A 24 hour rollercoaster of car ownership.

I found this 1950 Dodge Coronet on ebay. My girlfriend and I almost instantly fell in love with it. It ended up being a short abusive relationship.

We drove up to look at it in the dark, and spent about an hour looking the car over & taking it for a test drive each, all the time rationalizing at top speed. The seller made a big deal of the rebuilt engine, all new brakes and repaired & rust-free floors. So we told ourselves since those were all good we’d have a car we could drive while we dealt with the “minor” issues of the unpainted hood, tattered interior, shoddy wiring, rust on the trunk panel… you get the picture.

After looking it over we headed home to wait for the auction to end. In the end I was the high bidder at $1830, but it didn’t hit reserve. He sent me a second chance offer for $2300 which after some hemming & hawing I accepted. We drove down after work the next day and brought the car home. Taking another closer look when we got home the car looked rougher than I’d remembered, but I was still enthusiastic about it.

The next morning I decided I was going to take it to work, I headed out a bit early started her up and chugged off to work as usual. My commute is mostly back roads with a brief 3-mile highway section in the middle. On that highway section the Dodge felt a bit down on power, but I didn’t think much of it .However as I came off the exit ramp the car’s brakes seemed a bid spongy, and it stalled when I came to a stop. I started it back up, but it was running very roughly. The gas tank was nearly empty so thinking maybe it was getting crud from the tank, I pulled into a gas station and fueled up. It took a few tries to start it again, and still wasn’t running well. Trying to pull out of the lot, I hit the gas and the engine died. I frantically hit the brakes before rolling into traffic, only to have the pedal go to the floor. A short but exciting trip into a flowerbed and the car was stopped.

After getting car started enough to move it out of the way, I called work to say I wouldn’t be in that day, & called AAA. While waiting two hours for a truck I poked around under the hood but found nothing obviously wrong with the motor. However after borrowing a wrench from a Desoto mechanic who happened to be passing by, I discovered the brake reservoir was completely dry. While making that unpleasant discovery I made another, most of the driver’s side floorboard was rotted out(something he’d specifically said he’d fixed). I left a series of increasingly upset messages on the seller’s phone.

Too keep from making a long story any longer, I was able to convince him that the car he had advertised bore no resemblance to the car he had sold me and he agreed to take it back and refund me my money. In the end I ended up out about $100 in various small expenses and a day of work.

However it was a a bit of a wake up call. I’m very prone to buying with my heart and not my head when it comes to cars. I’ve got a long string of terrible cars as a testament to that. So the one good thing to come out of this car is that it made me much more aware of that tendancy in me, and so I’ve been a lot more careful about the cars I look at. Whatever car I do end up buying, I’m still going to be deciding with my heart. After all classic cars are an inherently irrational choice, why buy something decades old and hopelessly outdated & unreliable when compared against a newer car? However now my head is going to also be involved a bit more heavily in the decision.


Another set of awesome fins.

Today’s awesome fins are on this 1960 Chrysler Imperial found on ebay(and yes, I know it is technically not a Chrysler). One again we have the quite excellent pod, this time with a bullet shaped lens surrounded by a free-standing chromed ring. The ’57-’63 imperial were fairly consistently the most insane cars in of their period, while also being some of the best engineered & built cars. It was almost like they gathered a group of engineers together and had them design the underpinnings, engines, and all the other boring but vital stuff. Then afterwords they would drop acid and get to work on the bodies. It does help explain things like the oblong steering wheels and the ’61-’63 freestanding headlight pods. They seem to have stopped this practice in 1964, maybe because management feared they’d end up with some Picasso-esq monstrosity with seventeen headlights down one side and nine wheels.

Getting back to the fins themselves though. I also love that there is, for no good reason, an extra smalllense at the back of the chrome trim on the fin. The late 50’s/early 60’s was definitely a period with no lack ofexuberancee and a complete lack of shame.

The one that taunts me.

Another craigslist find, this 1951 Plymouth had apparently been stored for sixteen years with the plan of an eventual restoration. The owner finally realized it would never happen and decided to sell. He said that even after its long slumber it only needed a new battery & points to drive from his mother’s garage to his business, the brakes even worked.

I’m not sure what model it is, but it is clearly the most stripped-down basic model sold. It has dog dish hubcaps, no radio, & rubber floor mats. What amazed me was, in addition to its lazarus like revival, the car was amazingly original, and was in very good shape(hiding from 16 years of new england weather probably helped). I found some rust in the floor & trunk but none in the outer body, and while the rubber mat had dried out such that it had shattered, the rest of the interior was in great shape. The only big issues are the need to go through everything due to sitting so long, and that the driver’s side of the windshield is badly cracked and would need replacing(a $300+ job in parts alone, minimum).

However at the time, and even now the car taunts me because I can’t decide if it is exactly what I’m looking for or exactly what I’m not. I have a great respect for simple vehicles that are what they are without trying to be more..And dog-dish hubcaps have always been my favorite style. But the car is also so simple as to be a bit boring, and it isn’t clearly the art-deco of the post-war era nor the glorious excess of the late-fifties. Every time I look at the pictures of the car I get a bit of a thrill, but don’t know if that would last long enough to be worth pursuing.

This wouldn’t be a big deal if I just couldn’t decide and then moved on and had a twinge or regret; But every few weeks the seller re-lists the car on craigslist and it gets me waffling all over again.

I think I figured out why your truck has been for sale for over a month

I found a craigslist ad for a ’51 Chevy truck that had been posted a bit over a month ago. On the off chance it was still around I sent them an email on Friday asking if they still had it and saying I really wanted to come look at it but that since it was 3 hours away I’d like to ask some questions[1] about it and could they give me a call. Saturday afternoon I received an email saying only “I’ll ask my husband to give you a call over the weekend.” It is now Tuesday and I have received no call.

As I said in the subject line, I think I understand why their truck is still available…

[1] I’d just looked at some truly terrible trucks that day(which will be posted about later), and was a bit gun shy.

Any more atomic age and it would have a reactor under the hood.


This 1961 Cadillac was the first car I looked at after I decided to sell my Comet and get something else. It was advertised as being straight but needing TLC for $2700 firm(and man was he adamant on that point). I was very interested as from a purely looks standpoint the ’61 Cadillac is my absolute favorite. It embodies the jet-age aesthetic better than any other car, and from the back especially looks like it should be roaming the superhighways of a tomorrow that never quite happened.

This particular one though had obviously been siting for a while then had been “fixed” by a guy who was clearly interested only in turning a quick buck on it. The ‘very straight’ body had globs of bond in the bottom of both front fenders, the front edge of the hood, and one door was half sculpted out of the stuff.

But so badly did I want this car that I was willing to look past that as well as the fairly thrashed interior. However after we’d driven 45 minutes to look at it, the guy wasn’t there and wouldn’t be for a while. So I went and took one last look at the car before we headed out, and happened to glance under the passenger wheelwell. What I found there caused me to get into Box(my xB) and drive away without a second glance.


Though it is hard to see from the pics, most of the corner of the car is rotted away. The body mount bracket is no longer actually connected to the body in any way and just about everything else is either rotted, missing or bodged together out of what might be road tar? (oh and as a bonus, I didn’t notice until just now the zip-tie holding up what looks to be a rubber fuel line where there should be a metal one) I expect whatever I buy will have some degree of rust and rot, I live in New England after all, but I’m not interested in trying to repair major structural rot.

As I recall this car stayed on craigslist for a while, eventually dropping from $2700 to $2000 before disappearing, so I guess he found a buyer either willing to deal with the rot or who didn’t bother to crawl under the car. I still get wistful about this car, mostly as a representative of ’61 Cadillacs in general, but all it takes is looking at the pics of the underside to remind me why I don’t regret not buying this one in particular.




One in what is likely to be an ongoing series

Todays awesome tail fin is on this 1958 Mercury Park Lane found on ebay. Not only does the fin itself have a cove that runs all the way to the front of the rear door, but there is a freestanding chromed laser-pod looking thing suspended in it.

This just further cements that 1958 is my favorite year for gratuitous finmobiles. 1959 cars may have been bigger and gaudier, but most of them had some cohesiveness to them. The 1958 cars look like the just stuck every bit of chrome trim, bumpers, wings, fins, spears, etc. they could find onto to their prototypes and whatever didn’t fall off on the test drive was put into production.  

Also the ’58 mercury above has the least intuitive transmission ever created.


Some fins, a big chrome grille, teal green. Looks right to me…

I was once again obsessively searching perusing craigslist for classic cars and came across an ad for a 1956 Chrysler Windsor that had no pictures. Not knowing what one looked like I did some googling and came across this example at Country Classic Cars.

Maybe it is just that I play far to many video games but this car looks, for all the world, like a game designers idea of a generic “1950s” car. Mind you, it isn’t unattractive but the styling just confused & bland enough to look more like a pastiche of mid-fifties design than like a real car. This car looks distinctly like what it is, the gawky ackward evolutionary stage between the much curvier earlier models and the finarrirfic “forward look” 1957 models.

The car was only $1500 and supposedly in good shape, but looking at the pictures of ’56 chryslers I just wouldn’t know what to do with the car. It is lost between two design worlds, and while I love orphans I think this is one someone else will have to adopt.