It seemed a dream: having all four of my old cars at the house at the same time. This month it finally happened.
Last Saturday, the '63 Plymouth, the '72 Monte Carlo, the '77 Corvette and the '62 Plymouth Golden Commando were all there, the latter on the car trailer. Four old cars, a Dodge van, and my wife's VW were there. That's a total of six vehicles for two drivers.
Even with the huge driveway, the Dodge van has to live on the street.
An interesting thing happens to me now with maintenance — everything is multiplied. The other day, after two battery failures, I decided to check the charging system on one of the cars. The 1962 Plymouth was tested with the old reliable T-8 Christie. The battery was weak and the alternator output was okay. While I had the T-8 out, I moved to the Corvette. The battery was okay, the alternator had low output and was noisy. The Chevy was next. The battery was okay, the alternator was very noisy and had low output. The big Chevy with all the under hood insulation hid the noisy alternator very well. It's not very often that Orange Engine in Anaheim sees two alternators from two separate cars for replacement from one customer on the same day.
I am beginning to think about how to maintain this fleet. When then '62 is complete, if I changed the oil on all the vehicles I would need about 32 quarts.
At our current price of $2.65 for 91 octane premium gasoline (most of our fleet runs on 91), the price of my fuel inventory with all the vehicles filled to a half-tank would be about $150. Robbers please be advised: there are more liquid assets in the fuel tanks of the vehicles than in the house.
The cars shouldn't just sit at home, though, especially this time of year. I headed for Spring Fling out at Woodley Park in Van Nuys. It is a two-day event with judging and trophies in a ceremony on Sunday. Mopar people come from all over with their cars to show. Vendors and a swap meet of all the Mopar stuff make this an attraction for people from other states and countries.
Our little band met at Spires in Long Beach for a convoy to Woodley Park. We were a '63 Dodge 413 6-pack, a '66 500 cubic inch Duster, a 440 Plymouth Fury II, and me in the '62 Plymouth Belvedere. Getting there was fun as many people enjoyed seeing the cars and yelling, "Is that a hemi?"
Unfortunately, when we finally got there, it was raining. The 413 Dodge and the 440 Plymouth owners were nervous and with the wet highway all four cars were a bit unpredictable. A little too much on the gas pedal and the tires broke loose. The 413 and the 440 went home without even seeing the show.
The weather got worse. Brian, the Duster owner, and I decided to stick it out.
For the first day of the show, Saturday, all was pretty good despite the foul weather. I found some treasure at low prices. I got some restoration stuff and saw some people that I haven't seen for a year.
The trip home was almost a disaster. After the sun came up and things began to dry out I decided to head back to Anaheim. Driving south on the 405 near LAX, a kid's bike fell off an open trailer in front of me and bounced at 60 miles per hour into the lane to my left. As I was thinking how lucky I was not to have the bike in my lane, along came one of the training wheels from the bike. The wheel bounced up at 60 miles per hour, put two chips in the hood, and slammed into the windshield. Then it went over my car and caught the minivan behind me in the windshield.
My damage was two chips on the hood and two holes in my windshield. The minivan was not as lucky. His windshield was mess that looked like it was hit by a 12-gauge shotgun.
Behind the minivan and me there was more carnage as other people hit the bicycle or hit each other trying to avoid the bicycle. There should be some type of fine or penalty for open trailer operators who fail to secure their loads.
Finding good used parts for old cars takes you on some interesting journeys and you meet some very interesting people. At Woodley there was a guy from Lake Mathews that had a huge box of stainless for '62, '63 and '64 Chrysler vehicles. I dug around in the box looking for '62 stuff and with all the rain at Woodley finally quit.
I did get the guy's card and decided to inventory my stainless before I purchased a bunch of stuff I didn't need. I have been known for additional inventory.
A couple of weeks went by and I got my needs in order and then I got out the card and called Larry. Larry said that at the end of the swap meet he didn't want to load all the stainless and sold it Marc for $300.
Larry had Marc's phone number and gave it to me. About a week later I was out at Marc's house looking at the mountain of stainless he bought for $300.
Marc's home sits on little over an acre with a 2,000 square foot auto shop that he is in the process of finishing. After about two hours of organizing, Marc and I had separated all the stainless into year and model, Dodge and Plymouth.
I had picked out several pieces for my '62 during the process as I had brought samples. I wanted to settle up for cash for the stainless but Marc would accept only coffee from Circle K in payment. Marc explained that without my help the separation of the stainless would have taken a lot more time.
Marc is a Mopar guy who has a '64 Belvedere Post as well as a drag car and a '66 Dodge on the property. As for the huge box of stainless, Marc is going to sell it off on eBay or take it back to Woodley now that it is separated.
I told Marc that at the going rate of about $10.00 per piece, he probably has $2,000 in stainless for Mopars. Maybe more.
Summer cruising season is beginning here in California. Today I was going to check the fluids in and the tires on the old cars here in Anaheim. This, with a few diversions, should pretty well take all day.
I heard back in the early days of the San Diego Navy Yard the schedule of ships coming and going was always posted in the bars, strip clubs, and brothels. Perhaps I should do the same with my little fleet and advise my neighbors, friends and suppliers, "Get ready. The fleet is in."
Originally published in the June/July Automotive
Copyright 2004 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.