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Stovebolt Sagas

Oral history of Stovebolt Quests, Journeys, Treasures and Dragons

Bonding with my Son
or ...

Some funny things happened on the way to Phoenix!

By Dean Meltz

    Setting the stage: "Dad, there's a funny sound under the car. "Great! What now? Josh took my commute car (1992 bottom-of-the-line Infinite G20) to Chico State U. with him and it needed work (again!). I was tired of putting money into a vehicle that nobody in the family liked and a vehicle that I couldn't work on very easily. It needed close to $1000 and I figured it was only worth about $3500.

    Fast forward to cruising eBay at lunchtime: Search eBay motors for '195* Chevrolet truck'. Interesting stuff. A bunch of manuals, some knobs, an ashtray, a cool truck in Virginia (too far away), and a 1956 1/2-ton pickup in Phoenix (hmmmmm). Current bid - $1500.


    You know, I'd rather put money into an old Chevy truck than that Infinite.

    Hmmm .... How to sell the wife on the idea? I could sell the Infinite and buy the truck! ;-) (Editor's note: It'll never fly, Orville!)

    The ad said it ran and the pictures looked pretty good (for a beater). And Josh would like it better too (it'll still be mine, but on loan, shall we say). Well, to make a long story short, my good looks and persuasive charm did the trick -- Judy agreed to replacing the Infinite with the truck!

    The truck is now up to $1,700 on eBay. I called the owner, who turns out to be a Pawn Shop. They said that for $1,900, I could have it. Let's see, $3,500 for the Infinite, minus $1,900 for the truck, that leaves $1,600 to fix up the truck. Yes!!! I figured I'd put the truck on my credit card, fix it up, and then sell the Infinite and pay off the credit card. Such a deal!


Stovebolters + Old Trucks + chicks with big ... = Faulty Logic

    Okay, it's mine now. How do I get it home? Phoenix is 700 miles away. Well, if my 1958 Panel (350/350 with power steering) can pull Lurch on a trailer (you wanna see that?), it can pull the '56 home on the trailer. I figure Josh and I can do it on one weekend. Saturday morning (August 4, 2001): Josh works at UPS until 4am, so when he came home, we took off. He went to sleep in the back of the '58 and I drove.

    We went through LA a little before lunch. Everything's fine so far. We keep going (doing around 55-60 because of the 3:90-1 rear end) and eventually found ourselves getting into the Mojave desert.

    By the way, no air conditioning. ;-(

    The '58 had plenty of power, but not a lot of cooling, so the engine starts overheating. I pulled over to let it boil over 3 times, before we decide to sit on the side of the road until night. Luckily, along the road are cement barrels filled with water for radiators. Quality time with my son. It's around 100 degrees and no shade. I read the shop manual for the '58 and Josh had a 'Men's magazine (hot rods, extreme sports, and chicks with big boobs). Oh well, he's almost 20, 6 inches taller than me, and outweighs me by 45 lbs.

    Eventually, it starts to cool off around 9 pm (down to 95 degrees) and we start for Phoenix again. I find that with the heater on and keeping it down to 30 mph (20 going up hills), we can keep the '58 cool enough to keep going. By midnight on Saturday, we're 50 miles outside of Phoenix. Time to get a room for the night (whew!). A quick shower and we're both out like logs.

    Sunday morning at 6:30am: I get up and take the '58 to a truck repair place down the road.

    "Can you flush the radiator?" I asked with great hopes.

    "Nope, don't have anywhere to dump the hazardous fluid." Grrrrr. I wake Josh up and we cruise into Phoenix (still doing 30 mph on the freeway) and get to the Pawn Shop at noon.

    I'm pleased with the '56. ;-) It looks like it won't take too much to get it on the road. I did know that the gas tank was not installed, so I brought a minibike gas tank that I mounted under the hood and drove it onto the trailer. Yeah! Something was going right (even if it was momentary).


Hey Mister, the stuff that came out of there looked like coffee!

    Sunday afternoon, Josh and I call in to say that we won't be at our respective jobs on Monday. I find a Pep Boys open and have them flush the radiator.

    "Hey Mister, the stuff that came out of there looked like coffee!" the kid says like he's just discovered the cure for acne or something. Uggh, just flush it and let me take off.

    Tried to leave Phoenix around 5pm, but still too hot for the '58. We got a room for a couple of hours (Super 8 really is Super!). Sunday night 10pm: Okay, let's go back through the desert. Didn't boil over even once! Of course, I couldn't go over 25 mph either.

    Josh and I took turns driving all night. Monday morning 9am: We're in Banning (just east of Palm Springs) and I'm going to find a radiator shop. I found one and after taking the radiator out and inspecting it, the guy tells me that it's the original radiator, doesn't cool worth beans, and is 60% clogged.

    "Can you get me a new one?" I asked.

    "Sure, tomorrow," he replies.

    "Well, if you rod it out, will I make it home?"

    "I think so."

    "Okay, rod it."


The Old Codger plays the endgame

    Monday afternoon, 5 pm: We leave Banning and are able to do 50!!! Cruising down the road happy as larks, we go through LA, stop for some dinner, and face the south side of the Grapevine. About 1/3 of the way up the grade, the '58 starts overheating again. ;-( We pull over 3 times to let it cool off, but to no avail. It's not going to make it. Finally, I call AAA.

    An old codger from Lebec (top of the Grapevine) pulls up with a BIG tow truck. He hooks onto the front of the '58 and pulls my entire rig (with trailer and '56 on it) to his yard at the top of the grade. It's now 11 pm Monday night.

    I've GOT TO GET HOME, so I say, "How much to tow the '56 to my house in San Leandro?" I figured that I'd make it home with an empty trailer.

    "Well, let's see. At AAA rates, $1400.00."

    "Well," I say, "how much to store the'56 in your yard until I can come back for it?"

    "$25/day, but tell you what, I'll deliver the '56 to your house for $900." I quickly figure how much it'll cost me to rent a truck and spend another weekend to retrieve the '56.

    I finally said, "Do you take plastic?"

    I unhooked the trailer, left it in his yard, and drove off towards the horizon.

    Tuesday morning, 5 am: We pull into San Leandro. I go into the house, take a shower, and go to work. Josh just crashes. A week later, the trailer shows up with the '56 on it.

    Actually, I'm still happy with it. I'm working on it and it's shaping up rather good. Sometime during the summer of '01 it'll be ready for Josh to run around in.


To Infinite and beyond!

    Oh, I forgot about the Infinite. Well, I didn't forget, I just didn't tell you yet. Josh wrecked it (he's okay). He rear-ended an SUV and AAA totaled it. Remember I said that I was eventually going to sell it for around $3,500? Well, AAA gave me $6,000 for it! Now, I don't really want to thank Josh for wrecking my car, but this is his usual MO. When he steps in something yucky, he always comes out smelling like a rose! But that's another story. Josh's consequence is that he doesn't have a set of wheels until I'm finished with the '56. So be it.

    Another day in the life of a rustaholic.

Dean Meltz

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