Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Out and about

Car Corner: Old cars are windows to our memories


Published:

I heard a very touching story from one of our MOPAR car club members, Ken McNeeley, that I would like to share with you.

McNeeley's dad, Howard, was in high school when he was what we would now consider a "caraholic." Howard's father was a blacksmith and a farmer. A blacksmith had to be able to forge weld many different types of metals to keep the equipment of the local farmers in operating order. This background led all of Howard's 13 brothers and sisters to be somewhat mechanically inclined. His second eldest brother, Vern, was a well known "hot rodder" long before the term was invented. In addition to working on automobiles, Vern also worked on steam engines, threshing machines and gas driven tractors in an era when "horsepower" really meant horse powered. Even during the Depression, Vern was able to afford a motorcycle and his own car.

Howard was also a very capable mechanic and was still in high school in April 1930. Every day he would walk to and from school. And of course, it was 20 miles uphill each way and snowed the year around with 3 feet of snow always on the ground.

The struggles of walking to and from school not withstanding, Howard would always manage to take a short-cut home through the local Ford store where everyday he would admire (or drool over as he said) a brand new shiny Washington Blue Ford Model A Standard Roadster with a rumble seat and bright yellow Halsey wheels, with the whole car being set off by a deep red body pin stripe along the light blue painted body line. Day after day, Howard would stop and admire the car and then, at the family dinner table, he would tell all of his brothers and sisters that someday he was going to drive that car. He would see it in his dreams. It was the most beautiful car he had ever seen and probably, he thought, one of the fastest. All of the young ladies in the small mid-west town also thought the car was something that they would like to be seen in and maybe get a chance to ride in the rumble seat.

One day on the way home from school, Howard took his usual short-cut through the Ford store and his dreams of driving the shiny roadster were shattered - the roadster was gone. It had been sold. It was a long cold walk home those 20 miles, uphill through the 3 feet of snow in a blizzard, dodging dinosaur attacks. But to his surprise when Howard arrived home, bleak winter turned to glorious summer in the twinkling of an eye. For there, sitting in his very own driveway with its top down and its rumble seat in the open position was his brother Vern's new car - a 1930 Ford Model A Standard Roadster painted Washington Blue with bright yellow Halsey wheels and a deep red stripe on the light blue body line. Vern had bought the dream car.

While that part of the story had a happy ending, the final part did not end as well. In September of that year, Vern was riding his motorcycle and was killed by a drunk driver. The Model A stayed in Vern's family and was used until the mid 1940s when it was replaced by a newer model automobile. The A then sat in a shed until the early 1990s. Over that period, several relatives intended to restore the car but it never happened. Ken McNeely was able to purchase the Model A with all of the documentation and spare parts. With very little work, he was able to start and drive the car before turning it over to a professional for a full restoration of the completely original car.

The Model A has been as much of a dream to Ken as it was to his father. Playing in the car while it was still in his uncle's shed is why Ken is also a "caraholic" today. Through this car, Ken has learned that whether you are in your 90s or like him, just reminisce of his "Glory Days", everyone was and maybe still is a teenager at heart. Ken's dad, Howard, was able to drive the Model A shortly after it was restored. It was the first time since he was a young man that he was able to drive the A. Howard passed away in 2010 but his dream lives on in his son. Ken feels that old cars aren't just a piece of machinery, they are windows to our memories.

Upcoming events

??March 22: The 5th Annual All MOPAR Car Show from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking area at the Government Center behind 212 Main St. in downtown Inverness. All years and models of MOPAR cars and trucks are welcome to attend. Contact me for more info.

??April 5: Kiwanis Car Show open to all years and models of cars and trucks at Nick Nicholas Ford Lincoln on HWY 44 in Inverness from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Contact me for more info.

Ken McNally is a car enthusiast from Citrus County and his Car Corner columns appear on the second and fourth Fridays in the Hernando Today. Reach him at kenmcnally@tampabay.rr.com or by phone at (352) 341-1165.

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