1940 Dodge

shopping moratorium

I am going to take a month-long break from buying clothes, shoes, and accessories. And make-up (unless I run out of something crucial like moisturizer and need to replace it). I’ve bought a decent number of new clothes lately, while getting rid of items that were worn out, ill-fitting, or just no longer suited me. But before I buy anything else, I want to get to know what’s in my closet. And hidden away in my warm-weather stash…I’m looking forward to pulling those clothes out of storage this weekend.

In the meantime, I’ll put the money I would have spent on clothes/shoes/lipstick into savings toward the 1940 Dodge.

1940 Dodge

1940 Dodge

Shoes will last a few seasons – or years, if I’m lucky. That car…that’s a lifetime relationship. Sign me up.


Searching for the Dodge

In a few months, Tim and I head to Japan for a wonderful trip to visit my cousin. As soon as we get back, I start saving for the dream car in earnest. In a perfect world, I would find a 1940 Dodge that has already been rebuilt to be crazy fast, but still has the original look…not all chopped up. I realize this is highly unlikely.

A somewhat more likely scenario: I find a 1940 Dodge body in Florida, take it to my Uncle Ray in Daytona to work on, then fly down to drive it home. The beauty of my Uncle Ray: he makes things stupid fast. And it would give my car that additional family connection.

Or I just find a car somewhere in the Northeast that runs and realize that I may not get both looks and speed right away. They’re out there, in varying conditions and at wildly varying prices.

I recently discovered this website: http://cars.yakaz.com/dodge-for-sale-1940 which seems to aggregate cars for sale from around the country. Right now it lists a baby blue D-17 in South Dakota for $1500 (needs an engine, radiator, springs, and glass); a business coupe in Alabama for $18,900 (that’s been redone: power steering, power windows, and a 350 Chevy engine); a white 4-door in New Mexico for $7,500 (that runs). The ebay auction ended for a deep blue D-14 business coupe in White Plains, New York for $12,500. That looks like it’s in really good shape and it runs.

This gives me hope that when I’m ready, my car will be out there. We’ll find each other.


Why my dream car is named Matilda

I’m excited about the car show at Ralph’s for two reasons:

  1. I get to sell compacts at a booth for the first time
  2. I get to start making car connections so when I’m ready to buy Matilda, Tim and I will have an easier time finding her, sourcing parts, etc.

Some of you are  probably wondering why I keep calling this 1940 Dodge that I don’t even own yet Matilda. I name inanimate objects that I spend a lot of time with. I always have. Call me crazy. Beyond that, I like the names I bestow to have some sort of deeper meaning. So here’s Matilda’s story:

Matilda Dodge with her children in the early 1920s.

My dad went to college at Oakland University in Michigan. The school was founded by Matilda Dodge Wilson–widow of John Francis Dodge. One of the Dodge brothers who started the car company. THAT Dodge. Matilda was his secretary. They married in 1907 and had three children before John died of the flu in 1920.  Matilda inherited his share of the company and became one of the wealthiest women in the United States. Five years later, she married lumber baron Alfred Wilson. Matilda did a great deal of charity work, supporting the Salvation Army and numerous arts organizations. She was politically active, serving as Leiutenant Governor of Michigan in 1940 and sitting on the state’s Board of Agriculture. All this earned my admiration.

But what really captivated me were my father’s stories about Mrs. Wilson.

My dad had just started at Oakland when she died and he recalls that the upperclassmen were grief-stricken. The students genuinely liked her. While the university was in its infancy and the dorms were still under construction, Mrs. Wilson let female students live in a wing of the Meadow Brook Hall mansion. She also hosted the students for a party every year on her birthday. The male senior with the highest GPA got to be her escort for the event and she provided him with ballroom dancing lessons so they could dance to–what else? Waltzing Matilda. According to my dad, this was a big deal–students competed for the honor.

Matilda wasn’t just a hard worker who was generous with her time and money. She was fun. That sold me. My 1940 Dodge has been christened. I may not have met my Matilda yet, but I’ll know her when I find her. She’ll be every bit as captivating as her namesake.

1940 Dodge Kingsway ad

Budgeting, AKA I really DO want to own that car.

Last week, my husband and I went to the accountant to file our taxes. When I changed jobs last year, I also changed my witholding so we’d have more money up front. Tax time opened the door for a conversation about how we WANT to spend our money and various long-term goals. Our house was built in 1944. Things break. Sometimes big things. We need to be ready.

Retro Reporter’s budgeting blog post offered some helpful tips, and Tim and I had a really fruitful discussion on where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there.

This also got me thinking about the Dodge. Tim and I have always operated on a mine, yours, and ours model with money. We have a joint account for household expenses, then each of us keeps a percentage of our paycheck to spend as we please.  

A 1940 Dodge would please me beyond belief. For a while, I’ve been thinking about the timeline. How soon can I reasonably expect to make this happen? Now that I have a budget and a plan, I know I can save up a decent amount of money within five years–sooner if I save more aggressively or get raises along the way.

Yes, five years seems like a long time. Then I remind myself without a plan and some discipline, that five years could easily be never. For me, it’s worth the wait.

1940 Dodge Kingsway ad

A 1940 Dodge. Going from "someday" to "within five years" feels good.

Meet my ultimate car crush.

Norma and the Dodge

Norma (my grandmother, far left) poses with Lu, Ronnie and Ronnie in front of a 1940 Dodge. Meriden, Connecticut, 1944. Photographer unknown.

People say a picture is worth a thousand words. I wish I knew the thousand words that told the story behind this photograph of my grandmother, taken in 1944. How did she know the other women in the photo? Did they work together at New Departure? Were they cousins? Neighborhood gals? High school friends? No idea.

Next question: where did she get the fur coat? Did she buy it herself? Was it a hand-me down from one of her six older sisters? A gift from my grandfather? Had she even met my grandfather in 1944? They were married in 1946, but I don’t know much of the backstory there either.

Then I noticed the car. The curve of the fenders, the details around the headlights, the split windshield, the grill, the vents along the side of the hood…magic. I need that. Alas, I know nothing about old cars. I DO know my grandmother liked Buicks, and since the photo was taken in 1944, the car had to be ’44 or older. I started looking at photos of old Buicks. The 1941 Buicks seemed close, but not quite right. Different grill, missing the vent on the sides of the hood: off in subtle ways.

At some point it hit me that this may not even have been my grandmother’s car. I was operating on the assumption she owned the vehicle based on the pose in the photo and the knowledge that her eventual father-in-law owned a garage where my grandfather Newell worked. After my grandmother’s death, one of her sisters told me that Newell’s job meant he and Norma had luxuries other folks didn’t, like a refrigerator. (Norma let her sister Evelyn, living in the apartment across the hall, use it for milk.) Was the car hers? One of those luxuries? Did it belong to my grandfather? One of the other gals in the photo?

Did it matter? Would I want the car any less if it hadn’t belonged to Norma?

Nope. Ownership didn’t make a lick of difference: I want that car.

I kept looking at photos online, trying to identify the car’s year, make and model.  I haunted bookstores on my lunch break, plopped down on the floor and flipped through volumes of pictures. Finally the answer popped up on ebay.  Browsing through pre-War Buicks, Fords, Lincolns and Chevrolets, I found her. Same lines, headlights, grill, chrome, vibe. I emailed friends and family members. Mission accomplished! Car identified! We’re looking for a 1940 Dodge!

My mother replied, “What is it with you and that car?” I could see her rolling her eyes, a move we both learned from Norma. What is it with me and that car? Destiny, baby. Meant to be.  Just you wait.