doing the rotating shift bit and had Friday off. Fat lot of good it would do me though. Everybody I knew was working or in school.

    It was easy to see that Rebecca was tired when we got home. She’d been leaning on my shoulder, sound asleep not long after we left the Arroyo Verde city limits and slept all the way home. I wanted to ask her if I could see her again when we got to her home, but she was still half asleep, wandered up to the door, smiled and said in a sleepy voice, "goodnight," turned, opened the unlocked door and went in. I didn’t expect much, but that struck me as not much at all. It was ok though, we’d gotten along well, I had high hopes for the future and keeping in mind her busy schedule I figured she was tired out and I could talk to her later.

    When I walked back out to the driveway, I felt like someone was watching me. I looked up at the upstairs windows and saw Sarah looking out of one. She waved at me and went back inside. That was a good sign. It sure couldn’t hurt to have the younger sister approve of me although approval of the older sister was what I most desired.

    I took Bobby and Gail home. They told me they liked Rebecca and hoped they’d see more of her. As Gail put it, in her ever direct manner, they hoped they’d see her accompanied by me. Couldn’t argue with that. It was my hearts desire as well.

    I drifted home in dads sweet running Olds hardtop, just cruising along, headed down Main Street listening to the soft burble of the dual’s echoing off the dark and shadowy buildings.
    Main Street was quiet and virtually deserted. All I saw was the occasional late night worker and a cop car. Even the Frosty Shop was closed. It looked strange, but to be expected because it closed at nine o’clock Sunday through Thursday and only stayed open till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The whole town was as quiet as I felt. It didn’t take long to get home once I got off Main Street. I figured Friday would be another one of those lonesome days off and figured I’d wax dads Olds as a small gesture of thanks for the use of the car.

    Friday dawned, clear and hot. Coastal communities are kind of funny. Sometimes it would be 85 degrees at the beach on a hot day, and three miles away, up towards the foothills and trending inland, temperatures of 95 to 100 degrees were common. Since the folks house was just about three miles from the beach, summers for the most part could be very hot. I had the house to myself and dad had driven the Merc pickup to work. I think he liked the pickup better than I did. Mom had the day off and headed out early to the golf course with her lady friends. I’d run into town for an early breakfast at Mikes Cafe’ and was back home by 10 o’clock. The Olds got washed and I had a good coat of wax on it by noon. It looked so good, I started thinking about painting the Merc pickup.

    The standing there and thinking about it was interrupted when I heard the sounds of a sweet running engine pulling up the driveway. When I stepped to where I could see, I was surprised to see Rebecca driving up in the yellow convertible. She stopped the car and just sat there. I walked over and opened the door so she could get out. She didn’t say a word, got out, threw her arms around me and started crying. Well ... I’m like any other guy when it comes to a crying woman. I didn’t know what the hell to do. I just held her until she cried herself out. When it was all over, she was smiling at me and trying to wipe away the tears. I gave her the clean terrycloth rag out of my back pocket. I was gonna wipe off the wax with it, but right now wiping away tears seemed like a good use for it. She stepped back, looked at me and didn’t say a word.
    I didn’t know what to say, and to tell the truth I was afraid to ask. It was a moment where I just wasn’t sure what to do. So in my fear of doing the wrong thing, I did nothing. Which, as it turned out was the right thing to do. Rebecca took my hand and walked me over to the cement bench near the pool. She looked so great. She was wearing a pair of dark blue shorts, a sleeveless white blouse and was barefoot. We sat on the bench and when I started to ask her what was the matter, she motioned for me to be quiet and said that she would explain.

    The explanation was a simple one. Rebecca had known several boys casually and had dated them off and on from the time she was 16. One in particular she had grown to love. He promised her many things, but what he forgot to promise was that he would never hurt her in any way. When she was 18 they broke up and it was a devastating time for her. What made it difficult was that her favorite aunt had died a few months prior. And the boy friend had chosen this time to try and date her best friend while still going with Rebecca. In this case, the best friend truly was her best friend and pretty much told him to get lost. Along with a few other choice words. Not long after, her friend moved out of town due to her dad got a job transfer. Leaving Rebecca pretty lonesome for about the last year and a half.

    She’d pretty much thrown herself into her skating and school work and was getting her life in order when she ran into me at the Frosty Shop. She smiled and told me she thought I was interesting, but maybe a little too forward for her. Even so, she hoped I would be somebody worth knowing, but at the same time she was afraid to talk to me so she hadn’t pursued it.

    I was taken aback at the impromptu confession. I thought of myself as a skinny beach rat who loved cars and in no way figured women and especially a woman as beautiful as Rebecca would think I was worth knowing. It was enough for me that the few girls I did know thought I was ok. Ok, being a lot better than what it could have been and maybe even not as good as it should have been.

    What the hell did I know, I didn’t have a clue as to the workings of the female mind. Other than deciding it was a great mystery and there was no use fretting over it. It would either work itself out or it wouldn’t. Simple as that. At least in my simple minded way of thinking about it.
    Rebecca’s revelation came as a total shock.

    My response - I still can’t believe I said it - was to simply blurt out, "I love you and I’ll never hurt you."

    I don’t know where it came from, it just did. For a while there, I was afraid I’d said the wrong thing when Rebecca started crying again. Once the tears stopped, it looked like it had been the right thing to say. We sat on the hard cement bench for a while, for quite a while in fact, not saying anything, just holding hands.

    By now, it was running just short of 2 o’clock, it was getting hot and we were sitting right next to a pool of cool clear water. I think the idea hit us both at the same time. Going for a swim looked like the sensible thing to do. It was ok with me. I was wearing cutoff levis, a t-shirt and a pair of ragged tennies. I thought for Rebecca, with no bathing suit, maybe a small problem. Not much of one as it turned out. She just walked over to the pool side and dove in. So much for thoughts of exotic bathing attire. I kicked off my tennies, yanked off my t-shirt and dove in. The cool water felt more than good.

    I swam toward the shallow end and was standing in shoulder deep water when Rebecca swam up to me, put her hand behind my neck, pulled herself toward me and kissed me. A sweet and pure kiss, it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It didn’t last long and it didn’t have to. It was full of meaning. Both implied and promised. It seemed to seal an unspoken vow.

    We swam for a while and got out to dry off. It was obvious that it would take Rebecca a while to dry off. I walked her through the side door of the house, and out to the big back porch which was also the laundry room, showed her how to operate the dryer, gave her a big beach towel and told her she could have all the privacy she needed while her clothes were in the dryer.

    I headed upstairs to shower and change clothes. My plan was to take Rebecca over to Mikes Cafe’ for a late lunch. Like many plans, it’s the unexpected turn that spoils them. I’d forgotten all about mom having the day off and being at the golf course. Mom wasn’t the only one who’d spent a hot day outside. Probably worse for her since she was plying golf in the hot sun for most of the day. And mom, being mom, and figuring she was alone in the house came in the back door, peeled her clothes off and walked into the laundry room stark naked figuring she’d get her bathing suit out of the dryer. Rebecca, startled at the sight of the naked woman let out a scream, slid off the washer where she’d been sitting and promptly lost the beach towel. Now it was moms turn to scream. Seems she didn’t expect a naked woman in the laundry room either.

    I was just getting out of the shower when the screaming started and I couldn’t figure it out.
    That was a whole lot of screaming coming from one woman. Little did I know that the screaming was coming from two women. I grabbed a pair of levis and was trying to put them on and run downstairs at the same time. I made it down about the same time the screaming stopped. I tell you, when I opened the laundry room door and saw the two naked women, I didn’t know what to do. A guys not supposed to look at his naked mom, but right across from her was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen and I couldn’t help looking. Fortunately, at least I think it was fortunate, mom recovered first and gently shut the door in my face. I suppose it was a good thing. Funny part was, I don’t remember looking at mom at all. That’s one thing good about it.
    I do remember seeing Rebecca though. That was a sight that burned itself onto my retina’s.
    Permanently, I think.

    Now that the door was shut, I heard the giggling start and then dissolve into total and uncontrolled laughter. Rebecca told me later that once they figured out there was no threat, they both saw the craziness in the situation and started smiling. Once the smiling started it all went downhill from there. I gave up and went back upstairs to finish dressing.

    Mom picked up her bathing suit - which Rebecca had taken out of the dryer and laid on the counter earlier - got dressed and headed out for the pool. Rebecca got dressed and went out to the pool as well. She apologized to mom and mom told her it wasn’t a problem and not to worry. She felt sure it was an innocent situation and told Rebecca that she had a lot of trust in me and expected me to do the right thing. Rebecca didn’t say much, she was embarrassed a bit, but not too badly. Mom made it easy for her and told her to forget it and she was welcome to come over anytime.

    It was amazing to me how mom could always make a good judgement call on another person.
    I think too, she realized this was the girl I’d been searching for even though I’d told her nothing about Rebecca. I’d mentioned nothing to dad either. The only thing either of them knew about any girl, was when I borrowed the Olds for our double date dinner with Bobby and Gail in Arroyo Verde.
    None of us ever said anything about the laundry room incident to anyone else. Sometimes though, I’d catch Rebecca and Mom looking at each other and smiling. I imagine to them it was just one of those funny little moments in life. To me, it was wonderment, confusion and a total shock. All at the same time.

    Rebecca and I left in the yellow convertible, she was driving and I was content to go along with her wherever she went. It was enough for me to just be with her. She drove the smooth running little car down the hill to the beach and parked. We sat inside and talked until the sun touched the horizon.

    When I asked her about school and why she wasn’t in class, she told me she wanted to find out how I felt about her and she thought school, as well as the Ice Rink could slide for one day. It was important to her to find out just where she did stand with me. I guess she found out when I told her I’d like to marry her. A look of total surprise crossed her face, changing slowly into a soft smile. She replied she would like that, but not right now. Now it was my turn to be surprised. I didn’t even know I was going to propose, but it had been on my mind. We’d only known one another for a short time, but for me, it was long enough. This was the girl for me.
    Her answer in the affirmative was all I needed. I’d wait as long as she wanted me to.

    We dated steadily for the rest of summer and into the fall. With her classes at the Junior College and her job at the Ice Rink along with my rotating schedule, sometimes we didn’t see each other for days. When we did, it seemed like months had gone by.

    At Thanksgiving, mom and dad hosted the traditional holiday meal. I say mom & dad, but like always, it was moms kitchen and moms cooking we all looked forward to. Dad & I helped, but in truth all we did was the heavy lifting and the errand running. About all I was trusted to do in the cooking department was to mash the potatoes. Guess mom figured that would be hard to screw up. Even so, she kept a close eye on the process and wasn’t satisfied until they were brought up to her standards. Rebecca, Sarah, Earl and Rebecca’s grandmother Pearl, along with Bobby, Gail, Bobby’s folks, Little and Bobby’s grandmother along with her gentleman friend were guests at what turned out to be a really great dinner.

    The guys, all of us, were stuffed to the gills and trying to watch the Thanksgiving day football game in the front room. The girls, except for Bobby’s grandmother who was quite a football fan herself, were finished with the cleanup and having coffee in the dining room. She offered to help, but there was only so much room in the kitchen and it was getting a bit crowded.

    I’d gotten to know Earl fairly well since I’d been over to their house quite a bit. More than quite a bit now that I think about it. Even so, I still found it hard to call him Earl. Mr. Armstrong it had been, and it seemed Mr. Armstrong it would stay. Earl wandered out to the patio to join Bobby and I. We’d wandered off earlier because the front room was getting crowded and neither one of us cared a whole lot about football. As far as we were concerned, hot rods were it and that was plenty for us.

    Now that I look back on it, it seems Earl had wanted to say something to me alone. Although Bobby and I, talking hot rods as usual didn’t pick up on anything. It looked like Earl figured that since Bobby and I were such good friends and he knew Bobby was a good guy for sure, he just blurted out his question to me.

    Which was, "You’ve been going with Rebecca for almost six months. What are your intentions?"

    A bit of a shocker for sure. As far as I knew Rebecca hadn’t mentioned marriage plans to anybody and I knew that I hadn’t. Looking back, it was probably so obvious that nothing need be said. I think Bobby and Gail as well as the rest of the gang had it figured out long ago.

    Figuring nothing ventured, nothing gained, I told Earl, "Earl" - having never called him anything but Mr. Armstrong up to now - "Earl, I want to marry your daughter and take care of her the rest of our lives. I’m 22 years old, I have a good job, I’m a hard worker, I’ve saved enough money for a down payment on a house and I’m pretty sure I can get her through college.
    I thought this would be hard to say, but it isn’t ... I love her with all my heart"

    Well, I figured all the cards were on the table now. I’d either be accepted or Earl would simply throw me across the back lawn into the lemon orchard out back. Earl’s reply was as surprising as his question had been. He told me he’d be proud to have me as his son-in-law. He asked too, if I had already asked Rebecca to be my wife. I told him we’d talked about it and decided it was something for the future.

    Earl surprised us further by saying, "You never know where life will take you, if you want to marry Rebecca, ask her now and if she says yes, marry her as soon as you can".

    Boy, talk about stunned. I thought Earl would be one of the big stumbling blocks toward marriage with Rebecca.

    No time like the present I figured. I went upstairs to my bedroom to fetch the engagement ring I’d bought months ago. Earl went back into the front room and Bobby asked the ladies to come in. To top it off, he’d turned off the football game and told everybody to wait.

    When I came into the front room looking for Rebecca and saw everybody there and the room dead quiet I knew that they knew. I always figured this day would come. I’d get down on one knee and propose to Rebecca, but I never thought it would be in front of witnesses. I loved Rebecca so much, I didn’t care that the whole world was watching. I walked up to her, she knew something was up, but didn’t know what. I got down on both knees, took both her hands in mine and asked in front of God and everybody if she would be my wife. She was totally stunned and didn’t say a word. No one in the room moved or said anything. I fumbled the ring box out of my pocket, opened it, got the ring out, dropped the box on the floor and looked into Rebecca’s eyes. She gently nodded her head and said yes in a soft and sweet voice. I slid the ring on her finger and kissed her hand.

    Still, no one in the room had made a sound, not until Sarah said, "See? I told ja so."

    The room erupted in applause and laughter with everybody talking at once. The ladies came over, hugged Rebecca, hugged me, the guys did much the same. There were pleased smiles all round the room, but none as pleased as mine.

    And Earl, big tough guy Earl, a guy who looked big enough to bend tower steel in his bare hands was standing there with tears streaming down his face. He walked over and gave Rebecca a gentle hug. He turned to me and gave me a hug too. Although the hug I got was more in the vein of getting hugged by a big old bear.

    Mom and Gail grabbed Bobby and sent him to the basement to bring up a case of Champagne.
    They had several bottles on ice in no time. Seems that mom and dad had seen this coming for a while and wanted to be ready for whatever happened. I don’t think they expected it to happen at Thanksgiving dinner though. Mom and dad, especially so mom, were extremely pleased I was going to marry Rebecca. Mom had been quite impressed with her right at the start and loved her dearly. The laundry room incident not withstanding.

    Bobby’s grandmother asked me how we met. I told her the simple version of the story about how I’d seen her at the Frosty Shop and eventually tracked her down to the Ice Rink. Grandma smiled and nodded her approval.

    Mom, usually a bit shy asked if they’d like to hear how she and Rebecca met. As far as I knew, no one but the three of us knew the full story. Rebecca blushed mightily. Mom told the story about the meeting in the laundry room and it brought the house down. I never heard so much laughter for so long.

    Rebecca and I slipped out onto the patio and we could still hear them laughing. We could see my dad through the window, he had to sit down he couldn’t stand up any longer. Same with Earl, he sat down on the couch too. The ladies were wiping away tears and wandering back into the dining room and kitchen. Even so, when most of them had stopped laughing, one would giggle and the whole crowd would start laughing again.

    It was too much. We wandered out to the carport and were sitting on the short block wall when Bobby and Gail came out to join us. Gail still had tears running down her face. She came up to Rebecca, hugged her and told her how happy she was for us. And told Rebecca had a good man who would take care of her forever. A surprise to me, and high praise indeed. Gail was full of surprises, but I had no idea she felt that way about me.

    Things calmed down a bit, and we went inside to get dessert and coffee. It wasn’t completely calm though. They were still laughing off and on and it didn’t look like it would stop any time soon. I grabbed a whole pumpkin pie, Bobby grabbed four cups and the coffee pot, Gail got some forks and we took it all out to the benches by the pool. We sat around eating pumpkin pie right out of the pie tin and drinking black coffee. It must have been the excitement of it all, the four of us ate the whole pie and drank the coffee pot dry. Bobby snuck the coffee pot back in and we got in Rebecca’s yellow convertible and headed out. Where, we didn’t know. Just somewhere we could sit and talk.

    We parked at the beach like we’d done so many times in the past. Sitting in the convertible with the radio softly plying, the four of us talked until nearly midnight when we decided to head for home. Since we were closer to Bobby and Gail’s house than to mine, Rebecca drove them home and they said they’d pick up their Chevy in the morning.

    Instead of taking me home Rebecca drove me to her house. I wasn’t too sure about that, but she said it would be alright and besides, I was sleeping on the couch in the den anyway. She gave me a blanket and pillow, kissed me and headed upstairs to her bedroom. I wanted to follow, but I decided the best thing would be to stay where I was. I loved this girl dearly and if anything was meant to happen, it would happen in it’s own good time.

    A short while later, Earl came into the house and walked through the den where he saw me curled up with the one blanket. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when he brought another blanket in and put it over me I figured I was safe enough.

    I slept like the proverbial log and wasn’t bothered at all by the short den couch. I was probably tired out more than I thought. Even so, waking up was easy. Earl was up and had a pot of his famous coffee brewing on the stove. He made a great pot of coffee. I don’t know what the trick was, he told us how to do it, but it never seemed to turn out as good. Same deal with the coffee pot at the transmission doghouse at work. Normally the junior guy gets stuck with making coffee until a new junior guy comes along. Then he’s the designated coffee guy.
    With Earl being one of the patrol foremen, he was way beyond getting stuck with making the coffee. And like many of the transmission patrol foremen a lot of the paperwork was a pain in the ass. The deal was simple. If the lineman and apprentices would learn to do the paperwork, Earl would make the coffee. A good trade for Earl for sure, but I never heard of anyone complaining about doing the paperwork. His coffee was that good.

    I was in the kitchen while Earl was cooking breakfast and he asked when we planned to get married. I hadn’t thought about it too much, figuring when Rebecca was ready, then so was I. Earl nodded his head and smiled.

    Rebecca joined us, looking fresh and beautiful. Which made me realize I was still wearing last nights clothes. It didn’t seem to bother anybody, so what the heck. Rebecca told me she was still up when Earl, Sarah and her Grandmother came in. She’d stayed up late talking with her Grandma. Grandma Pearl thought getting married in her little church down near the beach would be something she’d like very much. Rebecca figured that would be a great place too. It was one of the town’s oldest buildings and had been built, on a small scale at least, like one of the California Missions.
    I was like any other bridegroom that ever was or ever will be. Cooperation is the name of the game and we just go along with it. Sorta like an astronaut getting launched into space. Once they press the go button, there’s no turning back. The wedding date was set for January 20th. Rebecca was between semesters at the Junior College and it fit well with my work schedule.

    The two months between the Thanksgiving day proposal and the January wedding went by so fast I couldn’t believe it.

    Our wedding was a nice one. Bobby was the best man and Gail was the maid of honor.
    I know the maid of honor is supposed to be an unmarried girl, but we’d always been a touch unconventional and this was the way Rebecca wanted to do it and it was just fine with me.
    The wedding went by in a swirl and the reception went by even faster.

    The part of the reception I remember best, was the car swap we pulled. I’d borrowed dads 54 Olds to run Bobby, Larry, Don, Little and me up to the church and parked it right out front. When the reception ended, Rebecca and I were leaving and found to no ones surprise, the Olds had been decorated with the usual "Just Married" sign, crepe paper, tin cans and all.
    Little, Bobby’s younger brother, now 17, had parked my coupe a couple of blocks away and around the corner from the church. It was already packed and ready to go. The timing was perfect, we ran down the sidewalk, Little drove up in the coupe, Rebecca and I got in back, which was a bit of a struggle getting the wedding dress to fit in the tight back seat of the coupe, shut the door and Little nailed it. I mean he really nailed it. He spun the tires right through first, second and partway into third before he backed out of it. Little was laughing all the way and we left the wedding guests standing there in a cloud of rubber smoke.

    We were gone for a week, had a grand time, saw many sights, learned even more about each other and were a bit divided on whether we really wanted to go home. Home called strongly though and it was an easy decision to make. We were starting a new life and with help from friends, family and a little planning on our part it did get off to a good start. A more than good start in fact.

    Earl decided that before Rebecca and I bought into a small house, it would be better to live in the small two bedroom guest house on the back of his property for a year or so. That would allow us to save a good chunk of money for a down payment on a bigger house.

    I figured we were pretty well set for rolling stock too. Rebecca could drive the coupe, it was fairly civilized and due to my constant tinkering it was dependable too. I figured I could drive the Merc pickup to work. Earls dad wanted Rebecca to take the yellow convertible, but she couldn’t. Even though she considered it her car, she knew Earl had poured heart and soul into it and realizing it was such a special car, she didn’t want to subject it to everyday duty and just wear it out. She told her dad Sarah loved the yellow convertible too and that she deserved a chance to make it her car. Not to mention she knew Earl liked driving it too. It made good sense all round and was most generous of Rebecca. We didn’t really need the yellow convertible and as far as I was concerned it had done it’s part in bringing Rebecca and I together.
    I think the only one bothered in all this moving out and car stuff was dad. He’d grown fond of the little Merc pickup and it was obvious he hated to see it leave. Mom, who I figured just looked at cars as more of an appliance thing, just something to get you somewhere, had come to terms long ago with the small fact that dad was a car guy too. Not as strong or as intense as I had been and still was, but he liked cars as much as the next guy. Mom figured that trading the 54 Olds straight across for the Merc pickup would be the sensible thing to do. Besides, Rebecca should have a car more suited to a lady. The hot rod coupe was ok in Moms mind, but the Olds would be better. Fine with me too. It did make good sense If I needed a pickup to haul stuff with, I could always borrow it back. It worked out well for Mom too. She liked her little Ford station wagon, but she was ready for a new car. Since Moms family had always owned Fords, a Ford was it for her. They bought one of the 63 ½ Fords, a Super Sport hardtop with a vinyl top with trim strip and it looked very much like a convertible. A red one with a black top. Quite a statement for Mom who I always thought was a tad conservative anyway. Looked like I didn’t know her as well as I thought I did. Once a California girl, always a California girl.

    Dad had a little input on it, he was always a GM guy, but for the most part he’d learned, as most of us did, a car is a car and not counting the outright lemons or the poorly designed ones, one was about as good as the other if you took care of them. He mentioned checking the dual four barrel 427 engine on the option list, but Mom knew better. In her mind, multiple carburetion meant it was a hot rod and she didn’t care to own one. She figured having the Merc pickup in the family was enough hot rod for anybody, thank you very much.

    Even so, Dad did point out that the Ford hardtop was a big car and it needed a reasonably big engine. Made sense to Mom so dad checked off the single four barrel 427 engine option. Plenty of power to yank the car down the highway and a small story dad enjoyed telling. Mom was impressed with the performance of the big Ford. It wasn’t often he put one over on mom and it was more than likely he didn’t put anything over this time. Sometimes the ladies steer us right where we want to go and it’s where they wanted to go anyway.

    I was thankful, and so was dad that they didn’t order the 260 cid engine available in the big Fords. It would be easy to think some Ford engineer should of been stood up against a wall and shot for that one, but I’m sure the engineers would be the last ones in the world to figure out this pitiful combination of little V8 and big car. More than likely we can blame the bean counters for that combo.

    One of the guys dad worked with bought one of the full sized four doors with the little 260 cid V8 and was forever tinkering with it in an effort to get it to run or at the least get decent gas mileage. He figured there was something basically wrong with the engine, but the simple truth was, it was not enough engine for the big car. He’d opted for the little engine figuring he would get great mileage. In a way I suppose he did. The car was such a pain in the ass to drive that it didn’t get driven much and was soon traded off for something more sensible.

    Rebecca thought I was sad that the little Merc pickup left our home, but the truth was, I really liked having the Olds for her to drive. I didn’t mind her driving the coupe, she was a good driver and handled it well, just that the Olds seemed better suited for her.
    Life settled in pretty comfortably. We enjoyed living in the little guest house at the back of Earls property. Rebecca and Sarah enjoyed being close too. They’d been pretty close to each other in spite of the age difference. Pearl enjoyed it too. She was forever bringing us some great bit of cooking she’d whipped up in the kitchen. Since we were living virtually rent free, paying only our share of the utilities and saving all the money we could for a house, the only real expense we had was Rebecca’s college tuition and gas money to go to work and school. I set aside a small sum monthly for car maintenance, but other than changing the oil and the occasional tune-up, the coupe and the Olds gave us no problems.

    The old gang was starting to break up too. Don, who’d spent the summer bumming around with us, got a job flying crop dusting helicopters. His work took him out of town to a great extent and we didn’t see much of him. Larry and Susan got married. Larry tried to get on with the Edison Company, but for a few years there, they weren’t hiring at all. At least hiring in the classifications he was qualified for and wanted to work in. With the majority of Susan’s family living in Northern California, they moved up there and Larry went to work for PG&E, California’s other major electric utility. Kinda funny, I was always the mechanical minded guy and ended up in a somewhat technical job operating a power station. Larry, very conversant with electronics and electricity in general, ended up as a lineman. He did ok in the mechanical end of it on his cars, but for the most part preferred them stock. At least that was true for his 50 Merc coupe.

    Life’s kinda like the Army - at least the way I understand it. You don’t always end up where you want to go, or even where you should go. You end up where the Army wants you.

    Bobby was still working at the telephone company, wiring and trouble shooting repeater stations and the like. Gail, with her nurses training completed was working in the pediatrics ward at the local hospital. It was a job well suited to her talents. Her cheerful outlook on life fit in well.

    Rebecca and I were still living on a bit of a budget, but one of the good parts about my job was the opportunity to make extra money working holidays and filling empty shifts as well as getting called out for storms and the like. Seems like every paycheck was different from the one before.
    All good ones. Just that some were better than the others.

    Rebecca and I had been married for about a year when we took Gail and Bobby out to dinner at the Arroyo Verde pier restaurant. A bit of an anniversary celebration. Fitting too, it was the same place we went on our first date.

    Bobby mentioned he was thinking about getting into organized drag racing. He’d quit street racing when Gail put her foot down, but he did miss it. Not so much the street racing, he was of a pretty like mind as Gail when he did quit. He figured it was time to knock it off before something serious happened. They were doing pretty well financially. Gail and Bobby were making pretty good money and the only bills they had were the house and the utilities. Gail still had her 57 Chevy hardtop. It was a great little car that looked good and ran good. Bobby still had the roadster, although it wasn’t driven too much. The puke green colored 46 Chevy pickup, still powered by an inline six, was Bobby’s transportation around town and to work. They could have swung a new car, but neither one of them really wanted one.

    We’d been going to the races with Roberto now and then, but Roberto was so busy with the machine shop, his new bride - having married Mattie last year - as well as a brand new son who was the apple of Mama Marrone’s eye, he didn’t have a whole lot of time to spare for racing.

    Roberto’s 50 Chevy coupe had the bugs worked out of it long ago and it didn’t make much difference whether there was a pit crew or not. We enjoyed the pit crew title, as did Frankie, but for the most part the title was honorary. Very seldom did we actually have to work on the coupe.
    Doing the occasional pit crew thing with Roberto didn’t really satisfy Bobby. He enjoyed the building and I think he enjoyed the driving even more.

    In fact, all of us were ready for a change of some sort. At least in the hot rod department.
    We’d had so many changes in our lives and had been so busy, we’d gotten away from the hot rods a bit. Especially so after Bud and Vicky got married in Las Vegas just like Bobby and Gail did. Well, not exactly like them, they went on their own without any family. Bud got off work late on a Friday afternoon, picked up Vicky and they took off. They didn’t say a word to anyone, Vicky left a note on the table and that was about it.

    Mama Marrone was a bit ticked off at first, she’d wanted to do the traditional big wedding thing and kept asking Bud and Vicky when they were going to set a date. Which they wouldn’t do. They kept putting it off. At least till Vicky’s aunt Carmen suggested at a family dinner that they just get up and go get married. That set off Mama Marrone a bit. She was the oldest sister in her family and Vicky’s aunt Carmen was the youngest. Mama Marrone loved Carmen, but she thought she could be a bit scatterbrained at times. From our viewpoint, Carmen was the most logical thinker of the two and what she said did make sense. It worked out ok though. Bud and Vicky got married in Las Vegas, came back and two months later they had the big wedding anyway. Which made everybody happy.

    Bud figured it was the least he could do and sorta wished he’d done it that way the first time around. Mama Marrone forgave him and in fact never was really mad at him. Bud was the first guy to date Vicky that Mama really approved of. All the guys prior to Bud were neer do wells and scoundrels in her opinion, but for some reason Mama took to Bud right away. I always thought it was because of Bud’s excellent manners.

    From what Carmen told us, the few who had dated Vicky before didn’t do much more than show up at the door, not say much, pick up Vicky and get out as soon as they could. Understandable when you figure any potential boy friend had to run the gauntlet of Vicky’s two brothers, her dad and uncle as well as Carmen’s husband and Carmen. Not to mention Mama Marrone. It was a tight knit family and perhaps to some, a little imposing. Bud, who truly liked people, made a point to stay and talk with Mama Marrone and get to know her a little bit before he and Vicky left on a double date with Bobby and Gail. Mama liked Bobby and Gail too, so that went a ways toward Bud gaining approval. Approval from Mama Marrone being a very good thing to have.

    02-13-2004, 12:44 PM
    Drag Racing Days

    Bobby got us back into the building mode again. We’d been just cruising along, enjoying our good running cars and not doing much of anything to them other than routine maintenance.
    I didn’t realize how much we missed the building and constant striving for improvements. It had been enough for awhile to drive our cars as they were, but Bobby, especially so, felt something was missing. I felt pretty much the same way. Bud too. Even though he liked his cars close to stock, he was always ready to help. Whether looking for parts at the junkyard or simply pitching in to help on the latest project. Bobby still liked to race, but he’d given up the street racing stuff. Since we’d been going to the drags off and on with Roberto, we’d pretty much gotten hooked on legitimate drag racing.

    There’s something special about pulling into the track early on a Sunday morning and hearing the sounds of a strong running car making a pass before you could see it. Once inside, and especially so in the pits, the many different styles and colors of cars there made it one of those vivid and bigger than life experiences.

    Once Bobby decided to build a car specifically for drag racing, it was off to the races for us. In more ways than one. Although a better description would be, "The Hunt was On." The three of us, Bobby, Bud and me started looking for a car. At first Bobby thought running a coupe in the gas classes would be fun, but like they say, once a roadster guy, always a roadster guy. A roadster was fine with us, but like always, they were hard to find. The ones we did find were either very incomplete, very rusted or a finished car at a high price.

    We scoured the junkyards, although we didn’t expect to find one there. You never know though, some very good potential hot rod material showed up now and then. One of the yards we went to had a complete 40 Ford panel sitting in the back. The junkyard owner was smart though, he kept it in one piece and wouldn’t allow any parts to be pulled. The price wasn’t too bad, although $600. seemed a bit steep to us. He must have got it though, it was gone a couple of weeks later. We were pleased, it always pained us to see a nice coupe, sedan or any other potential hot rod go under the torch or get completely stripped. A roadster was fine with Bobby and he was looking hard for one, as we all were. He was looking for parts just about as hard as he was looking for the roadster.

    He did hit a jackpot of sorts when he found a totaled 32 Ford two door sedan that was bent up really weird. It was a good running hot rod and the kid who owned it switched ends on a wet road, sailed backwards over a ditch and hit a telephone pole right square in the middle. Apparently the front end of the car tipped back and up on impact because there was a big round dent in the roof as well as the back of the sedan was pretty smashed in. It looked like it had been a bad wreck, but the kid driving got out with nothing more than a sore neck. Having seat belts in the 32 really paid off for him.
    The engine and transmission were gone, and all the front sheet metal was sitting inside the car. The sheet metal, undamaged and complete right down to a good radiator. The price was right and Bobby bought it. The best part was the frame and dropped axle front end were undamaged.
    The front fenders and running boards were more than ok and in fact were very straight. The doors, interior and seats were sold to help finance the project. Other than the good dash and 32 steering not a whole lot of the other stuff was any good. The rear fenders had bent in with the rear of the body when it hit the pole and they were pretty much useless.

    It took us a weekend of easy work to pull the damaged body off the frame. The frame was in good shape and very straight with the exception of the rear frame horns that were bent.
    That wasn’t a problem either, Bobby measured his roadsters rear frame horns to see where we could cut the bent ones off. The plan was to bob the rear frame anyway, so we cut the damaged horns off just inside the rear body line. It didn’t take long. Once we laid out the lines with a square, it was just a few minutes work with a hacksaw and we had a good looking, bobbed, roll around frame.

    Bud found a pair of the narrow - 5" or so - Torque-Thrust mags for the front. Bobby bought a pair of used tires for rolling around, but in the right size and once we’d scraped the dirt and grease off the frame, it was looking even better.
    He hadn’t settled on what engine to use yet, but a Chrysler Hemi was his hearts desire. They were starting to get a touch scarce though. There was a lot of demand for them by the fueler guys and when the wrecking yards got them, they didn’t stay long. Especially true in the San Fernando Valley and LA.

    We finally found a roadster, but it turned out to be kind of an offbeat deal. Bobby wanted a 32, but was willing to settle for something else. The 32 we found had been involved in a front end collision and the frame was pretty damaged. The front sheet metal was too far gone to use. It looked to be the perfect car for us. Trouble was, the owner didn’t want to sell it and he’d been looking for another 32 frame. Kind of a stalemate for sure, as Bobby didn’t really want to part with his 32 frame. We kept the little fact that we had all the front end sheet metal the 32 roadster owner needed to ourselves. Just part of the old poker plying, horse trading, swap, sell, buy deals you get into sometimes.

    Salvation came when the roadster owners friend, a wanna be restoration guy, showed up.
    Once he figured out what was going on, he took the roadster owner to one side and talked to him for a little bit. Turned out the friend owned a 31 A roadster that was more or less a parts car, but it had a body, doors, trunk lid, frame and stock running gear. Less the four banger engine and trans. The friend had planned to restore the 31, but like happens many times, once he realized how much work it was going to be, interest was soon lost and he went on to other things.

    We went out to the friends house to check out the A and found it to be a solid, not rusty body with a good frame. It was very clean since the owner had scraped, sanded and removed the dirt and grease from the frame and body. To our way of thinking, that was cool, a lot of the hard work was already done and it looked like we could start right in on the fun stuff. For our purposes, the A roadster was just right, but we kept that little bit to ourselves.
    The trade that was finally worked out was - the 32 frame, complete with steering box, rear end and torque tube, along with the good front fenders and running boards were what Bobby gave up.
    He did keep the dropped axle front end, louvered hood top and sides, the grill shell with insert and the radiator. The roadster owner in turn, bought the stripped, but rolling 31 A roadster from his friend for his part of the deal and he and Bobby traded straight across.

    Seemed like a fair trade to us, everybody got what they wanted. Bobby did want a 32, but like always, real life sometimes dictates otherwise. We counted ourselves fortunate to find the A roadster. The louvered hood top was primered black and installed on Bobby’s Chrysler powered roadster not long after the dust had settled from the trade. A decided plus was the selling of the A front end, rear axle and torque tube back to the original owner. The same restoration guy who had sold it in the first place. The restoration guy was a bit put out to find that we were building a drag racer out of the A roadster, but he was more than willing to take our cast off parts. Kind of strange we felt. He’d given up on one car so why bother with a few parts to start on another one.
    It didn’t bother us too much though. We’d found the hot rod hobbyists were resurrecting cars the restorers wouldn’t look at twice. Which was apparently the fate of the A roadster we now had. It had obviously been somebody’s parts car. All that was left were the basics. That was enough for us, it was all we needed. We had the car, most of it anyway. Now all we needed was an engine, a trans, a rear end and all those little things that make it a going deal.

    Other than finding the stuff we needed, not too big a deal for us. We’d been down the road before, although this was a bit more of a project than we’d undertaken to date. Not so much for Bobby, but for us, building a complete car was a lot more work than just doing an engine swap.
    Although, Lord knows, some of the swaps had been a bit of a project in themselves. Earl got interested in the project too. He thought a Y-Block would be a good engine for it. Bud and I weren’t too sure, we were holding out for an Olds if a Chrysler couldn’t be found for reasonable. Bobby though, he had an open mind like always. He figured the car would be expensive enough and perhaps just starting with a good running engine and learning his way around the car would work for awhile. We could always stick in a "killer" engine later.

    Earls idea was a good one and the whole deal seemed to fall together without any real effort from us. Effort as far as searching for the stuff. Earl contacted his friend Johnny, at the Arroyo Verde Mercury dealer to see what was available. They came up with a set of ECZ-G heads off a 57 Ford. The G heads, not as desirable as the C heads, but plenty good. They’d been treated to a light port & polish job as well as a new set of valves and springs. The springs from Iskenderian Cams.

    The heads, were at the Arroyo Verde machine shop Johnny recommended. It was also known up and down the coast, at least in our two coastal communities as the place to go for racing engine machine work. When we got to the machine shop and told the machinist we were there to pick up the heads, he casually asked us if we were interested in a block and crank to go along with them. Well, maybe. He had a freshly bored 292 block - out of a pickup he though - with new cam bearings installed, a good standard crank, a set of rebuilt rods and a set of brand new high compression pistons and rings. Best part was the brand new Isky E-2 cam that went along with it. All that was lacking were the bearings, lifters, pushrods, bolts, oil pump, pan & rocker covers to make a long block.

    The heads and block had been brought in by a local guy who figured he was going to build a hot engine for his 55 Ford, but never came back to pick them up. The 30 day waiting period had been over for several months and the machine shop had given him numerous calls and opportunities to pick it up, but he never did. Even after he said he would. It was a good break for Bobby as the shop virtually gave the stuff away just so the machining expenses were covered. They’d figured they were stuck with it as not too many were building Y-Blocks nowadays.

    The good running small Chevy, one of the first choices for a lot of hot rodders was getting off to a good start on it’s long reign as one of the best hot rod engines ever built. Even so, a well done Y-Block could give many of them a bad time.

    After Bobby and I had loaded up the nearly complete engine, we still had time to hit a few of the junkyards North of Arroyo Verde. We had the measurements in hand as to what was required for a rear axle in the roadster and had pretty much settled on running a 57 Ford rear axle. With the right backspacing on the wheels, the stock width was just about right. Even so, we’d been looking and hadn’t found the right one yet. It must have been our lucky day, the first yard we hit had a 57 Ranchero with 312 engine and automatic sitting right up front of the yard. The Ranchero was wrecked in front and the crankshaft snout was damaged. Along with that, somebody had pulled the heads, but left the pushrods, along with all the bolts and small pieces required lying inside the rocker covers which were sitting on the floor. Bobby got the whole shooting match for a good price. The damaged engine with good pan - although the timing cover and crank were history - as well as the big automatic and the driveshaft were put in the back of Bobby’s pickup and taken home. The junkyard owner didn’t want to turn loose of the Ranchero 9" rear axle. So we were still looking for one of those.

    As it turned out, it was probably lucky we didn’t take it home. Not that the Ford nine incher wasn’t a good rear end, it was, just that parts were expensive and sometimes hard to get.
    Especially so, the small parts. Nobody we knew could get a discount at the Ford garage, so we figured there had to be another way to go. With that in mind, Bobby decided on using an Olds or Pontiac - same thing - rear end, narrowed like he had in his 32.

    Luck was with us though, we’d taken the Ford automatic to Brown’s Transmissions, a small shop at the North end of town so the owner could go through it and beef it up a bit. Brown was a hot rodder too and still owned the same 52 Chevy coupe he’d had since high school. A bit changed now with an Olds engine, hydro, Chrysler 8 3/4" rear end and a dash full of the big Stewart Warner 2 5/8" gauges that we all liked so well. Darned car was so loaded with instruments that it was like getting into an airplane.

    Brown was quite a guy. He’d figured out a lot of the hot rod stuff on his own and many times went a different direction than most of us did, but his cars always looked good and ran good.
    He ran the Chrysler 8 3/4" rear end and was enthusiastic about it. After Bobby talked to him for a while, with Brown pointing out all the advantages, it looked like the Chrysler rear end would be a good way to go for the A roadster and we started looking for one of those. We figured if the fuel cars were running them they would be plenty good enough in the A roadster.

    Turns out they were easy to find and the one we got was just about the perfect width already.
    Once some slicks were mounted up on wheels with the proper backspace, it looked like it would all fit ok and the tires would be close up to the body instead of sticking out in the breeze.

    A couple of months rolled by and Bobby had most of the parts we needed to get the car at least to the roller stage. It took a couple more months after that to get the new chassis up and rolling around with the engine installed and the body mounted. One of Bobby’s worries was about reinforcing the original A chassis. After some thinking on the subject he decided to build a chassis similar to what the T bucket guys were doing. He got a couple of lengths of 2 x 4" x .120 wall rectangular tubing and using the original A chassis as a basic pattern he built his own chassis. Even to the point of taking a long pie-slice out of the main frame rails and tapering them in front to match the contours of the A frame. It was tacked together with a gas torch at home, a bit at a time and the pieces taken in to his dads oil field supply house so he could use the arc welder there. Bobby could weld fair, but he figured this was critical stuff and enlisted the aid of one of the oil patch welders who came in on a couple of Saturdays and did the finish welding.

    The basics on the frame, besides the 2 x 4" rectangular tubing was the 1 ½" diameter x .120 wall round tubing that made up the two transmission crossmembers and the angled brace pieces.
    The transmission crossmembers were mounted in holes, hole sawed in the frame and tacked in place. The angled braces cut to fit and welded flat onto the inside of the frame and to the crossmembers. The hole sawn holes, made the whole frame somewhat self-jigged. A piece of 1 ½ x 2 1/2" x .120 wall rectangular tubing was used for the seat belt mount and the roll bar laterals. The rearmost crossmember made up of the same 1 ½ x 2 ½" stuff.
    The front crossmember was removed from the stock "A" frame and installed in the new frame rails.

    Front suspension was the dropped front axle with 40 Ford brakes we’d pulled off the wrecked Deuce sedan. The steering box was the popular 56 Ford pickup box with it’s fore & aft drag link.
    The rear suspension, a pair of quarter elliptic springs mounted to the inside of the frame rails along with a pair of home made ladder bars mounted just under the frame rails and going forward, ending up mounted to a pair of tabs on each frame rail just under the rear edge of the door.

    Panhard bars were installed at both ends of the car, required for sure at the rear and a good idea in the front. As was typical of many hot rods built at the time, it had a brake pedal suspended from the firewall with the master cylinder inside the engine compartment. Any potential flexing was taken care of with a loop of 1 1/2" tubing tied into the roll bar frame work and the brake pedal mount was bolted to tabs off that with the bolts also going through the firewall and catching the master cylinder on the front side.

    The roll bar was not real typical of roadsters of the era. A lot of those tended to run one hoop, with a flat run on top over both seats. A couple of bars going to the back and one at an angle from the center to the front right took care of the legalities there. The big difference with the roll bar on Bobby’s car was that he bent up the main bar to cover the driver and go down toward the passenger side at an angle. The two back bars were similar as was the straight bar running to the right front that ended up at the base of the cowl bar, although this bar was at shoulder height.
    In addition it had a bar on his left side, about shoulder height that ran to the base of the cowl bar and was welded to the frame rail there. The cowl bar was further braced by a short diagonal piece that went from about the half way point and back down to the roll bar forward braces.
    The whole thing tied together into a nice solid arrangement and as we would find - pretty much as Bobby figured - it really added to the stiffness of the chassis.

    The engine swap wasn’t too big a deal either, the 292 Y-Block, now at 301" ended up a perfect fit when first tried. A re-reading of the rule book though, had us moving the engine about 5" forward to comply with the 10% maximum setback allowed rule. We thought that was kind of a dumb rule. The darned engine sat just about perfect at the 15% setback distance, but rules are rules and if you want to race, you gotta be legal.
    We got the engine where it was supposed to go by cutting a small notch in the front bottom of the pan to get it back from the tie rod. A piece of exhaust tubing sawn lengthwise twice, giving us a quarter circle and welded in sealed it back up. We did have to cut the front of the oil pump pickup down a bit to match the now shorter sump, but that was easy to do.

    After all that, we still had to set the engine up a couple of inches higher than we wanted.
    It did go along with the thinking of the day which was to get everything up in the air, but Bobby felt the CG should be kept as low as possible for handling and we’d worry about traction later. I don’t think the two inches of added height would have made much difference in ETs anyway. The only real fly in the ointment was the oil filter cannister. It stuck out a ways on the left front and interfered with the frame rail. We thought we could find a short element and simply cut the cannister down. Not to be though, so Bobby’s dad ended up making an aluminum oil filter adapter about an inch thick, made up some nice reinforced rubber oil lines with pressed on fittings and we stuck an aftermarket oil filter cannister on the firewall near the master cylinder. Bobby’s dad turned out some very nice pressed on fittings with black rubber fuel lines for the Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold that carried a pair of small AFB carbs and the whole thing was looking pretty good.
    We felt that Bobby had done some innovative thinking about the frame construction and in fact he had. Seems like several other guys had the same idea at about the same time and we saw a few more rectangular tubing chassis roadsters at the races. Nobody seemed to have copied anybody else, just one of those good ideas that swept through the ranks. Same deal with the roll bar although we didn’t see too many like Bobby’s at first.

    During the buildup of the drag racing roadster, Bobby and I found out both Rebecca and Gail were pregnant. Kind of an eye opener for us. We were doing ok just being married, but having a kid meant new responsibilities. Our lives had changed since Bobby and I married the girls, but for the most part the changes were easy and pleasant. With children entering the picture, we weren’t exactly sure how it was all going to work out, but we both figured, as did the girls, lots of folks before us had gone through the same thing and it worked out for them.

    It was a topic of considerable conversation when we got together, whether Bobby and I alone or when we were with the girls. We all looked forward to having the babies. We weren’t the only ones either. Earl, Sarah and Pearl as well as my folks, Bobby & Gail’s folks and Little were more than pleased. Especially pleased was Bobby’s grandmother. She promised to spoil them rotten. We figured that if anybody could do it, grandma could.

    Bobby and I thought having sons would be neat, but if a daughter came along, we’d be equally pleased. In the end, we realized it just didn’t make any difference. All any of us wanted was a healthy and happy baby.

    It turned out to be a good thing the drag roadster was just about done. A couple months after we installed the engine, pulled it, assembled it, got the transmission reworked at Brown’s Transmission shop, we put it all back in the car and fired it up. The engine was run for the recommended 20 minutes to break the cam in. Good thing we had the big floor fan from Bobby’s dad’s warehouse. With no fan on the engine, the temperatures took off. Once the floor fan was turned on, the radiator, with a new core one inch shorter than the stock 32, cooled the Y-Block just fine. Next up, run the valves, change the oil and hit the dragstrip.

    Our choice this time around was Santa Maria. Withe the smaller crowd and fewer cars, we figured we’d have a little more test and tune time there than we would at San Fernando. Safety equipment required, other than that required on the car was simply crash helmet, leather jacket, leather gloves and goggles. Gail bought Bobby a brand new Bell 500 helmet. Bud brought in a very English looking split lense pair of goggles he’d picked up at the Arroyo Verde BSA shop. Gloves were just a pair of new leather work gloves.

    The stumbling block was the leather jacket. The bike shops had them, and so did a few stores, but the darned things were expensive. A small problem neatly solved by Rebecca and Gail when they found a very nice black motorcycle riders jacket at the local Salvation Army thrift store for $5. After we let the word get out about that, the rack of leather jackets at the thrift store sold out and you hardly ever saw any in there later on.

    After a long week, Sunday finally arrived, clear and crisp, a typical California October day.
    Rebecca and I ran the coupe over to Bobby and Gail’s early in the morning and found the A roadster on a tow bar behind Gail’s 57 Chevy. Since the roadster was a race car, he’d simply wired the 39 Ford taillights in the roadster to a trailer plug and this was plugged into the Chevy. He even had an extra fused feed line that fed the roadster battery so it could charge on the trip up.
    It was a smart and easy way to do it. The roadster had a generator, but it was nice to have an alternate way to charge the battery and have it fully charged when we got there.

    The Y-Block water pump was still there too. We’d given some thought toward removing it, but figured the weight savings wouldn’t be that great and we could suffer the extra drag on the engine. At least for the first few times out. The whole towing package worked out well. The roadster was light enough and the Chevy heavy enough that we didn’t have any of the tail wagging the dog bit.

    Once at the strip, we got the roadster unhooked, fired it, warmed it up and ran the car down the return road - which was actually a seldom used county road. Then ran it back to the pit area so we could cycle the automatic, warm it up and get the rear end warmed up as well.

    Everything looked good, so we parked it in the staging lanes which were across the county road from the drag strip proper and waited our turn. It wasn’t long until the staging lane guy directed us over to the "wait" line across the road and we were next in line to run.

    Bobby lined the roadster up for a single, loaded the converter to the stall point and the green light went on. The car launched straight and looked like it was handling ok. We figured the roadster would run about 11 flat ET wise and maybe around 116 or so. The run proved to be a disappointing one though. It ran 12.80 at 106. It seemed to run ok, smooth, no misses or stumbling and we couldn’t figure what was wrong. Bobby wasn’t too bothered. Other than to comment that the Chrysler powered roadster sitting at home could outrun this one even on the street tires.

    Our first thought was the timing, but that checked out on the money. The centrifugal advance was working ok and carburetor jetting proved to be not far off. The plugs, at least to us looked ok as far as color went. Battery voltage was ok too. It showed right at 12.4 volts.

    As luck would have it, we were parked right next to some guys running a fast and good looking black 57 Chevy two door. They were running the valves, and one of their guys strolled over to look at the roadster. We were just starting to put the plugs back in when he asked if he could look at one. Why not we figured, the 57 Chevy guys were an older group than us and as good as the Chevy ran, it was apparent they knew what they were doing.

    Right off the bat, he tells us the timing is retarded. We found it hard to believe because we’d checked the timing at home both statically and with a timing light. Including running the engine up to 3000 rpm and shooting the total timing to make sure all the centrifugal advance was in.
    The vacuum advance was disconnected as we’d had D & W Tuneup and Auto Electric set up the distributor centrifugal advance with a typical drag racing curve. All in at 2400 rpm was what we asked for and what we got.

    The guy looking at the plug was polite, but he did have us wondering.

    He told us, "Before I explain it to you, let me ask you a question."

    Fair enough we figured. He asked if we’d degreed the cam in with a degree wheel. The answer was no, we’d simply dropped it in on the marks. His opinion was, the cam was more than likely right on the money as far as it’s timing went, but the "zero" mark on the balancer was off.
    He explained how to find true TDC with just a piston stop. He did say a degree wheel would make it easier, but it could be done with a tape measure. A new one on us and we were all ears.

    He went back to his pit and got a piston stop out. One that looked like a spark plug with the porcelain and center knocked out and a threaded piece with locknut screwed into a threaded piece brazed onto the inside. As it turned out, that’s exactly what it was. With all the plugs still out, he screwed the piston stop into the #1 plug hole and locked it down. Then we turned the engine over by hand until the piston hit the stop. He made a mark on the balancer with a small flat blade screwdriver. The engine was turned over in the opposite direction and when it hit the stop, another mark was made. As he explained it, if the factory zero mark was correct, the marks would be equidistant on either side of it.

    It was easy to see that the marks had the factory zero a ways off. He measured between the marks with a tape measure and made a new mark indicating the new zero point. Just eyeballing it, he recommended we advance the distributor eight degrees.

    Bobby put the plugs back in, we fired the engine, shot it with the timing light and reset the timing. Advancing it the recommended eight degrees, it sound healthier and crisper. Response to the throttle was a lot better than it had been and it hadn’t been too bad to start with.

    We asked the guy how he could tell the ignition was retarded by just looking at the spark plug.
    He pointed out the pattern on the center electrode of a plug he had in his pocket. As he explained it, the clean burned area down the center electrode should be about one millimeter. Too short and it’s retarded, too long and it’s advanced. A new one on us. But a useful tool for sure.

    We asked him how the heck he learned an obscure little trick like that. His reply was simply that it was an old motorcycle racers trick. We found out later that the guy who helped us had raced motorcycles for many years and at one time was one of the best flat track tuners at Ascot.
    Live and learn for sure. We ran the roadster back to the staging lanes, got it over to wait line and were able to make another run. This time a small reward. The roadster ran an 11.50 at 114 mph.
    That was more like it. It got better too.

    We left the car as it was and Bobby left the line feathering the throttle a bit more and we were rewarded with an 11.40 and 115 mph. That’s about where the car stayed all day. Bobby made several runs with it and found that it handled great and pulled hard in the mid-range.

    No trophy for us though. We ended up running against a couple of competition class roadsters. We ended up in that class because we were the only street roadster there. One we beat because it bogged on the line and when the power came on the tires went up in smoke. There was no beating the second roadster though. It was an Arroyo Verde car and he beat us by a wide margin. Seems like the Arroyo Verde guys always had good running cars.
    It was a channeled 29 Model A roadster with a pair of the good wrinkle wall slicks and a healthy SBC engine. The small Chevy engine in it was backed up with a B&M hydro and he came off the line like gangbusters. Turning in the last race a 10.25 at 130 mph, a time we couldn’t get near.
    We’d hoped to do better, but it was an interesting and educational day. First thing on the agenda when we got home was to purchase a degree wheel and see exactly where we were with the cam timing and finding exact TDC.

    The girls enjoyed the day out and Gail was especially pleased that Bobby could enjoy racing without racing on the street. I had to agree with her. It was a lot more fun to race without having to look over your shoulder all the time.
    We had a nice drive home along the coast. Always beautiful any time of the year, it was especially so in fall. The girls were totally worn out. They were both six months pregnant and the bright and warm sunshiny day had taken it’s toll. To tell the truth, I was a bit tired myself.
    I’d just gotten off the graveyard shift the day before and hadn’t rolled back into a normal sleep pattern yet.

    Graveyard shifts weren’t bad as far as the work went. By the end of the week you were used to being up all night and sleeping during the day. Course you weren’t good for much of anything during the day. Work a double shift with two weeks of graveyard instead of the usual one week and you really rolled into vampire mode. It was really hard to get turned around after that. I was glad Bobby was driving, I fell asleep myself about half way home. A fat lot of help I was.

    Bobby was cool though. He didn’t work shift work per se at his job, but he understood how it could be. He’d put in more than a few 16 hour days that started at 4 PM getting a new repeater station on line or cutting in a switchrack for the telephone company and had no problems identifying with guys who did shift work.

    I woke up about the time we pulled into Bobby and Gail’s house. That was enough for Rebecca and me both. Bobby said to go home and he would take care of unhooking the A roadster and running it into the garage. Fine with me, it had been a long week and a short weekend.

    Not much was done to the A roadster for a few months. Except for Bobby checking the cam timing with a degree wheel and finding TDC for sure and double checking the balancer’s new TDC mark.

    We went through the holidays in kind of a blur. The girls were getting bigger all the time.
    We thought they might have the babies around Christmas, but it came and went with nary a ripple on the surface. Not much hot rod stuff was going on at all. We’d had a lot more rain than normal and lately it seemed like all it did was rain.


    Early in January, I got the phone call I was waiting for. Rebecca’s grandmother Pearl called me at work during swing shift and told me Earl and Sarah had taken Rebecca to the hospital.
    I wasted no time in calling a guy in to cover the shift. It took him the longest half hour of my life to get there. To be fair, he came straight in, no shower, no nothing. He was still wearing the dirty clothes he had on while he was working on his pickup at home. He’d been there, where I was now, and he knew what it could be like to be stuck at work. For sure, I was fortunate in working with a crew of more than good guys. All of us were good about looking out for one another.

    I ran the coupe down to the hospital in record time and got there in time to see Rebecca being wheeled out of the delivery room, lying flat on her stomach and smiling. It was all over but the shouting. We were the proud parents of a baby girl. Fine with me, I was tickled to death, and it was easy to see Rebecca was too. We named her Melanie Ann. Earl was pleased as punch. Just to look at him, you’d have thought he was the new dad. Sarah was pleased and so was Pearl who showed up shortly afterward. She’d stayed home to contact me and after a while she couldn’t stand waiting at home any longer and called a cab to get to the hospital.

    It wasn’t long until my folks were there as well as Bobby’s folks, Little and their grandmother.
    For a while there, it was starting to look like a convention. The only ones missing were Bobby and Gail. It wasn’t long until they walked in too. At first, the admitting desk thought they had another customer in Gail. She was seriously pregnant and her due date was just a little over two weeks away.

    After we viewed Melanie through the nursery glass window, folks started drifting off and it wasn’t long until I was the only one left. I stayed as long as I could, but Rebecca was tired, so I left her to sleep and with one more look through the window at Melanie I headed for home. By now, it was 10 o’clock at night and I was getting hungry. Not wanting to head home to an empty house, I did the sensible thing and the same thing that we’d done for many years late at night. I spun the coupe down the road to Mikes Cafe’.

    Walking through the door of the Cafe’, Millie spotted me, looked at me kinda strange and asked "Where’s Rebecca?."

    I told her that she was in the hospital and I was a new dad. She was tickled and repeated it loud enough for the whole cafe’ to hear. The whole cafe’ consisting of two tables of two guys each. Oil field guys who simply hoisted their coffee cups in my direction and smiled. Nothing more need be said. They’d been there and they knew. Millie couldn’t do enough for me. She kept asking questions, brought coffee when I didn’t really need any and was interested in all the details. When I think back on it, I realize that Millie was almost our mom. We’d been bringing our girl friends and now our wives, into the cafe’ late in the evening for many years now and Millie knew them all. Past and present.

    No surprise that I ran into Millie at the hospital the next day. She’d wanted to drop in just to see the baby, but made a point to see Rebecca too. She made Rebecca promise to bring the baby in to the cafe’ so she could show her off to everybody there. If a guy was going to have a home away from home, he could do a lot worse than Mikes Cafe’.

    Fate still had a surprise in store for us though.

    I was on swingshift the following night, so I had to leave the hospital after visiting all I could with Rebecca. I got to hold Melanie for the first time. A strange feeling to hold such a tiny bundle of life. I had a lot of emotions running through me, but the strangest one was that I was so proud of the new baby. Kind of surprising because Rebecca had done all the hard work and about all I was, was the head cheerleader. Rebecca was proud too, as she should be. Rebecca and Melanie did the usual three day stay at the hospital and then we got to take them home. I say we, because Earl, Sarah and Pearl showed up to help. We appreciated their help, but as far as I was concerned, this was my wife, our child and my new job as dad. I stuck Rebecca and Melanie in the Olds, waved goodbye and headed for home.

    The next night, Bobby was stuck on an extended microwave station problem and once he got off the snow covered hill and down to the main office it was about 10 o’clock in the evening.
    He called Gail and she told him she felt funny and he needed to come straight home. You didn’t have to tell Bobby twice. He went straight home most every night anyway.

    He was a worried guy when he left the main office. It was raining hard and he was in Gail’s Chevy. Driving Gail’s Chevy because he’d loaned the 46 Chevy pickup to Little for a few days and it was too rainy to drive the roadster to work. Now he wished he’d have kept the truck or at the least driven the roadster. He’d driven the roadster in the rain more than a few times not too many years back and it was no big deal then. Gail told him to go ahead and let Little take the truck. She said she’d be ok and besides, her due date was almost two weeks away. Bobby almost always was near a phone and if worse came to worse she could drive the roadster. It seemed reasonable to Bobby and the plan was I’d park Rebecca’s Olds out at their place just in case Gail did need a car. Tomorrow was the day we were going to take the Olds out. Rebecca and I wouldn’t need it for a while. We were still living in the little house at the back of Earls property and Rebecca could still drive the yellow convertible or any of Earls cars if necessary. As it turned out, we were a day late and a dollar short.

    In his rush to get home, Bobby slid the Chevy off the road about a mile from the house when he hit a patch of mud and water flooding across the road. He missed the lemon trees when he left the pavement, but ended up stuck in the muddy shoulder of the orchard. Well, one mile was no big deal. Bobby got out of the Chevy and started running for home.

    When he got there, he found his roadster backed halfway up the long gravel driveway, lights on, engine idling and just sitting there in the pouring rain. He didn’t see Gail at first, but when he walked up next to the car, he found her leaning against the door and crying. Her water had broken right there in the seat of the roadster and the contractions had started. They were hard and close together. She was in so much pain she couldn’t hardly move. To top off the whole thing she was sorry she’d ruined the upholstery. She was soaking wet, cold and scared. Bobby told her not to worry because she was more important than any car he’d ever owned. He got her slid over, got behind the wheel and started up the road.

    They didn’t get far. When they got up to where the road was muddy and flooded, Bobby slowed down to cross over and Gail told him to stop the car. She was going to have the baby right here and right now. Bobby left the engine running and the lights on. The little roadster was just barely off the road. Cold rain was pouring out of a black sky, the wind was blowing the rain at an angle and even with the top, there was no shelter inside the soaking wet roadster.


    End of Part 2
  2. 52hardtopbob
    Joined: Mar 2, 2009
    Posts: 17


    WOW, how long did it take to type this all down? 1 Year?
  3. stude_trucks
    Joined: Sep 13, 2007
    Posts: 4,755


    Man, that is a load. I speed read through that and didn't see 1 picture.
  4. Joe King
    Joined: Oct 8, 2004
    Posts: 993

    Joe King

  5. 35mastr
    Joined: Oct 26, 2007
    Posts: 1,899

    from Norcal

    Wowwwww. What a post.
    Joined: May 6, 2008
    Posts: 909


    :DTell us about the war after you finish here............
  7. 63Compact
    Joined: Feb 14, 2007
    Posts: 1,178


    That was better than TV.
  8. Think I´ll wait for the movie!
  9. i love this book...probably one of the best hotrod related tales ever...i downloaded it the first time it was fact i`m gonna dig it out and read it again

  10. There's also parts #1, #3 & #4.

    As well as a complete book in several parts here on the HAMB that's titled, "Doofus and Whiny."

    A little more old time tech in this one and a slightly different slant on drag racing as well as life in Ventura.

    And . . . thanks for the nice words.

  11. Not long.

    It's an expansion of a short story.

    I type and write fairly fast, one 536 page hot rod oriented book in seven weeks....
  12. onlychevrolets
    Joined: Jan 23, 2006
    Posts: 2,307


    damn...that used up my morning break.

  13. Here's a pic for you.

    The black 40 that shows up several places in this book and others....

  14. Which one?
  15. 48fordnut
    Joined: Nov 4, 2005
    Posts: 4,014


  16. Topless Ford
    Joined: Feb 10, 2007
    Posts: 560

    Topless Ford

    Excellent!! Where is pt 3?
  17. This should take you to pg.1 of The Red Roadster and you'll be able to go to the other parts of the book from there.

    The address to the other parts are listed near the top of the first page.

    Doofus and Whiny Pt 1.

    Many of my short stories are posted to the writers board.

    You can also do an "advanced search" from the "search this forum" button by typing in my screen name (C9) without the parentheses on the author line, selecting the "thread" only option and hitting search.

    You'll get back a list of all the threads I've started.
  18. LB+1
    Joined: Sep 28, 2006
    Posts: 581

    from 71291

    Enjoyed it! Thanks
  19. Dreamweaver
    Joined: Feb 26, 2003
    Posts: 1,017


    C9 was awesome, he will always live on in his stories.
  20. 08racer
    Joined: Jun 13, 2005
    Posts: 829

    from Gilbert AZ

    I agree! Makes those long flights bearable. I miss that guy!

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