03 May 2014

YrHmblHst's Sorta Kinda Technically First Car...

After reading Steve's post below, I got to thinking...and I havent been 100% TECHNICALLY accurate/honest with you, dear Reader. See, I 'sorta-kinda' had a car before the Plymouth. Well, at least a part interest in one. Let me explain.

At not quite 15 years old, we were living in a semi rural area outside of a [at that time] small suburb of Tulsa. I had a friend named Jim from across the lane that I rode dirt bikes with, played baseball with, and talked cars with a lot. Jimmy's dad was a mechanic and owned a small garage and wrecker service in town. Jim was already a pretty good mechanic himself, and went on wrecker calls if his dad was busy. The local constabulary knew him obviously, and knew he was under age with no license, but nothing was said as he drove well, didnt do anything stupid and was performing a valuable service. Hey, it was a different time...
Anyway, we had a friend named Lawrence that was a couple of years older than us. Initially, Lawrence was dating one of Jimmy's 5 sisters, which is how we got to know him, but even though that relationship didnt last too long, our friendship carried on. Lawrence had a beautiful, metallic turquoise 63 Impala. Turquoise inside and out, it was just a 283 and Powerglide car, but ran fine and looked great with it's chrome reverse wheels.
Late one evening, Jim's phone rings and its Lawrence. Lawrence asked Jimmy to bring the wrecker as the Chevy had stopped, apparently in a fairly spectacular fashion. James went and picked the car up, dropped Lawrence at his house, then towed the car to the Garage.
The next day after school, investigation as to the cause of the breakdown commenced. It was immediately apparent that the engine was locked up tighter than a drum, but no external clues were extant as to the cause, so the decision was made to do 'exploratory surgery'. Removal of the valve covers showed that the car had  dropped a valve, but that shouldn't have caused the immediate lockup of all rotating masses that Lawrence experienced.  Upon removal of the pan, the issue became apparent. It had a bent rod.
Now, I know what you're thinking [assuming you've made it this far and have ANY interest in, or knowledge of, things mechanical] but this wasnt just your ordinary bent, not broken, connecting rod. This one was wrapped AROUND the crankshaft. Wrapped around it... The rod looked like an " @ ". Never seen anything like it.
Well, obviously this was major and fixing it was going to be a major expense. While we were all there standing around marveling at metallurgy, wondering what happened and discussing what to do, Lawrence finally looked up and said 'If y'all will pay the tow bill, y'all can have it.'
'Have it? As in free? As in the car is ours?'
'Yep. Pay the bill and its yours'.
Jimmy ran in the office, stamped the bill 'PAID' and said 'Bring the title'.
Lawrence took off on his TS400 and Sir James and I just stood there giggling.
'Now what?'
Now, this was several years before the movie, but like Spicoli, Jim's dad DID have this 'ultimate set of tools', so he says 'We can fix it!'
Having both a garage and a tow service naturally meant that the back lot turned into a small salvage; people sometimes wouldnt or couldnt pay the bill [s] , so occasionally cars were simply abandoned to the service provider. We immediately began scouring the back for suitable donor parts. Fortunately, small block Chevrolets were reasonably plentiful, and many/most parts interchanged [just watch small journal vs large journal lower ends..] so before too long, we had a stack of 'serviceable' pieces. These, together with unused gaskets saved from sets over the years, would form the basis of 'our' first car's Phoenix-like ascendancy back to the streets.
Jim was, and still is, a much better mechanic than I, so admittedly, he did do the lion's share of the assembly, but I poured plenty of sweat equity into the car as well. I'll not bore the reader here with the technical specifications of the finished powerplant, for not only are they not germane to the discussion at hand, but at almost 40 years, quite frankly, I dont remember! The one thing I do remember vividly though is that the car was never 'smooth'. It simply ran somewhat rough. Of course, the fact that we had mismatched heads, using the one, undamaged 'PowerPack' head from the original engine on one side and another of indeterminate origin from the junkyard on the other bank, undoubtedly yielding differing compression ratios side to side, couldnt have had anything to do with it could it?!?
But the car ran, and actually ran reasonably strong for what it was. It still looked good too. That turquoise colour in all its slightly varied shades throughout the 60s was, and still is, one of my favourite hues on an automobile.
Once running, Jimmy started driving the car around town with some regularity, volunteering to run errands as well as just driving for no reason when time and circumstance allowed. Mostly circumstance... I drove the car occasionally too, [no, my folks didnt know, and still dont, so ssshhhhh...] even getting into my first [4 wheeled] street race against some kid in a little Mustang with it. And yes, the Impala was victorious - all couple of blocks of the contest.
Before too long, James had occasion to have a 'meeting' with a local policeman on the side of the road, and it was suggested to Jim's dad that the Chevrolet be sold or rendered inoperable until that time when young master James actually had a driver's license...the occasional wrecker call could be overlooked, but Jimmy's latest infraction was apparently stretching the limit. So Jimmy sold the car, for $200, and kept all the money himself. I saw the car again a couple of years later in the parking lot of the local dragstrip, but never after that.
Like I said, it was a different time.

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