Old men and old cars

Years ago in Anza, California, when I was about 10 years old, I bought my first car. It was a 1950 Ford, my brother and I raced it around in a circle in the field where we lived. Now part of having a car meant that if it broke or got flats you had to work on it. My brother and I changed out our first transmission at the ripe old age of 11 years. Thus started my love affair with the automobile, and I dare say there are a lot of men out there that started the same.

In my eyes it is such a shame that nowadays most new cars have to be taken to an authorized dealership to be repaired. I feel that this has taken away the innovation and work ethics of some of our young men and women. Yes, in the “old days” you judged an automobile (there’s another word that isn’t used anymore) by how it was built. Was the steel in the car thick and substantial; was she built strong? I remember my father talking about such cars as the Cord, Stuz, Dusenberg and Kaiser Frazier.

When I was in my twenties I remember reading an article in the Hemet news about two old men that had gotten arrested in a store parking lot in Hemet. It seems that they had a little to drink, and when they started to leave the parking lot in one of the men’s Kaiser Frazier they got into a discussion about the substantiality of said vehicle. I guess the driver was bragging that none of the cars in the parking lot were near as tough as his Kaiser Frazier. The Kaiser straight from the factory had nearly quarter inch-thick steel and chrome plated bumpers, even the fenders were nearly an eighth inch-thick steel. To make his point, he began ramming the other cars after which he showed his friend that no damage had been done to his Kaiser while the other cars were terribly damaged. Of course both men were promptly arrested. Point being, as the old man said upon his arrest, “they don’t build them like they used to.”

I know very few older men that don’t have a love for older automobiles. You can change the spark plugs in a matter of minutes in some cars. Today you actually have to pull the intake manifold just to change the spark plugs. How is that for stopping the consumer from working on his own vehicle? Even the act of purchasing a vehicle has become hands off. Go into a dealership, and they want to hand you a piece of paper showing the facts about the vehicle. When old timers go into a parking lot, the salesman can usually expect the old guy to kick the tires, check the coolant, oil and tire wear, and even if he is 80 years old, you can bet he will be on his back, on the ground and looking under the car. I usually kick the tires first; there are two reasons for doing this first. One, it tells you the tires are near properly inflated. Two, it is a way of telling the salesman that you are damn sure gonna check this automobile out.

P.S. Smack the fender a good one too; see if it dents.

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