|Lookin' for adventure, and whatever comes our way...|
I blame my Dad for starting us down this road when my brothers and I were very young. We accompanied him on a trip to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1988 to check out a Chevy Nomad station wagon that was more iron oxide than anything else, but we DID get to play around inside a WWII-era M5 Stuart tank powered by twin flathead Cadillac V-8 engines that was also for sale at the same house. (Or was it more of a compound?) Either way, old stuff was way cool! There was also the 1991 trip to Yorkville, Illinois to check out to a late 40's Chevy Cabriolet, but the car had been returned to nature and likely wouldn't want to come back to life without a miracle. As we grew older, the trips with Dad yielded some treasure, including a 1955 Oldsmobile Super 88 Sedan, which we took home because it was original and documented 2-owner car close to home.
|The Super 88 and me in the summer of 1999. Check out the Atlas white walls! They were in great shape and looked sharp with the white-trimmed hubcaps.|
Full-blown projects aren't always the prize. Occasionally we just lug home a stray engine or transmission like this 1953 Chevy 235 six cylinder and 1946 Chevrolet 3 speed transmission we grabbed for one measly bill in East Dubuque, Iowa. I figure if I ever have issues with the 216 six in Oscar, I could swap this babbit-pounder in its place in a weekend. It ran and drove when it was pulled out of a '52 Styleline sedan to make way for a 350. It also included a nice Rochester Mono-Jet carb and a spare trans for my car with shift linkages and a rear yoke / u-joint assembly. What the hey, they aren't making this stuff anymore. $100 is what some people blow at the bar on a Saturday night.
|Is this a DOT approved method for hauling an engine? Yeah, sure.|
|I shouldn't be smiling, I just lost more garage space.|
Sometimes even a derelict ride will follow us home like this chassis of a 1946 Willys Jeep CJ2A did in 2010. Why would we rope my brother Gordon into spending a Saturday loading and unloading a greasy hunk of tetanus onto a U-Haul trailer? Because it had a complete drivetrain, a title, and the owner was going to scrap it. For $125, it was worth bringing home.
|Gordon checks the tie-down straps to make sure nothing rolled off and ruined our day.|
The Willys was an early production example of the first civilian model that Jeep debuted that year. A few parts including a section of the body tub showed it originally came with a coat of red paint, which jived with the limited color palette that CJ2A's had that year... mostly in agricultural implement color schemes like red & black, green & yellow, and orange & black. Our little project was found in the front yard of a house in Pekin, Illinois...literally across the street from its original owner's home. It sat outside and fell victim to the tin worm. It came to our home one summer day and that later that afternoon Gordon & I wound up scraping off years worth of grease, mud, and one-third of the rusted frame rails. It was evident that this thing was beyond repair, which ruined my plans to find a reproduction body tub and make a cheap runabout. Months later Sarah and I wound up completely stripping the chassis bare, and sold the Go-Devil engine, rims, T-90 three speed and transfer case to a Willys owner in Bloomington. The parts went to a good home instead of the scrapyard, and we doubled our money. Success!
If you're a 'hunter', you probably hit the brakes and pull over to check out every old car you see with a "For Sale" sign in the window like this 1963 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan that Sarah & I saw in Bradford, Illinois this summer.
|The $1500 asking price wasn't bad, but the body was a little...rough.|
Hunting trips can break out on your way home from work. They can also occur whilst walking to the Mexican tienda to get ice cream, which is where we discovered this 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner retractable. Ford only made 14,713 of these hardtop convertibles and fully restored they're worth big bucks. This one would be a good candidate for a restoration, but I decided it would be better to keep walking and just spend $2.50 on a cup of chongos.
|The Skyliner was a marvel of engineering in its time, and would be a challenge to restore.|
Our most recent hunting trip involved a tip from a true friend and hobbyist, and some long-distance correspondence with the owner. We hopped in the Jeep after plotting a course for an old Chevy under a tarp. Sarah was the first to lay eyes on a round old car under a series of ratty car covers, pool hoses and sandbags next to a garden shed. That initial sight of an old car or truck in the woods, under a tarp, or sitting for sale on the side of the road is what gearheads dream about at night.
Vintage tin that we hunt down represents nothing more than potential. Oh, what great plans we can dream up for a long-forgotten piece of machinery in a matter of seconds just by laying our eyes on it. Will the tires hold air? Will the engine fire with some fresh gas and a battery? Will that chalky paint buff out with some compound? Lots of us leave our mark on the world by improving things. Others enjoy saving a historic automobile or component from certain death in a scrapyard, and salvaging whatever parts we can. And then there are the hoarders who just drag everything home because they want more stuff.
Some of us are a little bit of all three.
These are just a few of our hunting trips over the years. There's a lot more...trust me. A walk through our basement will show you how often we do this. As for our newest trip to see the car under the tarp, we'll keep you posted if anything develops with it. We're really hopeful it works out, and you'll be the first to know.
Until then, let us know what you're on the hunt for.