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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Classic Car Stories - Mopar Man to Chevrolet

All during my teenage years, I was a big fan of Chrysler products. My dad bought a used 1957 Chrysler New Yorker with a 392 cubic inch hemi motor in it, so I naturally was really into the Mopar stuff! It was the family car for several years and I kind of inherited it when I got my drivers license at 16. Unfortunately, the New Yorker was pink with a white top! But, I didn’t care, that big car had a lot of torque and horsepower, it could bury that 120 MPH speedometer with no problem! It had dual exhausts on it and I bought some chrome tips to put on as well as “Hemi Powered” stickers to put on the sides. My dad was pretty amused and just shook his head!
This is the actual car!

He lost his sense of humor though, after I discovered how to do "powerstands". That is when you brake with your left foot while flooring the throttle, thereby doing a very smokey burnout of the rear wheels. I was doing this in front of our high school one day, showing off and broke a u-joint! My dad came and we towed it to our neighbor's house, who was a mechanic. I had told my dad that the u-joint had just "come apart". Well after the mechanic inspected it, he set my dad right on what actually happened and I thereafter had to make payments to my dad for the repair bill!  You wouldn't believe how many times I had to open the hood to prove to someone that there really was a hemi under there!  I happily drove that car for quite a while, until a short under the dash burned all the wiring up. That was the end, we had to tow it out to the junkyard.
So, after the New Yorker died, I was seriously in need of a car, as I only had a 160cc Honda for transportation.  And my parents were certainly not going to buy me one.  I had a job pumping gas at a Clark station and one of the regular customers was a young guy with a beautiful 1968 Dodge Charger RT. It had the 440 big block with a 4-speed manual and was in perfect condition.  With aftermarket wheels and tires, it was a dream car.  The guy treated that car like it was his baby and I never so much as saw him get on the throttle with it.  One day, he told me that he could no longer afford to pay the insurance and was being forced to get rid of it.  He said he would sell it to me for $1200 cash.  This was in 1970 for a showroom condition ‘68 Charger RT!  Being as I only had $400 to my name, I went home, told my dad about it and practically begged him to lend me the difference or cosign a loan.  He thought about it for a bit, but told me “no”.  At the time I was pretty upset but looking back now, I know it was the correct answer.  I would have just tore that car up and been broke all the time trying to pay the insurance.
The actual car

So, a few days later, my buddy, Ross told me he had seen a nice 1962 Chevy Impala SS in a parking lot with a “For Sale” sign on it.  I asked how much and he replied “$400”.  Exactly how much I had!  Well, I wasn’t a Chevy guy, but figured I’d go take a look at it.  We went over and it was in great shape, had a 300HP 327 V-8 and factory 4-speed.  I drove it around the block and the guy said he would take $375 for it.  I went home and got my dad to come take a look at it.  He looked it over and said “It’s your money, buy it if you want it” So that
was the first Chevrolet that I ever owned and have had quite a few of them since!  First thing I did was install glass pack mufflers, big tires and sure had a lot of fun “breaking” it.  I was drag racing it out at the strip, blew the transmission twice, at least three rear ends and countless u-joints!  I remember laying under that car in back of the gas station in January.  It was about 5 degrees and I was freezing my butt off putting a differential in it.  Having blown it up, all I had to get back and forth to work on was my motorcycle!
By the time I went to boot camp, there wasn’t much life remaining in it and my dad sold it for $20 after I left.  Having blown the 4-speed twice, I couldn't afford another, so I had replaced it with a junkyard 3-speed with bad syncros in second gear! That's how I first learned to double clutch!  

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1 comment:

  1. I didn't treat my 71 Dodge Challenger very well either. (383 Magnum with a Hurst Pistol Grip 4-speed) Or that 69 Ford Torino GT convertible with a 390 high performance engine I got as a wedding gift from Ken Lord!