You Just Never Know!
In all the range of human emotions, one of the most popular is the excitement of the unexpected. We enjoy roller coasters or scary movies, because we’re unsure what will happen next. It’s that anticipation, the giddy excitement of the unexpected, and even though, we know it’s only a movie or an amusement park ride, still, we loved being surprised by the unexpected. We know what we will find at the big box retailer, we don’t know what we will find at an auction or a yard sale and likewise, you never know what you’re going to find at a car show.
I admit it, I love cars shows. Sometimes though, the surprise car show that you didn’t even know were going on, are the best. You’re riding down the road and you begin seeing these classic cars in traffic with you. Okay, one classic car and you think, “Nice car” but after you’ve seen the second or third, you start keeping your eyes peeled. It’s around here somewhere, I just know it. Then you find the show or you begin following the classic cars, hopeful they’re heading in and not out. It’s the anticipation of never knowing, what you might see or find, or what’s just around the corner.
Of course, not all car show are created equal, good ole boys with their pride and joys parked beside a local burger joint, all the way up to champagne sipping billionaires, in Palm Beach. I love them all, but given a choice, I’ll take the good ole boys, because they have better stories. Each of these cars and their owners has stories to tell. I once saw a 1956, Chevy Bel air, midnight blue with a snow-white top and white accents. The hood and truck were opened, and under the hood; a 327 tastefully upgraded with a high-rise manifold, 4 barrel, flex fan, chrome alternator and chrome valve covers.
The car had been meticulously restored, to better than original condition. In the back of the car, lying open in the trunk, was the car’s baby book. This guy had rescued this car from a field, were it had sat, for God only knows how long. Each page, illustrating the cars restoration and what set this car apart, was this fellow’s other hobby of leather work. The upholstery was white leather; the carpet was a deep, deep blue. In the center of each back rest, a blue, leather Chevy bow-tie. The dash panel had been upgraded with white-faced, electronic gauges, which displayed in blue numbers, of course. In the trunk, the spare tire had a custom white leather cover with matching leather, blue bow-tie emblem.
This car was one of a kind; you won’t see another one just like it… ever. It was so much more interesting than, “Muffy and I were wintering in Scottsdale and when I saw it, I knew, I just had to have it. I wrote the man a check immediately for $400,000 and had the car transported home.” Where is the love in that? Writing a check isn’t a skill, arguably, the ability to write such a check might be a skill, but there’s no story involved. The restored 56 Chevy, told about the man and the woman, as his wife was equally involved. The car of spoke hours of labor, of sweat and blood and hard-earned cash and this car was his baby, his statement to the world, this is who I am. This is the kind of work I am capable of doing. And when you see a car and a man such as this, you never forget them.
I was at a car show once and this younger guy was standing next to 64 Impala Super Sport and on the card in front of the vehicle was proudly marked “One-Owner”.
Let’s see, at the time, the car was about 40 years old and the man was not yet 30, so I bit, asking, “How can this car be a One-Owner?” He smiled, explaining, “It’s my Dad’s car.”
“That’s nice of your dad to let you drive it,” I offered.
“Oh, he passed on, a few years back. He ordered this car, new from the factory. He custom ordered the 327 with high-compression heads, a high-rise manifold with dual four barrels.”
The car was flawless, inside and out, but I couldn’t resist, “you know, technically, you’re the second owner.”
“No”, he insisted, “This is my dad’s car and always will be.”
I nodded in understanding, before moving on saying, “Your dad was a lot cooler than mine was.”
I’ve often wondered about the pride and obligation, of owning such a vehicle. Owning a car your father was so proud of, a car you grew up in. It would be like having a piece of your father with you forever, but never being able to change anything about the car or to ever sell it.
Then are the ones that got away, I could have bought a 1950 Mercury Coupe, at a car show for seven hundred bucks, but my better half put her foot down. The car was complete, but needed everything. I didn’t want the car to drive, I wanted it to sell.
A little of this and a little of that, and I could have pocketed some nice coin. Ah, but that’s the rub, isn’t it? The allure of thinking, we see something no one else sees. That Mercury was number one, on my list of cars that got away. Number two on the list, was a 1970 Shelby GT-500 Mustang convertible for $9,000. The car was in fair shape, but needed work and again, the wife said, “No!” She had this hard and fast rule, I was only allowed to buy one classic car per year and I’d already used my franchise on a 1969 Mustang Mach One.
It was for the best, I suppose, I would have been over my head, over my budget and out of the house if I’d bought it.
Number three, was a cherry 1966 Mustang convertible. The top was in tatters, but the interior was still good. The body was straight, the car ran and nothing was missing. Under the hood, a tired 200 six cylinder, mated to a three-speed tranny. The fellow was asking…are you ready, $1,400.
I didn’t buy the car, (see wife’s hard and fast rule) I consoled myself thinking, by the time I got back with the money, it would have been gone anyway.
But by far, the best deal I ever saw at a car show, was a man who’d bought a 1956 Studebaker Hawk for $700. He said he’d seen the car parked in a driveway on four flat tires, under a tarp. He passed the car every day on his way to work and one day, after age and a thunderstorm had finished off the tarp, he got a good look at it. Stopping on his way home, he knocked at the door. The women said, he’d have to ask her husband, she didn’t know if he was interested in selling it or not. On his third trip back, an older gentleman answered the door. After asking if the car was for sale, the old gentleman scratched his head and answered, “I don’t know, what’ll you give me for it?”
The guy bought that car for $700 and sold it, that night, for ten grand and never took it off the trailer. You just never know what you’re going to see at a car show, that’s what makes Car shows really great, the cars, the people and the stories they tell.