classic cars

Seeking Matilda.

Yesterday on my drive home from work, I glanced down a street near mine and saw the back end of an old car that looked like it could have been a 1940 Dodge pulling away. I used the gas station on the corner for a quick turnaround and shot down the street after the car.

Luckily, the car pulled into a driveway and the owner got out…I didn’t end up on a wild goose chase. I parked on the street, got out and approached him to ask about the car.

It was a 1941 Oldsmobile – not my dream car, but still lovely. The Olds has a longer front end and completely different grill than the Dodge, but a lot of the styling is similar. 

The owner was nice, not at all put out by my following him. He said, “I’ll talk to anyone about my cars.” It was nice to have a little adventure just a few streets over from home! This weekend I’ll go for a walk and see if I can get some photos. In the meantime, here’s a vintage ad for the 1941 Oldsmobile.

1941 Oldsmobile ad

1941 Oldsmobile ad

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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.

 

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.