Monthly Archives: July 2020


Cars We Love & Who We Are #8

Over my decades of motoring along mostly forgotten blue highways, catching sight of an abandoned vehicle long retired to an open field ranked as the visual prize in the back road Cracker Jack box.

Whether huddled next to a weathered outbuilding or a lifeless shell serving as its own gravestone in a windswept field, it fascinated me.

The forsaken and forlorn car or truck rests in a virgin bed of weeds. Witnessing it defending its integrity in an inevitable losing battle against oxidation and time, I would wonder what stories it could tell?

While often no more than a pile of patina with a shape sustained by little beyond a memory, that vehicle, for me, always held out the hope of a fresh and satisfying story waiting to be savored like a new apple from an old tree.

However, while I often stopped, I rarely pursued the story.

Now, as life has afforded me more opportunities to travel blue highways in a more leisurely fashion, I am committed to harvesting the rewards of asking “what’s your story?”

So it was with this 1946 Dodge.

What’s a “Vineyard truck?”


It came into view as the gravel road crested behind the sheep farm on a stony hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Martha’s Vineyard.

Bulbous pontoon front fenders projected a decidedly 1940s look. Though denuded of trim and trappings and literally put out to pasture, the strong and stylish truck cab projected a defiant attitude.

Its Tonka Toy-like early post-war architecture displayed a kaleidoscopic patina with patches of color that indicated a life with many chapters.

Away from the truck a path led to a rustic barn and sounds of a man at work.

“That your truck on the hill,” I asked. “Yes sir,” came the reply. A tall friendly man in his 30s with a red neckerchief exited the barn. He introduced himself as Steve Broderick. I asked “What’s your story?”

Martha’s Vineyard has dual personality disorder. Both coincide on the same spot of verdant land off the coast of Massachusetts. During the summer months the mega-rich, simply wealthy, ex-presidents and self important celebrity types summer in rustic splendor. George Soros thinks it’s swell.

For the rest of the year with summer and glamour gone elsewhere, when snow falls and bitter winds sweep down barren beaches one finds the people who call Martha’s Vineyard home and who seal deals with a handshake. Many of those people survive by renting out their homes that have been passed down from generation to generation for the short but highly prized summer season. Steve calls it the Vineyard scramble.

Steve, a talented mechanic, is not one of the mega-rich. Born and raised on the island, Steve rents out his house and performs repairs for a local farm.

It’s a 1946 Dodge one ton. “I’ve always liked these Dodges. They are not as popular as Fords or Chevies, but they’re so stylish.” Says Steve.

With the Dodge’s long standing history in front of a friend’s shop across the island, the truck had acquired the status of “permanent fixture.” In 2009 Steve bought it. According to Steve it was pretty complete.

Steve had a plan.

Steve envisioned the Dodge becoming a “Vineyard truck” daily driver. “Vineyard truck?” Clearly, like a “Brooklyn bagel,” a “Vineyard truck” had to exhibit certain taste-based standards to qualify.

“Its nuanced’” said Steve. He continued, “A ‘Vineyard truck’ is not too shiny. It should look like it has a story behind it. By the mere fact that it still runs, it should inspire a general observer fascination. It is not a rat rod, but its patina affords it a certain rough hewn style. It’s a bit freaky, a bit funky. It’s got to be usable. You know, tow a trailer. Go to the dump. Rumbling past you a “Vineyard truck” is big on cool. When it passes you should almost feel the history. Yeh, history is good.”

No simple solution would do for Steve. His plan involved fitting the Dodge body on the chassis of a low mileage 1988 Ford F350 cut van ambulance that he also owned. Steve wanted his Vineyard truck” to look like 1946 but drive like 1988.

Once back at his shop, the Dodge was completely disassembled. The first three years produced great progress. All sorts of body work, floors and according to Steve a horrifying amount of fabrication.

However, at the top of the challenge list loomed integrating the F350 chassis and the Dodge body. Steve retained the column shift, power steering, everything.

The very sound F350 chassis featured a 7.3-liter International diesel engine with the C6 3-speed automatic transmission. “The 7.3 is a good engine though not an exceptionally high performance engine, but It does sound cool,” says Steve with a smile.

An enormous amount of re-engineering brought the dissimilar hero and donor vehicles into a smoothly operating, if rough looking, truck. In reflecting Steve’s professionalism, he said, “Doing it right demanded an enormous amount of engineering.” But I‘m a mechanic, you know, it’s got to work right.”

So how did the Dodge end up in the field? “Life,” says Steve. In 2012 life dealt him a hand that would result in his facing single parenthood with three boys, a five–year old and one-year old twins.

At that point the Dodge ran great. It just was missing the trimmings. It needed an interior, glass and a bed.

We would go out for a few burn-out sessions and donuts in the field. “But,” says Steve, “I had to shut the project down. I had to focus on the kids. I no longer had the budget or the time.”

With his ‘46 Dodge stoically sitting there, Steve estimates that completing the truck would take a year and about $7,000. Neither of which he presently has to spare.

“However, with most of the re-engineering done,” a smiling Steve says. “In a few years it could make a great dad and kids project.


By |2020-07-30T11:29:57+00:00July 30th, 2020|8 Comments

Cars We Love & Who We Are #7

Elaine Larsson leaves no doubt as to the priceless and joyful life lessons learned in the 1970’s cross country teenage adventures she shared with her parents in their 1970 Volkswagen Westfalia.

Decades later, a serendipitous sequence of events, allowed the woman Elaine has become to again enjoy the driving experience that enriched the life of the young girl she was.

The woman picks up where the girl left off


“1972 Volkswagen Westfalia, pastel white, 58,000 original miles” read the 2014 ad found while I surfed The website. “What country is it in?” Elaine asked with conversational interest. While not a “car guy,” Elaine always waxes fondly when recalling teenage cross country family road trips in her family’s 1970 Westfalia.

Over the years Elaine would from time to time try to track down the old van. It had been sold in the late 1970s. Her efforts gave strong indication that it had long ago moved on to the old van burial ground. However, while gone, the memories it inspired remained undiminished.

Memories of her father, a retired Jersey City motorcycle cop, her adventurous mother and BFF brother generate nothing but smiles when Elaine recalls 6-week escapes in the early 1970s where the family visited mountains, prairies, and, yes, oceans white with foam.

I showed her the images accompanying the ad for the van. Same model, same color and solid original condition. Her interest perked like coffee ready to pour.

The website provides an extraordinary global marketplace offering vans aplenty from Africa, Europe, Canada and the western US. East coast, not so much. “Where is it?” she asked with a bit more edge to her voice. “New Jersey” came my reply.

Packing a large wad of hundreds, Elaine walked the mile between her home and the van owner’s house.

“Do you want me to show you how to drive it?” the owner asked. Elaine’s knowing laugh betrayed a “you never forget how to ride a bike” level of confidence as she slid behind the same controls on which she learned to drive. Originally purchased in 1971 by an Air Force officer stationed in Germany, this van had a diary with  comments from every past owner. It had spent 20 years in the desert of the southwest.

The last nine years found it sequestered in a New Jersey garage waiting for a once newlywed bride to finally change her mind about the joys of camping.  Finally acknowledging defeat, the camping enthusiast husband had the van headed for a buyer in the UK. Then, with the joyous precision of serendipity, Elaine showed up at the door shortly after the British buyer reneged. Elaine drove the Westfalia home.

A week later while attending her first car show as an owner, she found an endless stream of visitors eager to sit inside the van. Little kids, parents, police officers all shared a common fascination. As the roll call of awards rang out over the sound system, the final award went to the “People’s Choice.” The people had chosen Elaine’s van.

Shortly thereafter, Elaine encountered an automotive journalist, Jim Koscs, who believed Elaine and her van had a story to tell. Coca-Cola agreed. Months later Elaine and her Westfalia took center stage replacing Lebron James on Coca-Cola’s Journey Global website.

As time has passed, the blonde in her van has become a locally recognized fixture as, together, they traverse the county in search of interesting garage sales and more importantly to manifest quality yoga experiences. Training as a yoga teacher, Elaine will incorporate her Westfalia in offering an open air yoga experience she has developed called “Roadhouse Yoga.”

Imbued with her father’s wisdom, her mother’s kindness, her brother’s friendship and my love, Elaine’s Westfalia with each new mile carries treasured memories of a joyous past and hopeful dreams of a beautiful future.





By |2020-07-15T22:32:01+00:00July 15th, 2020|6 Comments

Cars We Love & Who We Are #6

Firing up a classic car with over a half century of history always brings with it a high probability of adventure and the unexpected.


When time and other things stand still


Dappled sunlight leaking through the forest canopy dances on the Corvette’s hood. It is a glorious morning on a twisting two lane that snakes through a state park. Elaine, my co-pilot for life, notices that the odometer on my recently restored 1961 Corvette stands poised to roll over to 59000.0 Actually it will be 259000.0, but in 1961 odometers only had 5 places preceding the decimal point.

A coordinated dance of digits that soon will resolve into a chorus line of zeros spin like a slow motion slot machine. Elaine, poised to nail the 59,000.0 money shot never gets the chance. At mid “.9” the odometer, as John Cleese might say, ceases to proceed.

Back home at the garage. The odometer might as well be a decal.

In planning my Corvette’s restoration, I never wanted an overlooked detail to haunt my post-restoration driving experience. With over a quarter of a million miles on my totally disassembled Corvette, I knew this was no time to cheap-out on rebuilding the instruments. The last thing I wanted was a fresh and eager car with tired instruments just waiting to crap out.

After contacting a Corvette instrument specialist on a recommendation from a respected source, I bundled up the speedometer, tachometer and clock for shipment confident that when my resurrected Corvette returned to the road it would do so with a freshly renewed set of instruments.

With a burst of Pollyanna-like optimism, I thought maybe the frozen odometer was just an anomaly, waiting for a second chance to cure itself.

Security guards at the local industrial park must have watched with incredulous awe as this Honduras Maroon and Ermine White jewel circled the empty service road in reverse. Yes, the odometer would go backwards. Having rolled in reverse a good mile, I, like a knight in a joust, briefly paused then kicked the stirrups on the hearty small block and burst forward with speed and conviction. This time I would conquer the barrier and enter the realm of 59,000.

Barrier 2, Corvette 0.

Clutching at my final straw, I drove to Park Ridge 66, the shop owned by my friend and vintage car expert, Bob Tasman. Up on the lift went the Corvette. Under Bob’s doubtful but supportive eye my plan of peeling off 10 miles to “free” the odometer commenced. I surmised that rewinding two of the rotating number barrels would do the trick. Ten backward miles later, I left Bob’s shop to get a high speed highway head start at pushing that odometer through the 59,000 mile barrier. Bob in a friendly kind of way expressed his complete doubt at any chance of success. “One of the tangs in the head unit got broken or was improperly installed,” Bob said as I rumbled off with a shaken faith not unlike that of a small child seeing Santa drawing on a Marlboro behind the Macy’s Christmas display.

Barrier 3 Corvette 0

Time for a phone call.

Truth be told, I had overlooked the earlier failure of the Corvette’s freshly rebuilt clock. In retrospect, it clearly  foreshadowed dark clouds on the instrument horizon. However, I was so thrilled to finally have the Corvette back that I chose not to notice it.

Realizing that taking the speedometer out of the freshly but not easily reassembled dashboard was out of the question, my hopes hung on getting useful information from the instrument restorer himself.

“They never break,” said the man with whom I had entrusted my instruments and my mental health. The essence of my response included the information rich nugget, “well mine broke!”

Had he replaced the 60-year old odometer mechanism that was on its third time around as I had assumed he would? “No,” he responded, “We simply inspect and clean odometers.” He then added the kicker, saying, “replacing the unit would have added $50 to the job.” An additional $50 for a part that could now easily require thousands of dollars to replace and countless weeks of downtime. Did he not think that decision should have been left up to me? His response, “Well, they never break.”

As a chaser for that bitter pill, I asked about the clock he reconditioned that, now lifeless, only gives correct time twice a day. Oh they always break,” he says, “You get a year at most out of one.”

While I think I would have had a good case for justifiable homicide especially with a jury of vintage car owners, I instead have opted to simply enjoy my beautiful rumbling living recollection of mid-century American sports car history. Maybe the odometer will heal itself. If not, I am going on record for posterity that as of June 28th 2020 my 1961 Corvette had an honest 258,999.9 miles. I do not foresee ever selling it.

One of the joys of my bias ply shod, drum braked, dual carbureted, tube radio equipped Corvette resides in its ability to transport me back in time. Sometimes it even seems to make time stand still and, now, apparently the same will be said for its mileage.

By |2020-07-09T16:33:46+00:00July 9th, 2020|6 Comments

Roads We Remember #4

Not so much a favorite road as a favorite destination, drive-in movies recall memories of family fun and fun that ended up creating families.

Peaking in the late 1950s with over 4,000 theaters across America, drive-in movies continued in their heyday until the late 1960s. From there drive-ins experienced a precipitous decline that by 2020 left but 321 drive-ins nationwide…and then came Covid-19.

Drive-in movies- back to the future


Popping up like mushrooms born in the dark of a world suddenly deprived of multiplexes, drive-in movies are staging a breathtaking revival. Social distancing, cabin fever, binging on bad TV, the sun finally came out in New Jersey, all this coalesced in a perfect storm of desperation and desire to get the hell out of the house.

Emerging from the mist of a life long gone by, the drive-in movie has come to the rescue. Local town pool parking lots, farm stands, malls, any place with a flat surface that can fit at least 75 cars seems to have a portable screen  and people are loving it.

Mention portable movie screens and I immediately betray my age by recalling those tripod based shaky jobs necessary when the health teacher broke out the Bell and Howell projector.

Instead, in my town of Park Ridge, NJ, a Macy’s Day parade balloon-size monolith with a 40 ft. by 30ft. screen swelled up in 15 minutes. As twilight advanced, cars filled the town pool parking lot taking positions eight feet apart with the precision of a marching band preparing for halftime. Movie audio played out through patrons’ premium Harmon Kardon, Bowers & Wilkins, and Bang & Olufsen Audio systems. Event producer Monte Entertainment provided everything except food. Rather than the dancing hot dog snack bar, movie goers ordered food from a local restaurant that delivered.

Choosing to screen “The Goonies”, Park Ridge Recreation Director Liz Falkenstern skillfully employed the three “Fs” of successful town events, family, fun and fresh air. No submarine races to watch here.

In surveying the arrayed cars and audience, a slight twinge of personal nostalgia bubbled up but slowly eroded as my mental check boxes denoting favorite memories remained unmarked. Cars not only lacked the character lines of rolling stock from the drive-in heydays, but most now faced the wrong way. Over half of the vehicles where SUVs facing away from the screen with rear hatches raised. In the 60’s my VW microbus, alone, stared defiantly in the opposite direction allowing for my uplifted hatch to afford fresh air and a fully reclined viewing position on the mattress in back.

As to be expected and for the organizers to be commended, this one-off drive-in experience projected a sanitized joyously family friendly, 4th of July parade-like, Hallmark moment. Well done.

However, my recollections, like woulda, coulda, shoulda memories defied resurrection. Today’s sanitize pop-up drive-in experience lacks the yesteryear tackiness of the neon rimmed refreshment stand, crunchy gravel sound as you positioned your vehicle on the viewing berm, car mounted speakers, 60-second dancing hot dog snack bar promo films, the chorus line of salty, sweet, greasy and crunchy treats arrayed across the screen under the “It’s intermission time” banner and of course mastery of the discrete wandering eye as, with cardboard snack tray of goodies clutched in both hands, you weaved your way back through the aisles of mid-century Detroit iron with no air conditioning and fogged windows.

By 2020 the dancing hot dog snack bar promos, car mounted speakers and double feature submarine race watching has disappeared into the mist of times gone by as the ranks of full-time drive-in theaters across the nation have withered to a paltry 321.

However, among that paltry rank exist drive-ins exhibiting a creative bold conviction that fortifies them in the face of extinction. I have two personal favorites. One is the Spud Drive-in in Driggs, Idaho, population 1,600.

Photographed by travelers from around the globe, “Old Murphy” a 1946 Chevy cab-over truck proudly displays a 15-foot long 2-ton potato on its flatbed. Welcome to the Spud Drive-in.

Opened in 1953, the Spud with a capacity of 100 cars may be the smallest remaining drive-in theater in America. With the Grand Teton Mountains in the distance and surrounded by some of the best trout fishing in the world, the Spud features a single screen and a ‘50s themed down home snack bar as colorfully unique as “Old Murphy.” Window speakers remain available for those wishing to enjoy the movie in a time capsule.

A good days drive south will get you to Escalante, Utah and the Shooting Star Drive-In. Uniquely situated along a green stretch of the breathtakingly beautiful and drivable Utah State Route 12, the Shooting Star offers a drive-in experience like no other. Surrounded by views of The Grand Staircase, Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest, the Shooting Star features Airstream trailers with Hollywood star dressing room themes for overnight accommodations and 1960’s era convertibles positioned before a drive-in movie screen that features vintage cartoons and films produced between 1946 and 1969.

Best movie for pop-up drive-in night? Has to be “Back to the future.”

By |2020-07-09T16:34:16+00:00July 2nd, 2020|8 Comments