Gettin’ out a Dodge
Back in 1960, my pal Frank and I talked at length about finding a car for him while sitting at the coffee shop where I washed dishes part-time. I had recently purchased a 1947 Chevrolet for $25. I was able to get it running, and he wanted to do the same. Neither of us were (teenaged) men of means by any means, but we liked cars, we were willing to get our hands dirty, and we could read a shop manual.
The waitress interrupted to say that she knew where to find an old car we could have for free: It was in her mother’s backyard, and she wanted it out of there. We wrote down the address and drove over. The waitress’s mother showed us to the yard. At first, we couldn’t see anything; weeds and trees had grown up around the car. We finally bushwhacked our way in to discover a 1937 Dodge D5 four-door sedan.
The tires were nearly flat, the windows were delaminating, and the gas in the tank had a disgusting smell. We drained the tank, then picked up a new battery and some fresh gas. We changed the oil, put in water, and put a teaspoon of oil down each cylinder and turned the engine over with the plugs out to pump around a little bit of the oil. We then primed the carb, and after a lot of struggling and coughing, the old flathead inliner caught and ran pretty well.
We pumped up the tires and pulled the old sedan out of the backyard jungle and into an alley; we cruised to an intersection and tried to stop, unsuccessfully—we nearly collided with another car. The brakes were just a memory. However, we made it to Frank’s house —much to his mom’s chagrin —and pulled onto their manicured back lawn. We knew our time to get the car roadworthy was limited before Frank’s mom would have enough of us sullying the grass and washing our greasy hands in her laundry sink.
I won’t say we did a restoration. It was more of a recycling, and an amateurish one at that. The old Dodge would have elicited chuckles at a car show, but Frank drove it through four years of college, and we even made a couple of trips to Mexico in it. The Dodge never let us down.