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Design Disaster

Design Disaster



My father wanted me to love her, my mother didn’t approve of her and I didn’t want anything to do with her.

A total obsession with automobiles consumed this 14 year old boy. Many an issue of Hot Rod and Rod & Custom magazines disintegrated under my repeated page turning and the top of my desk was covered with partially built model cars. Saturday afternoons were spent standing on busy street corners with my friend Dale while we, as best we could, identified every car that drove past. Local car dealers knew to lock their doors when this pesky kid bicycled onto their lots and begged for any new car literature. The love and fascination for automobiles was firmly ingrained but my father was asking too much of me. “Her” was the homeliest car ever designed and actually manufactured. It’s a good thing that the 1947 car buying public was purchasing anything available because that 1947 Dodge Business Coupe was a most unfortunate design. From the front it looked like Jimmy Durante on wheels: a huge nose and too much forehead. From the rear, and the entire car was mostly rear, it seemed that you were gazing at the Goodyear blimp. That car could house a small family and still have enough room remaining for all the relatives to attend Thanksgiving dinner. This was one mud puddle ugly car.

Dad brought the car home, parked it on the front parking strip, pulled off all four wheels and left it sitting on blocks. Do you remember those inconsiderate neighbors that lived down the street? They were us. He put the wheels on some other needier vehicle and left that dreadful Dodge to rot on the roadside. Then a brilliant idea occurred to him: he had a kid that was crazy about cars, he had a problem sitting in front of the house and he had a wife that was bugging him to “Take out the garbage and that includes that horrible car”. The light bulb went on and, at the ripe young age of 14, I became the Dreadful Dodge’s new caretaker. My meager possessions now included a business coupe that had no wheels and was not fit for any self respecting chicken to use as a chicken coupe. Thanks dad.

What was I going to do with this eyesore? I must have been a very good boy because the car gods decided to smile down upon me. The first day of ownership dawned with this unfortunate new owner sitting on the front porch staring at the neighborhood embarrassment and trying to figure out what to do with it. Having any car at that age was something that should have been appreciated but this car could not be appreciated. Just then two older teenagers walking down the street spotted the car and asked me if I knew who owned it. They were a bit surprised when someone younger than them replied “It’s mine”. Then they asked the sweetest question ever spoken: “Is it for sale?” Going to church had finally paid off! Trying not to wet my pants with excitement I shrewdly responded “Yes, yes, yes it is definitely for sale. Do you want it? I’ll make you a really good deal. Please, don’t be afraid to make any offer. I’ll consider any reasonable offer!” This shrewd method of selling cars has stayed with me right up to today and always assures that I take a huge loss on any car that I sell. But here was a chance to sell an unwanted car that I had not invested a single penny into. They offered $50 for it! This was 1961 and $50 could buy a car that was much more attractive than a de-wheeled 1947 Dodge Business Coupe. Dad said it was OK to sell it but the look on his face gave away his true feelings. He realized that his ungrateful kid was giving away the gift of a first car, any hopes of father and son working on it were not going to happen and, most of all, the Homer Simpson in him was screaming “Why you little………I want that fifty bucks!” Dad stayed stoic about it and said that yes, it was OK to sell the car, so it was sold to these two obviously vision impaired teenagers.

Fifty large was deposited into my slowly growing car savings account and a couple of years later was used to buy a truly attractive 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline that self-destructed one week after purchase. At least it was still wearing its wheels at the time of demise.