My first car was a truck. I bought it after getting my first job with a contractor; I had worked for him for about two weeks and figured I had as steady a job as I could find in 1976. I bought the truck from a body shop guy who had painted it fire engine red and had replaced the bench seat with matching green bucket seats taken out of a Firebird or Camaro or some sort of muscle type car. This truck had three on the tree but first gear was still so low that you had to shift to second at about seven miles per hour. It was a 1959 Chevy long bed pick–up with wood slats for the bed and running boards next to the outside wheel wells. Someone had removed the grill and my buddy offered to replace it, but I didn’t want to pay him to do it. It didn’t matter anyway to me because I just needed it to work out of.
That truck was an auto mechanics training course en vivo. The first repair was to fix the starter pedal. I had to fit a bigger washer around its base to keep it from punching through the rusting hole in the floor board. My brother–in–law showed me how to replace the lamp wire someone had strung between the coil and the solenoid; he also greased the gear box so you could shift the gears. I remember saying to him that fixing cars could be a lot of fun. He gave me the best advice anyone could—mostly with his incredulous look, and said that there were a lot funner things to pass the time doing.
Repairs happened on a monthly schedule. I found out the engine was from an unidentified 1952 Chevy when I pulled the water pump and brought it to the parts house to get a replacement. By this time it wasn’t surprising that the engine had belonged to another car. I thought it was neat that the engine was as old as I was.
The coolest thing about the truck was that I was king of the road. I was working in Carmel and all the wealthy people were afraid that the truck would do something crazy and crash into their cars. One time I was the last person at a four–way stop and all the people in their Porches and Mercedes waited for me to go before them. I’m sure they just wanted me to get out of the way, not knowing if my steering or brakes would fail and I’d careen out of control into them.
After about a year I sold the truck to a cop who wanted to cherry it out. The odometer had just broken and read a little more than 57,000 miles. He asked if it was 157,000 miles. I couldn’t lie to a cop. I told him it had to be at least 257,000 miles, but I didn’t mention the 1952 engine. He paid me five hundred dollars for it—seventy–five more than I had paid. He was pretty excited, but his wife looked skeptical. I hope he really did cherry it out.