The year was 1962. When I turned 16 and got my license, I wanted a car. I had the money but not the permission. My brother was tooling around in a 51 Merc. (chopped, lowered, smoothed, etc.). My buddies were into antiques.
We would go to the Big Burger or Richard's in a '33 DeSoto (with no reverse gear) or an air-cooled '28 Franklin. We were working on, but never finished, a '34 Woody (Arthur is kicking himself all over the People's Republic of Belmont for selling that car!).
I found a '28 olds in Cambridge with 16,000 miles on it for $250. Sold. Found a garage in Waltham just 2 miles from my home and stuffed it in there until I could get "permission" to buy a car. In the meantime (not being one who likes to waste time), once or twice a week I sold the Olds to a buddy, switched the plates over, and headed out. Those old cars didn't go very fast, but they made up for it when they stopped at a drive-in. With fuzzy velour seats and the shades pulled down on the rear and side windows, the words "drive-inâ€ took on a whole new meaning.
One night a neighbor decided we must be doing something illegal (Yeah! So what?) and told us she called the cops (Oh!). By the time we switched the plates back and ate the Bill of Sale, we passed the Fuzz less than a quarter of a mile from the garage. Luckily the old lady from whom I rented the garage didn't know my name. She didn't even have a key to the garage! From then on, we brought the plates over in another car and I sunk into the garage from the other side of the house.
Soon the fuel pump quit and I couldn't find another one. No problem. I strapped a Gerry Can to the cowl and gravity-fed to the carburetor. On the way to Richard's one night, I stopped at a Gulf station for some Panther Piss. One of Cambridge's Finest was directing traffic and eyeballing the Olds at the same time. I was careful not to make eye contact so as not to encourage him. But his curiosity got the better of him and he abandoned his post. From inside the Olds I get a frantic "Here he comes!"
That's enough Ethyl for now. Give the man $1.35 and split. Please start on the first try. Please start on the second try. Yes! Too late.
"Nice car," says he.
"Thanks," says I.
"Fixing it up?"
"Yeah, but parts are hard to find" (and Cops are hard to lose). I'm thinking about the Gerry Can on the other side of the car, the phony bill of sale, the illegal plates, and Ma and Pa think I'm at a CYO meeting. I've got to get out of here before he takes a tour and his curiosity kills me!
"Gotta go before she overheats."
"Thanks. It's been good so far. Bye."
This charade went on for six months until I finally got "permission" to buy a new car. By now the starter didn't work and the tranny needed a new main shaft. My father actually liked the Olds despite its problems. He and my brother often took it over to Sonny's Bar in Watertown Square on Saturday afternoons. When it was running, it was a trip to drive. Straight-tooth gears required double-clutching. It must have been the inspiration for ABS because no matter how hard I jumped on the brakes, I could not lock them up! Between rain storms I hosed down the wooden spokes to stop the squeaks. I learned to start the car with the hand crank, always pulling up on it. Pushing down on the crank could relocate your elbow to where your shoulder was if the engine backfired. Vacuum wipers
meant that I couldn't see going uphill in the rain.
One night while cruising through Harvard Square (looking for an education), I broadsided a guy in a brand new Buick who was so busy looking at me that he went right through a stop sign. You should have seen the look on his face. He must have thought "Old 99" was coming down on him. I watched in horror as my front bumper buried itself into the Buick's soft side panels (the guy who was to invent side reinforcement barriers was still in diapers) and then my front fenders began to bow up and out like a Condor taking flight. I bounced back off (remember the brakes don't hold) as the fenders settled right back into place and the bumper straightened out to welcome a new coat of paint. Man, was that guy pissed! He even accused me of being too busy waving at girls to see where I was going.
Imagine the nerve! He got a ticket for running a stop sign and I split for the Big Burger.
I sold the old bomber in 1964 for $400 to buy an Austin Healey in which I could commute to Northeastern. In 1965 the Olds was auctioned off on Channel 2 for $800. I still have the Healey (although it actually is titled to the girl in the picture, my wife of more than 30 years), along with a '34 Ford street rod. But I miss the '28 Olds and the good (and not so good) times I had with it.