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Kevin Richards





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The Great Stovebolt Rescue

By John Milliman
Bolter #1
Mechanicsville, MD

It was about to be squished into a million tuna cans.
One 'Bolter couldn't stand by and let that happen...

The "Old Girl" as Kevin first found her -- in line for the crusher!

        Kevin Richards wasn't looking to be a hero. But there it was -- a 1953 Chevrolet 2-ton truck in a junkyard in Winchester, VA. Its years of waiting were over. Its hopes of a new home, a new lease on life, purchased by a 'Bolter to be lavished with a loving restoration had faded to the point of being all but gone. It was slated for termination -- it had a date with destiny.

       A destiny, no doubt, comprised of having its existence swiftly and violently brought to an end by hundreds of thousands of pounds of pressure from a hydraulic crusher -- an impersonal executioner to be sure, but the ignominy of being turned into a coffee table-sized chunk of scrap metal, unceremoniously dumped on a tramp steamer, and sent to some toxic smoke-belching smelter in Communist Red China and thence to a sweat shop where child slave labor would render it into millions of tuna cans, x-boxes and iPod parts...

       While the truck itself sat there unmoved and silently resigned to its fate, Kevin wasn't. Defiant in the square, Kevin stepped in front of the Chinese manufactures and declared "This shall not be!"

       Well, maybe not quite...

       It actually came about from a post in the "Big Bolts" forum.

       "I found this old girl in my local truck junkyard," he stated simply.

       And that was enough to launch planning for a rescue mission to save the "old girl" from its date with death. You can read the whole thing here.

       Sensing the possibility for needed parts slightly closer than the rich parts fields of Kansas, Nebraska and New Mexico, Grigg Mullen swiftly planted his flag and laid claim. I jumped in as well. Sure, the Old Girl would still die, but in her death, others of her kind would live. Certainly a better fate than turning into iPods.

       Arrangements were made, the crews assigned (the Mechanicsville Team would be myself and Mike Roach, the Lexington Team was Grigg and his friend Allan, and the Winchester Team was just Kevin) and soon enough, the day of the mission came (but hadn't dawned quite yet). Alarms rang in bedrooms from Lexington, Virginia to Mechanicsville, MD. It was 0400 and time to go!

       The evening previous, I had assembled what I thought would be needed tools. Everything from wrenches and screw drivers (even my prized set of clutch head drivers!) -- even the coolest tool I own, a 24-inch adjustable wrench (aka, "The BFW"). I didn't think I needed it, but I wanted to show it off. Besides, if Mike got too froggy in the truck during the ride, I could always crank him in the head with it. Mike ultimately didn't get froggy -- which was a good thing because I had inadvertently put the BFW in the tool box behind the cab instead of riding with it under my seat. I guess I could have beaten him with the fire extinguisher ...

       I digress...

       True to Stovebolt form, the day hadn't progressed very far before our first "plan excursion" -- I had left the keys to the tool boxes (on the trailer and on the truck) in the house. Luckly, I was only a mile down the road. As most of my trips involve multiple departures, I was pretty sure the Mennonite neighbors didn't even wonder why I was in and out of my place twice at 0445 -- the Cummins battle rattle just lulled them back to sleep...

       I picked Mike up (after negotiating the driving test obstacle course he calls a "driveway") and we were on the road, Lola navigating (Mike's GPS thingy).

       The trip through DC was pretty uneventful. Nice, actually. At 0530 on a Saturday Morning is probably the best time to drive through our Nation's Capitol. Even the 5-sided wind tunnel (the Pentagon) was nicely illuminated for us.

       We got to Winchester in good time and we were rolling into Winchester Truck Salvage right at 0800 for a driving time of 2.5 hours. Not too shabby (not accounting for two 15-minute coffee breaks), considering the same trip usually ruins a whole period of daylight whenever the Baltimore-Washington Chapter of the ATHS attempts one of it's infamous "Winchester Convoys" ...

       Kevin Richards, who had set everything up with the yard, rolled in right behind us and we were soon pouring over the truck, determining what we had.

       It was pretty solid!

Such power! Grigg takes the first drive... backwards.

       The Lexington contingent, Grigg and Allan, arrived soon after that and we pondered our plan. Based on the condition of the vehicle, we threw out our original plan, decided to keep the truck intact and bring it back to Stovebolt HQ pending formulation of the remainder of the plan.

       Oh boy, I thought... Couldn't wait to tell Peggy we had just purchased another non-running truck...

       After removing the pile of "vintage" tires that served as a timeshare for various forms of rodentia, we pushed the truck backwards to properly (ha...) align it for winching it onto my trailer. Grigg, awarded the honor of taking the first drive in the truck, jumped in behind the wheel while Allan, Mike and I (being the stunning male beefcakes we are) applied our muscle (bulk) to the front of the truck and had it in position before Grigg could recover from the whiplash he had suffered as a result of the blistering acceleration we had applied. Kevin had grabbed the camera to document the unfolding human drama.

       The next major milestone was getting the trailering rig turned around, but thanks to Mike and Grigg's traffic management skills, I soon had that accomplished.

       The rest of the loading was fairly routine. Grigg rigged a winching bridle and Mike jumped behind the wheel for the second drive. While I ran the winch, Grigg and Allan served as spotters and we had the truck aligned, loaded and ready for the chains. Kevin, using the camera as an excuse to stay safe, was wisely keeping his distance.

       Have you ever watched four old truck guys apply four chains and binders to one truck all at the same time? Too bad we didn't have a video. No doubt the junkyards guys in the shop were highly entertained. Mike sure seemed to be...

Manifold Destiny -- The yard held lots of interesting "displays..." I thought about buying this whole bus, including the landscaping, just for the sheer aesthetic beauty of it ...

       Once we got the truck secured and the tools collected, we decided to tour the yard (and the one next door). There are few things in life as fun as walking through a good junk yard, full of neat antique vehicles. Too bad this wasn't one of those times... Nonetheless, the old girl apparently had a few fellow old trucks for company on Death Row and we checked those out, too. Aside from a couple of "vintage" RVs, the interesting ones included some early 60's cars, a neat '40's Dodge with suicide doors and a flathead engine, and a late '60's International 1-ton.

       The object, though, was to search for parts.

       Grigg was inexplainably drawn to larger GMCs and was completely engrossed in his search for ... well, whatever.

       Kevin was probably the most successful as he scored a complete set of Bow Tie Dog Dishes.

       And Mike? Who knows.

       Once we had trudged the yards, we set out for the best part of the day -- mealtime!! After Grigg lead us on a guided scenic tour through downtown historic Winchester -- much to Lola's consternation -- we found our way to the Texas Steak House for lunch.

       The ride home was fairly uneventful (other than Mike screaming like a school girl at a horror move a couple of times in DC Beltway traffic... Okay, so maybe talking on my cell phone, doing emails on my Blackberry, eating and watching the GPS thingy all at the same time while in bumper-to-bumper traffic at 75 MPH with a trailer might not have been the best thing I could have been doing, but you're still alive, ain't ya??)

       At the end of the day, we had rescued a great old truck from death and lived to tell about it (with pictures!).

       Now all we gotta figure out is what to do with it! What a fun day with great company!

John

 


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