My second car was a black 1959 Ford Fairlane. I had unfortunately blown the engine in my first car, a 1961 Mercury Comet. Because I didn’t have the money for a new car and given the fact I was going into the Navy soon, I didn’t want to buy another one not knowing where I was going to be stationed or for how long.
As fate would have it, my buddy, Ed, had two identical 1959 four door, Ford Fairlane field cars. They were even both black. The only problem was neither one was street worthy. The good thing was they both had different problems. One had a bad engine and the other had a bad rear end.
The obvious solution to me was to take the rear end out of the one with a bad engine and put it in the car with the “good engine.” Because they were both in a field, we got his father’s tractor, wrapped a chain around the car with the blown engine and tipped it up on its side. We then started unbolting the rear end.
Did I mention it was winter? It was about ten degrees out, snowing, and the wind was blowing. The cold was so bad that I had to look at my hands to see if I was holding the wrenches. Steel is very cold in the winter. We would pop our heads up and work a bit until we couldn’t stand it any longer and then duck down behind the tipped up car to get out of the wind. We must have looked like a bunch of ground hogs peering out of their burrows to see what was going on.
I think this took a few hours with us freezing the entire time. When we finally dropped out the rear end we all headed to his house to warm up with a few drinks. Once we warmed up, we dragged the rear end thru the snow to his driveway. We then brushed the snow off the tractor and backed it up dropping the now stripped car on it’s frame.
Then we wrapped the tow chain around the frame of the “good” car and pulled it to the driveway. We loaded the rear end in the trunk and went back inside to warm up again. Once we warmed again, we went back outside and took the plates from my ’61 and slapped them on the ‘59. We tried to start the “good” car to drive it to where Ed worked so we could replace the rear end out of the weather. It took two batteries to get the engine to turn over. Once it got going, I had to keep the gas pedal jammed to the floor just to keep the engine running.
Thus began the long trip from Millersport Highway in Amherst to the Airport Plaza in Cheektowaga where he had access to a lift. The car never went over 15 miles per hour all the way and Ed ran interference for me because I couldn’t stop for anything. No stop signs, no signals, I’m just glad we didn’t have to cross any train tracks.
Once we got it into the garage, we replaced the rear axle and did a standard tune up, points, plugs, wires and timing. I turned the key and heard the throaty rumble of a car that has been brought back from the dead. I think the 59 was saying “Thank you”.
Although it was winter, the New York State Thruway was well plowed and salted. I drove the car out the overhead door of the shop and headed towards the onramp a short distance away. It rode like a dream. It was hard to believe this was the same car that we had to nurse all the way from Ed’s house. I hit the Thruway and slowly started to increase the speed, listening for any strange noises and seeing if there was any unusual shaking or steering problems. I kept increasing the speed until the Fairlane hit 120 MPH. There were no problems at all and I still had gas pedal to go. Houston we have a liftoff. I’m just glad there weren’t any cops out that day.
The DMV was a bit lax back then and Ed “sold” me the car for a dollar. I legally transferred the plates from my Comet and fixed the drafts coming into the passenger compartment with some lumber, added a hand formed, aluminum siding hood scoop, a fifth headlight and several other personal touches.
One day I was at a gas station at Millersport and Transit gassing up on 29 cent gasoline. I started the car and a four foot flame shot out of the hood scoop. The owner, who had pumped my gas, beat out the flames with his gloves and told me to push the car over to the side. He then forbade me from ever coming to his gas station again.
The ‘59 served me well and I “sold” it back to Ed when I left for boot camp, again for a dollar. He drove it for a while. Then one day, as he was driving it, the drive shaft fell out. The drive shaft dug into the street and elevated the rear of the car. He took the plates off, hitchhiked home and my Franken car was never to be seen again.
Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport.