Dad bought me a car to drive to and from college back in 1960. It was a beautiful 1951 Ford Crown Victoria hardtop. The car was a two tone light and dark blue with fancy chrome trim. It had a chrome plated air filter under the hood. It drove fast and felt comfortable. The car cost the princely sum of $300. It felt wonderful to drive it around my Asbury College (Wilmore Kentucky) campus.
For Christmas 1960, rather than returning home, I decided to go to Miami. To pay for the trip, I would use the car to offer Christmas vacation rides to my Asbury College classmates who lived in Florida. Immediately three girls signed up for the trip at $50 per person.
The problem was that the car had a fatal flaw. The carburator would malfunction and have to be replaced about once each month. That cost $20 each time. On the trip to Florida, it went out twice 0in one trip. The girls did not have fun waiting hours in each garage and did not appreciate being stranded in strange towns. So, they all opted to take the bus back to Asbury. I burned up the money coming back paying for carburators.
There was an added flaw in the car. The gear shift was the common "three on the tree" type which meant that the manual gear shift lever ("stick") was on the steering column. Second gear was engaged when you shifted the stick upward toward the windshield. It got stuck every time. Once, I forced the stick up so hard that my hand flew off of the stick and my knuckle struck the windshield so that it made a minor crack in the glass.
That crack grew and grew into a web of cracks that became so thick that I could not effectively see out of the windshield. Taking it to a mechanic, he said that he could get a new one right away. In the meantime I had a new need for the car. I got a part time job a few miles from campus.
My new job was being a combination janitor and night watchman at Jack Hayden's Restaurant in Nicholasville, Ky. Jack had just purchased the place at a low price because the previous owner had an angry patron who dynamited the front of the building. (In Ky. there are lots of coal mines where dynamite is used.) Jack wanted someone to clean up the place after closing at night and sleep there to protect his investment. My basic tools were a mop and a double barreled 16 gauge shotgun. And I needed my ride.
While the car was in the shop I had to buy a 10 speed bike to go to and from work. It was cold and I had to outrun the farm dogs who would come after me while I pedalled as fast as I could.
I went back to the mechanic after waiting three weeks. He had taken out the windshild but the new one had not arrived. I told him that I would take the car and drive it as it was, even though we were in the dead of winter and the temperatures were usually below freezing. When the windshield came in, the mechanic would tell me and we would finish that replacement job.
So, I put my bicycle in the car's trunk and began to drive. It was very soon that I noticed, due to the cold and the wind coming right through the space where the windshield was supposed to be, that my eyes were so full of tears that I could not see.
I told my friends about my wind chill problem. One of them, Nolan, said, "Dale, you can use these." What Nolan gave me was a set of artillery goggles. These goggles have dark red lenses to protect the eye from the flash of cannon fire. They have thick rubber rims that protect the eye from flying debree. It was hard to see out of them, they made me look quite strange, but it was better than trying to see through freezing tears.
One day I bundled up with a hood and scarf and artillery goggles to go into Lexington to visit a classmate who was in the hospital. I stopped by to get some gas at a station. On the other side of the gas pump was another sedan. In the back seat was a small boy, about six years old. He looked at me, tapped on the glass of his window and said in a loud voice, "Look Mom! A man from Mars." Awkward.
It was costing me a week's wage of $20 at Hayden's to replace the carburator once a month. So, I decided to sell the car for $50 (junk price back then). Immediately I had a buyer who lived just outside of Nicholasville. I drove out to show him the car.
The young man looked over the car, which was quite pretty, noticed the chrome cover on the air filter, and offered to pay for the car. (He thought he was getting quite a bargain.) I said, OK, let's drive to your bank. You can write me the check and I'll give you the title. He agreed.
I got into the driver seat, started the car, and began to drive. It was raining. So, I lowered the driver's window and leaned out to see where I was going. The buyer said, "Why don't you just turn on the wipers?" I replied, "The knob that works them has the thread worn out, so you can't turn it."
When we got into town, we came to a stop light. I had learned something about second gear. There were two levers in front of the fire wall behind the engine. If you lifted up the hood and then lifted up these two levers, second gear would work. So, at each stop light I would hurry out of the car, lift the hood, lift the levers, slam down the hood, jump back into the car, ignore the honking cars, and go again.
When we got to the bank, the buyer did not seem so excited about paying for the car, but he did so. I cashed the check, signed the back of the title and transferred it to him. He said, "Can I give you a lift to college?" "Absolutely," I replied.
Leaving town we had to go through a couple of lights, where I showed him how to do the levers in front of the firewall. Now, it was kind of fun watching him jump out of the car, lift the hood, lift the levers, ignore the honking, and jump behind the wheel again.
We drove up to the college dormatory where he would drop me off. I had to give him a few final instructions. "Here," I said, "This is your key to the car and this is your key to the gas cap. There is no key to the trunk because the lock for it fell out. What you do is to take this flathead screwdriver and stick it in through the key hole to unlock the trunk. Now, please let me get my bicycle out of the trunk. I've been using it instead of a spare tire."
He drove away. The buyer now seemed very unsure about his "great deal" for the 1953 Ford Crown Victoria hardtop.