© 2014 Chuck Klein
From some quarry deep in Wisconsin, via cavernous ships, came the iron ore. Compounded, mixed and incorporated with other raw ingredients from mines as far away as the continent of Africa; the River Rouge's open hearth furnaces formed the very heart of America's rolling stock. But it took the conscientious and loving care of the meticulous assembly line workers to collate these unique organs and create the real soul of each vehicle.
Early in January, 1937, number 3846, a pick-up truck, received its "soul". She came down the line and under the tender guardianship of the day shift, was bestowed with the larger 85 horsepower V8 engine, Vermillion Red paint with black stripe and black "solid" wheels.
I felt good and rode proud and tall on the train to St. Louis where an elderly gentleman gently drove me to the show room at the Ford dealership just west of downtown. I didn't have to wait long, unlike some of the plainer coupes and sedans that had to remain out in the rain and cold. On January 22, Number 3846 - that's me - became the property of Mr. Silas T. Wentworth, a lanky and muscular farmer from up-state Missouri.
Silas T., his wife, Priscilla, and their son, Jamie, took pride in their first "new" car. The depression had been difficult but through hard work and very austere living they prospered. I heard Silas T. talking about how I, as their new addition to the family, would enable him to increase his market deliveries three-fold over the horse and wagon. Even hauling hogs to market was no strain for my powerful flathead engine, and return trips, empty except for a few supplies, made life easy and enjoyable. Silas T. changed my oil and greased me on a very regular basis and Jamie kept me clean. The missus even made seat covers for me.
Things changed in 1940. Jamie turned 16 and began driving me to school and other places. Silas T. bought a heavy-duty, dual-rear-wheel truck who soon became the pride of the family. Jamie was hard on me with all his quick starts and fast driving, but I knew I was having a better life than some of the others I'd see stuck by the roadway or…in junk yards! Once, when we went to town, I saw a sedan that had been right behind me on the assembly line. That sedan was now a police car with a spot light and a two-tone paint job. And, even though she was just a sedan, she turned up her nose at common pick-ups.
Jamie had a special girl and they often went out for rides together, only they spent more time parking than actually riding. They talked of marriage and how he was sure his dad would give him the pick-up and sign on a note so as he could buy the old Potter place. We had a lot of fun, the three of us. Jamie and I once raced a Chevrolet out on the East River Road. We sprayed gravel all over that snooty looking Chevy and beat him by a country mile by doing almost 90! Mabel, that's his girl, made him promise never to do that again because they would need me for farm use.
It was in my bed, on blanket covered straw, during the summer of 1942, they got engaged. Mabel was scared but Jamie promised to love her forever. They talked about the kids they wanted and how they would fix up the old Potter place, even a stall in the barn for me, when he got back.
It all seemed so perfect except that I was getting tired and one of my springs was starting to sag a little. Jamie sure looked sharp in that uniform with all those shiny buttons. I don't know why everyone was crying, even Mabel. The two men drove me to town. They shook hands, hugged, and Jamie patted me on my fender before he got into a bus. Silas T. brought me back, parked me in the lean-to where the surrey used to be, and disconnected my battery.
It was a long time before anyone opened that barn door again. Silas T. Wentworth, on that cold and windy day, looked gaunt and sad. A plump pimply faced kid, Mr. Wentworth called him Butch, kicked my tires, shook my fenders and looked me over then handed my first master a check. The next day Butch returned, winched me onto a trailer, and took me back into the big city.
Much to my surprise Butch began cleaning me and showing me off to his friends who came to visit the garage. It seems the garage is the headquarters for the Piston Busters Car Club. It wasn't long before Butch and friends had yanked my old and tired engine and with a little drilling, grinding and welding - the welding hurt - installed an almost new Corvette engine! Wow! Butch sanded off the old faded paint and applied a bright yellow primer, converted to hydraulic brakes and added fancy chrome wheels with new white-wall tires. Boy, if only my old assembly line mates could see me now! I'll bet even the police car would be envious.
Every time we went to the Big Boy drive-in all the other guys would gather around and admire me. Sundays, we'd go to the drag strip, and though it hurt to have that much pressure put on my rails, I loved it. Sometimes we even brought home a trophy! The speeds we reached were far more than Jamie and I had ever dreamed. Things weren't all that great though. A few of my body mounts were wearing out and the high output V8 engine, twisting against my rusty frame, gave me a lot of pain. I was sure that someday I wouldn't be able to keep it together.
Other than that, life was pretty good - at least I didn't have to haul any smelly ol' hogs or dusty hay. But I did carry a few kegs of beer and a bunch of club members more than once. Butch always kept me in a garage and never let anyone else drive me, 'cept Carrie, his girl, and that was only on one occasion.
Continued on next page...
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