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#9 of 37 My Parent's cars
May 16, 2007 (9:39 am)
My dad's first car was a late 40's Willy's surplus jeep.
I learned this by hearing the story that he'd flipped it, but was injured because he landed safely in the ditch with the car upside down on top of him. Teenagers!
Later he was apparently a salesman for Willys Overland for a while although I don't know much about it. I DO remember the story that when you sold a Willys you HAD to sell the Deluxe steering wheel because there wasn't a base model steering wheel. According to the story, if you didn't order the deluxe, the car came from the factory without one. True? I have no idea.
I'm not sure if he owned one then.... no photos of one exist if he did.
The next car I know about was a 48 Buick
that my mom drove in the late 50's. I barely remember it I just know it was big and dark inside and gray outside. It left us when my mom drove it into a field somehow. She was glad to see it go. She was 5 feet tall and her petite little left leg didn't match up well with the HEAVY clutch in that Buick.
Next followed a green and white 55 Nomad wagon a lot like this one below.
I'm pretty sure it wasn't new when we got it, and I know that we had it as late as 1962. My sister and I remember a trip to colonial Williamsburg that year, in which we got to ride in the back with the seat down -all stretched out and comfy, counting the black and white cows in the beautiful green Virginia farm land. We liked that car.
Before you tell me that we should have kept it forever, I have to tell you about the viciousness of northern Pennsylvania rust. Things got ugly with that Chevy before it went to the boneyard. Too bad, though. Good vehicle and a handsome one.
Next, my dad went a little crazy. We had a pair of Russian Czarist exiles (seriously) for neighbors and they loved oddball cars. They talked my dad into a 1959 SAAB model 93.
My dad fell in love, and we became SAAB fanatics for the next 7 years. My dad even bought a matched pair of white SAAB 96's for mom and himself. These were the quirky little ones with 3 cylinder two-stroke engines.... My dad went all out and bought the Rally model for himself.(Won the '63 Monte Carlo!) with the Halda Speed Pilot and the 'Shrike' engine with 3 carbs and no valve train to limit the RPM. 52 glorious horsepower! From 840 cc's. Naturally any engine that stressed had a short life My dad liked to say that "the redline was limited by the destruction point of the materials". He also liked to drive the cars through twisting mountain roads at 60 mph scaring the hell out of friends and neighbors who'd never heard of a speedometer calibrated in Kilometers!
We were on a first name basis with the service department who kept a good supply of short-blocks in stock.
This picture isn't a Shrike with the triple carbs but it does show a couple of interesting points that I remember. Note the radiator is BEHIND the engine close to the firewall where it's safe and warm. Also note the chain running from the firewall to the grill. That's to pull up a little rubber window shade to help the engine warm up faster in those cold Swedish/Pennsylvania winters. I don't see it in this picture, but our car had an oil can holder in the engine compartment. That was so you could have a can of warm oil to put into the gas tank when you bought gas. Maybe it was an extra cost option.
When SAAB finally moved to a 4-stroke engine in 1967, I remember going on a test drive with my dad. I was thrilled because this car would ACCELERATE! going uphill! What a concept! For some reason, my dad didn't buy one though. Perhaps because that engine was English... which seems like a fair enough warning.
Instead he went with a '67 Plymouth Valiant with the 225 Slant Six
This is probably a good place to stop... everyone is familiar with the trustworthy, loyal, brave, and durable Valiant.
#10 of 37 My Parent's cars (lokki)
May 16, 2007 (5:30 pm)
Judging from the cars he chose, your dad must have been an interesting guy.
#11 of 37 Re: My Parent's cars (lokki) [hpmctorque]
May 18, 2007 (1:32 pm)
My dad was a VERY interesting guy. I miss him
#13 of 37 I'm still looking....
May 22, 2007 (6:11 am)
Here's a close cousin of the car I grew up in from age 6 to about 14. This is actually a 1958 while ours was a 57 and it's not painted the hideous Aqua color the my dad thought was so great....
Ah! here's a 57!
May 22, 2007 (6:58 am)
My dad worked for the Packard Motor Company before and after World War II--25 years total. He went as a young kid from the Packard assembly line as a trainee, right into Burma, India, China, the Himalayas, Egypt, in the Army signal corps. No wonder he came home to New York and always gazed out on the horizon from that day on!
After the war, he moved up into the Packard Service Division, and was a kind of field engineer, going from dealership to dealership, attending to difficult problems, analyzing warranty claims and giving tech sessions. He later was some kind of District Manager for the east coast.
So we always had Packards in the family. First ones I remember fully were the "bathtub" Packards, then the 50s sedans, and finally the rather luxurious Patricians. They were pretty slick cars those last Packards, what with electronically shiften transmissions (little buttons you pushed with your pinky) and self-leveling suspensions. Big, cushy, quiet cars, like a Cadillac. Dad always parked the Packards around the corner when he took me to the dentist, so that we wouldn't get charged too much.
After Packard went down in flames in '56, he joined Studebaker for a short time, but Studebaker treated all Packard employees so shabbily (it's still a story told with disgust by automotive historians) that Dad left and joined Lincoln-Mercury and we had one of those big Turnpike Cruisers. But these cars didn't interest him (1958 wasn't a very good time for Ford) and so he joined Renault, which in 1958, was a "hot" company that was outselling VW for a short time. My older brother reached driving age so he went from a '48 Packard to a '53 Studebaker and then Dad got him a deal on a Renault Dauphine. Dad drove I think an R8 rallye-type Renault at that time. We had R10s, Caravelles, the whole catastrophe. He delighted in bragging how these little cars could zip through traffic and drive past gas pumps. And he was right about that. They were fun. They would send him to Paris, gave him a nice office....he lived high on the hog with Renault. He really liked his French boss, who I remember. Descended from a French noble family I think. Great guy. Very charming. Died when his plane was struck by lightning! Dad was very upset by this I remember and he left the company soon after some French tyrant took over, and ruined the entire American operation to boot. Who says that a car company's fate cannot be in the hands of one man?
Dad retired from the auto business and then worked in the fraud division of the Better Business Bureau, a job he was very good at, being so well-trained technically. Fraudulent repair shops were dead meat. He had a very high kill ratio and I don't think the BBB has ever equalled it. He used to dress as a bum named Louie Martini and bring his "car" (a doctored mule with coded parts) to suspect shops for repair.
When he stopped working, he set up a big machine shop in his basement and always helped me with the parade of American and foreign crippled cars I brought home. No matter how weird, he figured out how to fix them. Of course he could make a lot of the parts. Jaguars, Morgans, Buick Rivieras, he didn't care. Bring it in and he'd tear into it. People came from all over with Borgwards, Ferraris, Isettas...looking for a way out of an impossible jam. He could machine, cast, weld, fabricate, upholster...pretty handy guy.
He drove less and less as he got older. I think his last car was one he got brand new almost as a gift from the son of one of his Packard buddies, a kid who grew up and opened up his own Ford dealership. So he gave Dad a deluxe Pinto for him to putt around in. At his age, Dad didn't need a car but to do little errands in the city. I doubt he put 2000 miles a year on it, if that.
Long way from a Packard, but he came to appreciate efficient little cars as much as the big ones.
He never forgave Studebaker though. He always said of the Studebaker-Packard merger that "they couldn't build Packards worth a damn, but we built them some very good Studebakers."
He died in 1989. Over 400 local people came to his funeral....we had a full military ceremony, oddly enough, which he asked for (he never ever spoke about the war)....all the various neighborhood types from every country in the world (this was New York after all) who had come to his machine shop to get things fixed, or who he had advised when they got cheated by repair shops. It was quite a scene. The UN comes to Little Italy and the US Army.
Dad was a real car guy and had a full understanding of automotive engineering. He always said that Packard engineering was the best of all the American car makers and that the death of Packard was the end of America's Golden Age of car-building.
#15 of 37 Re: my parents' cars [Mr_Shiftright]
May 22, 2007 (7:06 am)
Your dad was a cool guy. We need more people like that around.
#16 of 37 Re: my parents' cars [british_rover]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
May 22, 2007 (7:17 am)
thanks. Yes he was. What I really admired about him is that he didn't become one of these old "curmudgeons" who decried new technology. Even in his late 70s, he was still learning about computers and chips and turbos and all the rest of it. New cars were not a mystery to him, although at that advanced age he wouldn't actually work on them---but he fully understood HOW they worked and admired them.
But he didn't like really corner-cutting...if he saw a plastic coupler or part that was under stress and would certainly fail, he'd shake his head and call the engineers "penny wise and pound foolish" and that that part would be bound to fail the new owner.
#17 of 37 my parents' cars (Mr_Shiftright)
May 22, 2007 (11:42 am)
Very interesting story about your dad, Shifty.
"My parents' cars" implies father and mother. Did your mom drive?