Category Archives: Car Stuff

To All the Cars I’ve Loved Before: Part 3a

Terribly sorry about the significant delay in getting this finished. I actually started this article in November. Holidays and a death in the family in addition to the very first total loss claim in my automotive history (I wasn’t driving and nobody was hurt thank God) rather put a roadblock to the creative juices needed to make the story interesting reading so I took a long hiatus.  So let’s get back to work.

This part of the story may be the longest, it will, oddly, be the only one that talks about a single car so I am going to split it into sections marked with a letter.

1967 Olds 442 side view

You may remember that at the end of Part 3 my father had ordered me to get rid of the “death machine”. A heavily modified Peerless GT that, if I am honest, had no business being on the road. It was a race car. My friend Kenny and I took off to look for a replacement. I had invested all I had in the Peerless and, at the time, only had a minimal income from working as an apprentice mechanic and a dishwasher at a local graduate school. I had been accepted into a military academy so my life was starting to change directions very quickly during this time period and so I knew it would need to be a car that I could literally trade for, or keep the dollars to a minimum. Kenny had contacts in the industry and one of them was a man named Don Hood who, at the time, owned one of the largest Toyota dealerships in the state. It was 1973 and the gas crisis was in full-blown development. Toyota was taking the country by storm and Kenny pointed out that Mr. Hood had a huge selection of great muscle cars that could be had for a ‘song’. We sold the Peerless and pocketed the cash once we realized no dealer would touch the machine.

Mr. Hood walked us around and we found a almost cherry 1967 Oldsmobile 442 that was actually $300 below our budget. The car looked so good we had to ask, “Mr. Hood, why is it so cheap?”

“The car was traded in by an IBM salesman,” he replied. “It is only 6 years old and looks great but it has a lot of miles on it and there is some problem with it under full throttle.”

Kenny recommended a test drive and I concurred. We started the car and were immediately impressed with the rumble from the dual-exhaust being pumped through a factory installed Offenhauser header system that was matched to the Offenhauser intake manifold with three huge dual-throat carburetors. The power was transmitted through a T-10 Borg-Warner 4-speed nicknamed the Rock Crusher by aficionados. So we took it out on the street. After a bit of slow cruising while the engine came up to temperature we started getting on the throttle and that is when it happened! The whole car felt like it had simply run out of gas. The power dropped and when the throttle was removed and you tried to accelerate it would backfire. I stated the obvious, this car is “crap”! Kenny asked me to hold on just a moment and jumped out and popped the hood. I heard him tapping something, the hood came back down and he returned to the seat. I asked what was wrong and he simply replied, “Take us back to the dealer, don’t put the throttle down more than halfway, this is your car…trust me.”  I took Kenny at his word and returned to the dealership and traded $900 for the car.

We drove it home, slowly, and once there Kenny got out and together we looked at the engine under the hood. He pulled the air cleaner off the engine and showed me that the linkage to the two secondary carburetors was sticking when the throttles opened wide. Once open they stayed open and he car was getting far too much air at part throttle. He made a few adjustments and retightened the center section of the primary carb to the base plate. Once these adjustments were made the car ran like a top. So, of course, we simply had to take it out.

Back in the early 70s Camelback Road running west from 75th Avenue was a desolate landscape of open farmland that ran all the way to Litchfield Park Rd where it T-boned in front of the runways for Luke AFB. So we took the Olds onto that road and floored it. We dropped into a dry riverbed and up the other side with the car going so fast you couldn’t hear the motor and all there seemed to be was this bass vibration coming up through the seats. As we climbed up the other side I saw flashing red lights behind me! I looked at the speedometer and it was completely off the clock! I had no idea how fast we were going all I knew was that at that speed a ticket would be the least of our problems. So we kept the throttle down all the way to Litchfield Rd and the red lights got smaller and dimmer as the distance between us increased. By now we were also getting low on fuel, at this speed the best the Olds could do was about 2 miles to a gallon of fuel! I knew there was a petrol station 2 miles north on Litchfield Park Rd so I got on the brake and drifted the car through the turn and headed north. By now I couldn’t even see the lights anymore and hoped the police officer had given up the chase. I pulled into the gas station and began filling the car. Kenny put the top up as it was getting cold now that night had fallen and then went into the market to get us a couple drinks while paying for the fuel (yes, we pumped first and paid after back then). As he walked out of the market a police car pulled in behind me, lights on, siren blaring and tires squealing. The door of the police cruiser opened and he looked around. We were the only car there and I could distinctly hear the motor ticking as it cooled from its run.

“Were you driving this car a few minutes ago on Camelback Rd?” the officer asked.

I simply looked at him, not sure what to say and shrugged my shoulders. Kenny, being a bit more experienced than I in such situations added, “Might have been him, might have been me, are you sure it was this car? I am not sure what the name of the road we were on was.”

This actually got a chuckle out of the officer and he seemed to visibly relax.

“You know, I am not sure this IS the car, I don’t remember it having a white roof.” he then added, “I clocked the mother at 146 MPH in a 45 MPH zone.”

I looked him in the eye and said, “I am not sure this car could get up to that speed, only just got it.”

At that the officer simply said, “Please drive safe and keep it under control. Have a good night.” He got back into the cruiser and drove off.

We did keep it under the limit on the drive home down Glendale Avenue.

I spent the next couple weeks doing things like detailing the engine, restoring the logos, polishing up the factory original Viking Blue paint. I even pulled the fake wire-wheel style hubcaps and polished each spoke and remounted them although we did invest in some high quality rubber and custom wheels for “race day” events. We even installed my first CB radio in order that we could interface with long-haul truckers in order to keep a weather eye on the local yokels in order to prevent future “flashing light” events such as the previous.

That summer we drove the car to Big Surf for a small party and get together for Kenny as he had joined the Army and was getting ready to start his training. As we were leaving at the end of the day we found two really attractive women standing by the Olds, they wanted a ride. They were college gals: I had just finished High School so was duly impressed. I hit the road leaving Tempe with these two women sitting together in the backseat. The oddity of the seating arrangement became clear once I was on the freeway with the top down. Cars would come up alongside and toot, guys were pumping their fists in the air. “What the Hell” I am thinking. I glance into my rearview only to see a bared breast and nipple staring at me! I turn and gape into the backseat and the gals are perched on the flat plate area above the rear seat wearing nothing up top! I yell at them to get back inside before a cop pulls us over. Fun over they ask to be dropped off at the next exit to which I complied. The influence this event had upon me will become apparent in a future post.

Kenny left for training and was posted to Korea later, he never came back. I was told that he perished in a traffic accident when the open vehicle he was driving flipped over while on patrol. God rest you Kenny, everything that ever involved vehicles and my future was all due to your influence and patience.

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To All the Cars I’ve Loved Before: Part 2

Yes, it has been some little while. Much has been happening in our family life that just left me feeling unable to exercise the muse of writing. I have determined that the best cure for this malaise is to pick up the keyboard and just go for it. Before we get back to the cars I should add a small disclaimer here. I am one of the early Beta testers for the new Windows 10 O/S. So I want to do as much as possible using that system. They tell me it could have bugs and possibly display some “temperament”. So far it hasn’t showed me any problems and actually works better than the Windows 7 that was originally installed on this particular system. I still have the Surface Pro and love it but I promised to give this a thorough wringing out over the next several months.

Okay, so where were we? Let’s see we had just returned to the US, while the rest of the family stayed in family lodging at Travis AFB my father and I had to drive up to Portland, OR to pick up the new car. It was the first new car my father had ever purchased that I could remember. He had ordered it through the special Exchange program and the car could basically be ordered custom. He opted for an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue
1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue

with some odd options: as usual he wanted the biggest engine so he got the 455ci Police interceptor motor with the TH400 automatic, no A/C (more on this further on) and an 8-track player. When we arrived at the dealership and picked up the car the dealer included a sample tape that had an odd mix of music from classical to western. It was a great selection and the sound system, for the time, was excellent. We had a very enjoyable drive back to Travis and picked up the family then drove to our final destination, the place my dad intended to retire to . . . Phoenix, AZ aka the Valley of the Sun. We arrived in early April and the car was great, he even drag raced a Corvette and taught it that there is more to speed than a name! I had to get a learner’s permit and start driving training all over, AZDOT didn’t recognize a DL issued to a 14 year-old! It was my father that put me up to it, but if they could have read Tagalog it was actually for a motorcycle as that is what I drove in the P.I. When summer came we got our eyes opened, it was HOT. I’m talking Satan going back to H3LL to get away from the Arizona heat. People were shocked that my dad owned a car without A/C. Dealers wouldn’t even consider a trade for it. I got my license that summer and my dad was determined to keep the car until paid for. So he decided I would get a car of my own as I was going into my senior year at school and he thought it appropriate.

1967 Buick LeSabre
1967 Buick LeSabre

This was my dad’s idea of a cool set of wheels. It was smooth and reliable, the A/C didn’t work! but it was cheap. He paid the guy $265 dollars and even got a rifle (.30-.30 Winchester) thrown in as the student was returning to the USSR and they didn’t allow private ownership of weapons like that. About the only thing I really remember about the car was that it had this dial that you could turn on the Speedometer and when you approached the speed indicated it would buzz at you, loudly if you went over so I generally kept it set to 120 MPH! That made it more interesting when you heard the buzz. Now I am going to be totally honest, I wasn’t enthralled with this automobile and I had a job working in the school kitchen where my dad was working by this time. My dad told me I could trade the car in on anything I wanted as long as he didn’t need to cosign a loan (in other words I had to pay cash) and so I saved like mad and kept my eyes open. So, toward the end of summer, I am driving home from work and sitting on the corner of 75th Avenue and Camelback Road I saw the following:

1959 Peerless GT
1959 Peerless GT

I called the number on the windshield and the owner arrived to allow me a test drive. He didn’t let me drive it at first, he started the car and proceeded to scare the living shyte out of me by zipping around neighborhood streets in an area under construction. the car was so quick it was getting up to 60 or 70 MPH and then drifting around corners with enough G-force to make your neck hurt. I was unaware that the owner had modified the car and that the 289ci Ford V-8 was not factory. Basically the guy had built a homegrown version of the AC Cobra but since this car was so much lighter it was hugely faster. There were a lot of interesting things about the car: two gas tanks of 8 gallons each right under each door (real safe huh?), the windows didn’t crank up and down – rather there is a lever in each door that would slam the window from fully open to fully shut and the reverse with a simple tug. It had a rear seat so it could be qualified into its class for road races – this rear seat was made out of paper thin fiberglass and you could lift it up and see the welded steel frame the car was constructed of. It also featured knockoff hubs for quick tire changes and a mechanical windshield wiper that you had to step on to activate. He wanted $1200 for it, I offered him the Buick and $650 and ended up driving the car home. It was huge fun to drive for all of a week, then my father “borrowed” it and drove it to work one day. Upon his return I was informed that the “death trap” had to go! NOW!! So I called my friend Kenny and asked him for help. Kenny was a master mechanic and I was apprenticed to him while I was learning how to work on cars, we also had been participating in local racing events as pit crew and/or driving when the opportunity presented.

This was a busy summer but the car Kenny and I chose ended up being one of the best investments I had made to this time and it deserves an entry of its own so allow me to pause here and you can look forward to Part 3 soon.

To all the cars I loved before (Part One 1955 – 1972)

Let’s start from the beginning. This is my beginning so will start with cars I owned in proxy with my dad. I think this is fair for a variety of reasons. I always had a knack for things mechanical and my father discovered this when I was very young. He was not being altruistic, he was being frugal, if I could fix something he saw no reason to spend money having someone else do it. In exchange I could drive anything that I could fit into even though I was not legally old enough to drive on a public road. So he would often take me somewhere private and we would play. Another reason for proxy ownership is that I eventually grew up to become a professional master mechanic, race car driver and petrol-head. These avocations led me into some long-term relationships with cars that, while I didn’t own them, I spent enough time working on them and driving them to develop a relationship and bond that was as strong as being an owner. I want to ensure that some of the more interesting of these cars are included because, while I didn’t own the car, I developed a strong sense of what it meant to drive one on a daily basis and live with it. I will mention if a car I write about was not owned by me and what my relationship with the car was based upon.

My father was not a ‘driver’. For him a car was a means to a destination. Despite this he often had “fun” with a car and frequently chose cars that offered something unique; power, style, collectible. His tastes were eclectic and hard to pin down. With that in mind we will start with the first car he had, I barely remember it, never got to drive it, but remember it was one of his favorites and he would always speak fondly of that particular car.

The Jaguar SS Tourer that he drove while stationed in England, where I was born, was my dad’s favorite car. Obviously he was unmarried and had no children. He dated my mum while driving this car. It broke down frequently and was impractical so he sold it before our family returned to the US. Well technically he was the only one returning since my two sisters, mum and myself were all born in the UK. My father kept a picture of the car in his wallet, apparently lost while serving in Vietnam. It looked a lot like this example although less polished and more driven. I cannot be positive of the year, even my mother is not sure, but the picture I remember him carrying looked exactly like this 1936 model.

Upon our arrival in the United States my father was stationed at Walker AFB near Roswell, NM (yes, THAT Roswell) and of course the first order of business was to put our family on wheels. After all that was, and is, “The American Way”. He found a slightly used 1958 Plymouth Belvedere for sale at a local car dealer and brought this car home. It became the most reviled automobile ever to grace the driveway of any home we were ever to reside in. My mother abhorred the car and my dad quickly determined why the car had been returned when the summer heat hit.

We’ll start with my mother’s complaints. One, the car was enormous despite being a coupe. Two, there were NO seatbelts and she had three children! It was fun listening to my father explain that seatbelts were an option that cost extra and were seldom ordered unless you were a racer. He was convinced they were unneeded. The remainder of the complaints could be said to extend from her more European outlook on cars in general and the Plymouth was just about the exact opposite of what any self-respecting European marquee would produce.

My father quickly decided the car was a mistake in July. It had factory AC, that was a BIG DEAL in the late 50s and early 60s. So one fine hot day he turned the AC on. There were four big round vents that came out of a box on the hump. They started pumping out slightly cooler air but it smelled funny and didn’t do anything for us rear seat riders. As my father is proceeding down the highway the car goes slower and slower. It eventually settled down to 25 MPH. That was the car’s top speed with the AC on. It went back to the dealer. My father paid to have a full set of lap belts installed and they checked the motor and AC system. He got the car back and it would now top 50 with the AC on. But every mile or so the car would feel like the engine shut off. Then it would suddenly surge forward. It did this on a dirt road on the way home while all of us were in the car coming back from the base. The surge caught my dad by surprise and before he could react the car had put itself into a ditch. My father smacked into the steering wheel, the rest of us were safely belted. That was the very last time ANY of us ever rode in a car without seatbelts EVER but for a single exception which will be explained in the next section.

The problems with the Plymouth continued to plague my father and the dealer. So when my father went back the next time the dealer offered to trade the Belvedere in and gave him a good price. I still have the receipt and he paid $2453 plus tax and license…yes there was an $8.60 charge for the optional seatbelts. Researching the actual worth of the Belvedere and the Impala of the time and considering that he bought the car slightly used . . . the dealer didn’t really do him any favors. However, the history of the car’s service more than made up for the dealer piracy. He owned that Impala until 1968, explanation below. My father frequently purchased a second car to get around with at each station of assignment and would leave the ‘other’ car at home for my mother to drive. But at each PCS the ‘other car’ would be sold off and we would pack the whole family including pets into that Impala and just drive. We traveled the length and breadth of Route 66 so often we knew all the landmarks by heart. This was also the one exception to the seat belt rule. Despite only having two doors the rear of the Impala was quite commodious. My father placed two duffels into the little wells formed between the front and rear seats and all three of us kids would be able to sleep in the back while my mother and dad took turns sleeping and driving. They liked covering ground fast and the car was perfect at eating up great swaths of American countryside in hundreds of mile long legs. Each day we would get a turn to choose breakfast, lunch or dinner. That was the rule . . . once each day we would stop at a “sit down restaurant” and have a proper meal; other meals each day would be made from ‘road’ food that my mother would pick up at a grocery store. Bladder and bowel timing was expected to comply strictly to the capacity of the Chevrolet’s fuel tank. The only ‘event’ of any kind involving this vehicle was that, in 1964, someone removed the chrome trim while the car was parked in Rapid City, SD. The chrome trim back then was real, very heavy and actually quite valuable. Dad thought the car looked ‘better’ without the chrome so never had it replaced. He had the mounting holes filled, finished flush and a new coat of white paint. My father never owned another Plymouth and until later in life never wandered beyond the Chevrolet Motor Division of GM. My mother, to this day, dislikes anything non-GM. This odd bias had an amusing twist two cars further down.

Perhaps my father hit his “mid-life crisis”. Perhaps the stress of his 4th combat zone deployment (he had just returned from a third tour in Southeast Asia and this was his 7th combat tour!). To this day we will never know. What I do know is this… We were living in Riverhead, New York and his permanent station at the time was Suffolk County Air Force Base. It was the longest we had ever stayed in one place until that point. It was 1968 and he was “fat” with hazardous duty pay and a credit rating that was in the Platinum range. Additionally he had been being driven crazy by guys wanting to buy his Impala, he didn’t understand the attraction but, when an offer he couldn’t refuse was made, he sold it. I later discovered, upon locating the original invoice, that my father had been driving a “409” version of the SS Impala all these years! My father had suffered a pretty serious injury and had hardware in his shoulder and leg, he never made a big deal of it. But perhaps it was this “brush with the reaper” that modified his outlook on the meaning of life. Many years later I suffered a similar fate and the same mental readjustment. That will be saved for another entry.

He asked me to come with him and our neighbor took us to the Chevy dealer on the north edge of town. It took me a bit of searching but the picture I located is identical in color and pose to what he walked me over to. I was a hair shy of 13 and already 6 feet tall. But I felt really small when I saw the car. I even said to him, “Wow, that’s a real beauty! But what are we here for?” He just smiled, opened the passenger door and said, “Get in.” It was his. The Stingray, despite being all of nearly 5 years old still looked and ran like a new car. There wasn’t a mark on it. We spent an entire day driving this car. We went to the Montauk Lighthouse, out to the base and then did a circuit around the entire perimeter of Wildwood Lake. The drive and the car were magical. It was late afternoon and my father drove us home. My mother came out of the house, took one look at the Corvette and asked my dad if the last few marbles had fallen out of his head. My mother made me go inside. My father drove off in the Corvette Stingray, it was the last time I ever saw it. My father’s revenge did come a few years later when he was able to show her an article about the car that explained that, if he had kept it, he could have traded it for a small house! He did come home that night with a completely ordinary Oldsmobile.

In late 1971 my father was advised that the entire family was being PCS’d to the Republic of the Philippines. The Olds was not considered a good choice of car for the terrible roads over there. Additionally he was told that while serving overseas he could purchase a car brand new direct from the manufacturer for factory cost. This was too tempting a deal to pass on so my father used the Olds as a trade for our next automotive adventure. The other cars on this list all lead to this…the car to the left. A medium gold metallic 1965 Corvair Monza. It was, perhaps, the single oddest automobile ever produced by Chevrolet. Air-cooled pancake six-cylinder, the engine was in the back and it was rear drive. It had a boot in the front, an almost perfectly flat floor and was the first car I can ever remember my father owning that had an automatic transmission. This was the ‘odd twist’ from our friends at Chevy. Simply everybody told my dad that the car he chose was a huge mistake. The book “Unsafe at any Speed” by Ralph Nader had already been published. Everybody knew that our whole entire family was going to be wiped out in a terrible roll-over accident. My father was additionally warned by several local mechanics that the twisted fan belt was ‘stupid’ and would never hold up. Since that belt was responsible for charging AND cooling the car he was informed that the car would most likely leave us stuck to starve to death somewhere in the “middle of nowhere”. I don’t know why my father didn’t listen; perhaps it was because it was the first car he ever brought home that was so like the European cars my mom grew up with that she fell head over heels in love with it. The Corvair was the only car I knew my mother enjoyed driving in. She would find excuses to go somewhere so she could drive it. My father simple bragged that he had purchased a really great looking car with very low miles and was out of pocket a total of, are you ready for this, $365. Yes, you read that correctly. he paid the dealer $365 to take the car off the lot and out of the country. I will include it here but understand that this car is a story in and of itself. Let’s look at its history in our family.

With all those dire warnings in mind my father equipped the car for a cross-country like I had never seen before. He had THREE spare belts, spare plugs, spare wires, vacuum line, an extra spare tire and a complete tool kit with timing light and dwell/tach. Note: he didn’t know what those were or how to use them, he asked me and I told him what would be needed, it was at this tender age I got introduced to the world of the internal combustion engine. As if this wasn’t enough the Corvair is a compact car so my father realized that to get all five of us and our cat into the car the stuff normally placed in the trunk and back seat would need to ride in a roof rack. He went to Sears, Roebuck & Co. and had one installed that, for all the world, looked as big as the car under it. We set off in April. We were not in any huge rush as we wanted to visit several of our family members as we went. Our first leg went quick. We drove from Riverhead to Newark, NJ to visit my uncle; from there we travelled to Pittsburg, PA to visit his brothers in the region: at each stop the dire warnings of impending doom continued although the Corvair itself was actually a very comfortable ride. After spending two weeks visiting East Coast relatives we took off for the long cross-country. Our destination was Manhattan Beach outside Los Angeles to visit my aunt and her family from my mother’s side. This trip was taken on Interstate 80 with a cut south to the I70 and I15 just past Denver. After several days of uneventful driving, somewhere in Colorado, we stopped for lunch. I had a bowl of chili. As it turned out it was a REALLY bad bowl of chili! About half an hour after pulling out of the restaurant I felt terrible pain in my gut. My father pulled over in a rest area. I tried to go but nothing would happen, it didn’t help at all that the rest area in Colorado was horrid. Really, there was no other word for the experience. If you looked between your legs you could see a pool of black water…well here’s the thing, you couldn’t really see it, it was black as pitch, what you could see was the reflection of the adjacent holes that comprised the seats of what had to be the world’s largest mass outhouse. The smell would bring tears to your eyes so you tried to hold your breath until you were ‘finished’. I passed a fart. It sounded like a train horn reverberating in that place. But felt better so let’s get moving. Back in the car and about 30 minutes later I have the same bad feeling, I push a little and realize that it’s just more gas so I let it go. Blissfully feeling better after the release, thankful that there was no audio track to accompany, I relax. Then the smell hit. Everybody in the car turned green! Even I, responsible as I was, was mortified by this stench. Luckily it had been quiet and suspicion was that we had passed a dead skunk or something like. This worked for about another 30 minutes but then another pain passed through me and, my sphincter being used to the job, just let it go and this time it was accompanied! RRRIIIPPP, THPPPPTTT! Then that stench…AGAIN!!! My father turned around and very calmly told me that if I did it again I would be walking the rest of the way. The next wave hit right on time, I tried everything to hold it in as tears ran from my eyes. I begged my dad to stop and let me out (seriously concerned that he could justify my death as self-defense at this point) but he wouldn’t. His suggestion made sense . . . wind the back window down and stick my butt out the window and let it go. In utter agony by this point I did as he asked. We were driving through the mountains and my father was enjoying swinging the car around the curves. It was as he was going around a sharp, decreasing radius turn to the right that I got my buns aimed out the window and let the effusive and noxious cloud go. I think my butt missed hitting the Colorado Highway Patrol officer that had pulled the old 356 Porsche off the road by a mere inch or so. However close it was the look on his face had everyone in the car laughing their butts off, I was suddenly the hero! My father was determined that there would be no more stops until we reached Arizona, firmly convinced that the CHP would be hot on our tails the whole way due to “assault with a deadly weapon”!

But I digress, back to the car. The Corvair, at this point, had earned its way into the family. There wasn’t a single person in that car that wasn’t firmly convinced that it was the best car ever built by Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors. Our next event happened somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. We were driving and my father saw a cloud of dust coming from behind. Many were trying to outrun the cloud and soon we found ourselves flying along at over 90 MPH! We passed many that dropped out due to overheating but the Corvair just went faster. On our left my father saw a hill with a restaurant upon the peak, didn’t care what restaurant, it was “any port in a storm”. All by ourselves, the only car to make the hill, we climbed the hill and pulled in. The storm behind us looked like all the wrath of God was coming down. Coal black clouds, howling wind and what must have been enough dirt to build a small country all bearing down on our band! We went inside and sat. Over hamburgers and fries, for some odd reason my father wouldn’t let me have chili anymore, we watched the world darken. Then began the rain, the hail. It literally felt like the end of the world. After a bit, over our drinks, my father noticed that the long-haul truckers were leaving. “Time to go!” he announced. We drove back down the hill and reentered the highway. There was no more adventure for the duration of our journey. We visited for a few days with my aunt then drove up to Travis AFB for the journey to the far east. The Corvair was loaded onto a car hauler for a rendezvous with the USS Hornet.

It took a few weeks after our arrival before my father was sent to Subic Bay to pick up the car. His first surprise was upon getting insurance. Remember he paid $365 for the car which, as far as he knew, was worth a max of $1500. So imagine his surprise when the car’s insured value was over $3500; understand that at the time you could buy a fully-loaded luxury car for $3500! The agent had to explain that a Corvair was a VERY desirable car outside the US. The features that made it so unique in the US such as an independent suspension, good gas mileage made it very attractive to people used to European type cars. So my father put a little sign in the back saying “Please steal me” and habitually left the keys in the ignition. A little over two years later we still had the car. All the spare parts were still in the boot and my dad had even smuggled a guy through a protest line by putting him in the trunk (nobody EVER thought of checking there after checking the trunk which, while full of engine, still looked like storage area). He sold the Corvair to a fellow serviceman who needed transportation for his pregnant wife to leave at home with her. He was offered $1500 for it. That Corvair was passed from serviceman to serviceman for the next decade, finally disappearing during an eruption of Mount Pinatubo. It was the stuff of legend as they say. He bought the car, drive the living hell out of it for almost three years and sold it for four times what he paid for it.

My father had done as he had promised, there was a brand new car waiting for us at the end of his tour. A perfectly ordinary Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Even more important, to me anyway, I had a driver’s license . . . but NO CAR!!! This story will continue in Part Two.