I always tell my parents that I was born during the wrong era. I think the ideal era in which to live was my parents' era:
They were kids in the 40's- before radio, and electronic toys. When playing outside was what you did, and not punishment for messing up the house. Limited only by your imagination, you were whatever you wanted to be: a king, a famous explorer, or a famous radio personality. Ah, the radio. I used to listen to Mystery Theater on AM radio as a kid. I did that because I was drawn by the stories of my parents listening to scary radio programs like The Shadow. I've never even heard the show and I can repeat this from memory: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows." Well, they were right; the scary monster I imagined on Mystery Theater was scarier than anything I ever saw on television. Why? Because it was specifically created in my mind and tailored to what I found frightening...not by some tool in Hollywood. My dad would ride his bike to the Fox Theater to see the Lew King Ranger Show, then would go across the street to an arcade and spend whatever he had left of the dollar that his mom gave him. Mom wasn't allowed to ride her bike all over hell's half acre, she was probably better off for it.
They were teenagers in the 50's- cruising Central Avenue, Bob's Big Boy, sock hops with The Stroll playing, hot rods and customs, and (what this post is ultimately about) Drive-Ins.
They were in their 20's in the 60's- what a great time to be a young adult. Politically, there was so much going on. Voting rights, human rights, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, the beginning of Viet Nam, the Lunar landing. The world was changing quickly, and they were old enough to understand it, yet young enough to be motivated to be involved.
They were in their 30's in the 70's- the last of the great eras. The 70's, in my opinion, was the last vestige of simple and uncomplicated times. My parents had two young boys by then, and they could let them disappear every summer morning at the crack of dawn, as along as they were within earshot at dusk to hear, "Chris....Matt, Dinner." Of course that call was always met with a, "Five more minutes, Mom"
One of the things that I really feel that I missed out on was the golden age of the Drive-In Theater. Sure we went when we were in high school. But I always felt that I had completely missed the dance. When my parents went to the drive-in, it was a dollar a car. So kids would hide in the trunk, hoping not to get caught. Once past the eagle-eyed gate attendant, they sought out their friends and had good clean fun. And if you went with your girlfriend, it was just such a simpler time...a time when getting to second base was a big deal.
I have two early memories of movies that I saw as a kid. The first was American Graffiti, released in 1973. My parents took Matt and me to the Indian Drive-In in Phoenix. It used to be at 4141 N. 27th Avenue. Now, there is a sleazy Motel 6 and these apartments on the site.
My other memory is going with my Uncle Red to see Star Wars at the Cine Capri at 20th Street and Camelback Road (also torn down). I think that was in 1977.
I think that a terrible thing to see is an abandoned drive-in theater. It really hits home the fact that I missed the boat. I have posted some of these sad photos. I have decided that when the Pickle gets running, I want to get with some of the car clubs in Phoenix and see if we can't have some sort of fund raiser/car show at one of the few remaining drive-ins. Maybe show American Graffiti.
Maybe some day, I will be sitting in the Pickle watching this trailer...or better yet, the movie itself.
Not that anyone cares, but I wanted to post some of the footage of the ONLY day that the Pickle has been driven since I've owned it. It hadn't been licensed since 1978, and had only been driven by the previous owner one time in the three years he owned it.
Its a day I remember fondly, and relive in my mind often, but, at the same time, makes every day after that much more unbearable because I can't drive it. So I compiled all of that footage from September 2nd, 2008, and posted here in a tongue and cheek behind the scenes look at that day. Any appearance of my being cool will be decimated by the geeky smile I had that day. But it was a great day....a great day that ended abruptly when I stalled the car in front of my neighbors house and couldn't get it restarted.
Well it has been in the 110's and higher over the past month. Way to hot to work in the garage. So I decided that my time was better spent having a few drinks by the pool, hanging out with my wife and four Great Danes. Anyway, I thought I would share this article. It is always great to see a survivor, no matter what the make of car. I always think about the fact that we only really borrow these old cars for while, then after we are gone, they are passed on to our kids, or sold to the next lucky borrower. It is our responsibility to do right by the car. With some care and luck, it will be here long after we are gone.
We'll be back on the Pickle next month. We'll get the rear end in, drive shaft, and get it wired. Then look out!
An article by ALYSSA FORD, Special to the Star Tribune
When organizers of one of the most prestigious car shows in the country found out General Motors was discontinuing one of its most storied brands, Pontiac, they decided they had to plan something big for this year's show.
So the Fairfield County Concours d'Elegance in Westport, Conn. -- a show that routinely attracts the highest-end Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis to be found -- launched a campaign to find the oldest Pontiac in existence.
The organizers peppered the automotive media with notices, tapped their own network of car aficionados, and alerted every Pontiac club they could find, including the Pontiac Car Club of Australia and the Manitoba Pontiac Association.
After three months of searching, they discovered 12 Pontiacs still in existence from 1926, the brand's founding year.
And, based on an analysis of vehicle identification numbers, they found that the oldest of all resided in Minnetonka -- owned by Paul Jaszczak, 49, a distribution center manager, and his father, Roy Jaszczak, 76, a retired bricklayer.
So on Friday, the Jaszczaks' car will be shipped out East and the Jaszczaks themselves will be flying out to New York City to enjoy a complimentary stay in a luxury hotel. Then they'll drive their Series 6-27 five-passenger coach with its classic cowl lamps, wood frame and spokes, and original golden tan corduroy upholstery in the 50-mile Nutmeg Tour for Autism, surrounded by million-dollar-plus sports cars.
The Jaszczaks themselves are a little overwhelmed by it all.
"When they called and said they were going to fly us to New York and all that, I thought it was a hoax," said Paul Jaszczak, who split the cost of the car with his dad seven years ago after seeing an ad in the classified section of the Star Tribune.
"If you'd asked either of us what a 1926 Pontiac looked like, we couldn't have told you," Paul said. "Honestly, we just thought the car was really neat."
The history of the car itself is a bit cloudy. The man the Jaszczaks bought it from -- whose name they've lost -- said that the founding owner of the Fishman-Holm dealership in Minneapolis died in 1926 and his son, who inherited the dealership, bought the $825 Pontiac as a tribute to his father.
The six-cylinder, 32-horsepower car apparently sat in the Fishman-Holm showroom at 1224 Harmon Place for many years before it was passed on to an unknown number of owners over the years.
The 6-27 is the first and only collectible car the Jaszczaks have owned, and they've taken their stewardship seriously.
Paul has made unsuccessful attempts to find the family connected with the Fishman-Holm dealership, and he's collected reams of old Pontiac advertisements. They've cleaned up the car, given it a valve job and replaced all five tires. "Some of the tires had Lindbergh's airplane on them, they were that old," said Paul.
Roy Jaszczak used to drive the Pontiac to church, to Pax Christi in Eden Prairie, but now father and son mostly take it out for leisurely spins or down to the local Dairy Queen.
As they go, they hit the horn, and the car goes aw-ooga, aw-ooga! As the Pontiac whirs past, people on the sidewalks turn and smile.
I was thinking that in honor of Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats, held every year by the Southern California Timing Association, that I would post a few videos I found about the history of the event. The SCTA was created in 1937 to regulate and limit racing on public streets. The SCTA made racing move to the dragstrip and salt flats. This year's pilgrimage to the salt flats at Bonneville commences August 8th through the 14th. I plan on taking the Pickle out there next year (car gods willing). My wife Tammy has already said she will pass on the trip because it involves driving in the Pickle through the Arizona desert with no A/C. Either way, I will be there.
*Note the comment the narrator (Alex Xydias, the founder of SoCal Speed Shop) makes at the beginning of the first video about how kids would take offense to the term "hot rod"; that a hot rod was "anything that lacked fenders and a muffler." These comments are almost identical to the complaints of hot rodders of today when their cars are called rat rods. It always amazes me how things in life are so cyclical.
Well, sadly, all of the green house paint is off of the Pickle. The small dents are being worked out. Here are a few pictures.
Ron from Ron's Just Chevy's was able to weld in all of the new sheet metal for the trunk. It has all been primered. It was originally primered grey, but was changed to black. It just looked cooler.
As the Pickle gets re-assembled, we need to replace some of the missing parts. Because the car is not a Chevy or Ford, the after-market for Pontiacs is limited to California Pontiac Restoration. And if you can't find it there you are screwed. So, I was off to Deer Valley Auto Parts, which is a salvage yard in Casa Grande.
I needed a hood release and found ONE on the very last 1950 Pontiac we came across. So now all of the new bushings for the front end are on order and probably within the next couple of weeks we are going to fire up the engine for the first time. Stay tuned.
There are custom things added to cars. Things that make sense and add to the lines of the car, for example these Packard taillights. And then there are those, like reverse lights added under the headlights, that detract from the vehicle. When I removed the light it left three holes. Two of which I knew I could fill with MIG. The other needed to have some sheet metal cut in the shape and size of the hole and welded in. I have never done anything like this before, but I have seen it done on TV. I got a piece of paper and I traced the hole. Then I went back to my busted up fender that I practiced my welding on and cut out a small piece of metal and then cut it to the shape of my tracing. I sanded all of the green house paint off. It is a small piece of sheet metal and I knew it would be nearly impossible to hold into place. So I grabbed a small nail and tack welded it to the patch piece. This way I had something to hold on to. After a few touch-up trims, the piece fit well. I didn't want to have the metal overheat and warp since I was working with such a small piece. So I made a series of tack welds spread out until they eventually joined. I filled the two small holes next to the big hole and ground everything down. As you can see, it is not perfect, but the patch is strong and a very thin coat of putty will make it look really nice.
Well I have been procrastinating for some time. There is a "Silver Streak" emblem on the side of each of the front fenders. I want the front fenders void of anything like that, but the emblems are really cool and I wanted to keep them. So I decided the emblems will be relocated to the interior door panels.
Removing these would leave two large holes in the fender. I had read somewhere that holes of these sizes could be filled with MIG weld. I have seen it done once on some TV show, so I thought I would give it a try. I was a little nervous about over-heating the panel and warping it. But I still figured I would try it.
My cousin Rich was nice enough to loan me his Lincoln Welder. It is a wire fed MIG that allows you to use it with or without gas. The wire that comes with it has the gas as part of the welding wire/flux, so gas is not needed. I have never welded before and didn't know any of this until I watched the VHS instructions that came with the welder.
The first thing I did was to retrieve my old wrinkled fender from the side of my house which I saved for this specific purpose. I wanted to practice on that fender before I put the torch to the good fender.
I cleaned a small area free of paint and debris. I then drilled some holes in the fender to practice filling them. I also practiced laying several lines of weld. Now, anyone who knows anything about welding is cringing at my welds. They are ugly, I know. But I kept the heat down and didn't warp the surface. It worked, so I was happy. After filling the holes, I ground down the welds, saw some pinholes and filled them with more flux. I had to repeat that process until the holes were completely filled. But it worked, the panel wasn't warped, and it looked pretty good. I was excited.
Weld then grind, weld then grind. I then went and got my good fender. I cleaned it up and with a knot in my stomach I set the welder up. I am not embarrassed to tell you that each time that I had to switch between welding and grinding there were times that I went a little faster than I probably should have. Two separate times I started welding with the welding mask on top of my head and my eyeballs intently focused on the small hole that would soon burn my retina. I was only blinded for a few minutes. You would think that would be a mistake that someone would make only once. Nope, not me. Then this is what it looked like after it was ground down. So if you are like me, and you want to try new things and work on your car yourself, don't be nervous. Unless you catch your car on fire and it burns to the ground taking your garage with it, there is a professional somewhere who can fix your mistake.