27 September 2011

Ted's truck

Just received this from my buddy in New Zealand. Specific identities hidden due to the fact that I don't know what the statute of limitations are in New Zealand...  ;)  But seriously, he has grown up to be a fine, steady and conservative family man. Really. No, I mean it, he has. No kidding.
After this truck, he had a series of old Fords including a 48, and a handbuilt T with Chevrolet power. A Hillman, a Holden and a few Australian Fords have led to his current 'respectable family guy' ride of a Nissan minivan, but don't hold that against him. Well, at least try not to. At least he still likes Willys gassers, fuel cars, and keeps up with Bonneville. Plus he's very hospitable.
A code certified welder, he has recently begun video production as a new vocation and still makes great Maori bone carvings and jewelry as a second business when time allows. And really, he's OK now Officer. Seriously...

"My first car...

My first car was actually a truck. A dark green 1949 Ford ¾ ton pickup that had a wooden deck and tailgate. I bought it for $200 in 1972-3 off a Canadian friend who had moved to New Zealand to escape ‘the heat’ as his drug dealing escapades were starting to gain such notoriety amongst the Toronto police force that it seemed inevitable that jail time was looming. He and his wife shipped over here and set up their home in Te Awamutu, which unbeknown to the rest of NZ at the time, was fostering the Finn family who produced Tim and Neil Finn – the talent behind the bands ‘Split Enz’ and ‘Crowded House’. I met Vaughan when I was on one of my hitch hiking ventures on the southern motorway intersection at Papakura, just south of Auckland city. I can’t remember what my destination was but I can remember him pulling up in the truck and offering a lift as far as Te Awamutu, which was about two hours away. On the back of the truck he had a couple of large wooden crates and he told me that he’d just arrived in NZ and the crates were household stuff his wife had packed, and with a wink he said NZ Customs and Excise didn’t even look through it and that he could have smuggled a ton of coke in no problem at all. Then he apologised for having such short hair – he’d cut it all off to make himself respectable to immigration officials. Vaughan had a pile of stories to tell so we hit it off right away, him filling me in on his life of crime in Canuck land and me filling him in on life as a kiwi hippie. He hadn’t done anything really bad but he said he just wanted to get the hell out of the place and see some of the rest of the world, so I gave him ten points for that.
The ’49 sang along for the whole trip. It was pretty much original as it was when it was imported. Kiwi’s being kiwi’s I’m sure the truck was imported minus the deck, with the intention of putting a wooden one on here. Cheaper ay… In those days the only people who could import vehicles were either the government or farmers so it was probably imported by a farmer. The deal was that as farmers sold most of their produce overseas – 99% to Britain – their organisation held funds overseas, so if they wanted a vehicle it would be paid for by this fund. The pickup had the sidevalve V8 and generator rather than alternator. Mostly just original good stuff. I think the only extras it had were an aerial on the right of the windshield and a couple of  > shaped flags on it which were very popular at the time (usually the name of a town with a little scene on them – wish you could still get them..). It had the little blue light in the middle of the roof just above the windshield too which was turned on if you were towing a trailer.
Anyway I got Vaughan’s phone number and address off him when he dropped me off and I caught up with him a few weeks later on my return journey. He amused me no end when he said that he was finally ‘down’ – stone cold sober – so he darn near hugged me when I said I had a few joints on me. From that point on our relationship warmed and I saw him maybe twenty times or more while I bummed around on my ‘excursions’.
On one memorable occasion Vaughan, Gabby his wife and I went to a gathering out in the sticks from Te Awamutu where there was a bunch of local guys and gals partying up large at someone’s house. There must have been 15 of us in the lounge when someone produced a knitting needle on which a golfball sized hunk of hashish was embedded and lit and then passed around. Those were the days… anyway – I’m sure I met Tim Finn at that party. He was just as stoned as I was. We talked awhile – the usual bullshit of course being twenty something males.
Anyway, on one of my visits Vaughan said he wanted to sell his truck and I was immediately interested and scrounged up the $200 he wanted and drove it back to Auckland where I was staying.  The brakes needed some work he said but the rest is fine. At that stage in my life I didn’t know a thing about how to fix mechanicals so thought I’d have to get it serviced which cost money, which I didn’t have, so the brakes were put on the backburner.
I drove it around for a few weeks, and some of my mates in Auckland thought I had a real cool vehicle. Then I got invited to go out to Karekare beach out on the west coast from Auckland. These days the road out there from the main road is tar sealed and fairly straight but back then it was gravel and it wound all over the place. It wasn’t really steep but it was downhill all the way, with a steep gully on the left side of us. I, my girlfriend at the time, and another couple who were on the wooden deck, were doing fine until halfway down the road the brakes got really spongy and I couldn’t stop. Jammed on the handbrake – still nothing much. Thank goodness it was in second gear which slowed us down to about ten miles an hour. The road was pretty narrow all the way down and at one stage we nearly forced a car off into the bank after I switched the engine off and I was using the gravel on the side of the road to help slow down. My mate and his girlfriend said they were ready to jump off if they had to! We made it down to the beach ok and stood around with the shakes for awhile. These days I would have had the brakes apart in a flash and fixed up like new, but as I said I was an ignorant back then. I let them cool off for awhile and then drove back up the hill and home, keeping a very long distance between me and anything in front. The brakes still worked but were soft as. So in the shop it went and $60 later it came out again – this time stoppable. Meanwhile a guy who I thought was a friend of mine and his conman mate thought it’d be cool to own my truck, so according to another friend of mine, they did something to it that made it run rough, while I wasn’t watching. I was sooo na├»ve, trusted everyone. And then they approached me – offering to pay me the $200 I’d paid for it, plus $60 for the brakes, and like the fool that I was, I accepted. The last time I saw it they’d built a tall wooden frame on top of the deck and put canvas over it that had ‘Jesus Saves’ painted all over it as a diversion, and were going ‘up north’ on holiday. The guy who paid me for it was a real piece of work – a real smartass who loved conning people as I found out later. I bet he made a profession out of it in later life.
Of course as soon as I’d sold the truck Vaughan rang me wanting to buy it back, and hearing that I’d sold it didn’t do much for our relationship. On visiting him and his wife Gabby a few weeks later, I found that she had got herself a job at the local mental hospital and she’d brought home a female patient she had befriended. We chatted away and then we all went to bed, me to the couch. I woke up early and made myself a drink and went outside to watch the world wake up – their house was out on a farm so the hens were henning and roosters crowing and cows mooing and while sitting there on the steps I remembered Vaughan saying something about digging the strip of garden along the front for some flowers. The spade was right there so I got stuck in and had it done in ten minutes then went back to my drink. A half hour later I was sitting at the table when Gabby walks in and say that her friend was in a borderline state getting over her problems and that me having sex with her wouldn’t help at all. She was pretty mad with me. It took me ten minutes to work out that she thought I was humping her patient while I was really digging her garden. What do you expect if you work with mental’s...? She never believed me even when presented with the evidence. So that was probably the last time I met up with them. Judging from what Vaughan had told me, his mates in Canada had told him the cops believed he was overseas and out of their hair, so he was thinking of returning there. NZ was too backward for them he said.  But it might have been his farmer relative (I think Gabby had a cousin married to a kiwi farmer – that’s why they chose NZ) finding the two HUGE marijuana plants that Vaughan had grown in an old henhouse not far from his house that gave them more of an incentive to leave. They came home from town to find his farmer relly had completely razed the chookhouse and the dope plants with his tractor and burnt the lot.
Sorry, but I don't have any pictures of the truck ; didn't even own a camera back in the day - had to spend what little money I had on more important things...like food."

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