A Slice of Life
The extra money I saved working at Furr’s Super Market allowed me (with my parents help) buy a new Harley Davidson Sportster when I was 17. This machine was the one that got me interested in motor cycle clubs there in Albuquerque. They had all kinds of cool club events that I participated in. The one I liked the most was the “Hare & Hound” chase at night. A bunch of us would line up abreast with our lights on, and then act as the “Hounds” and slowly take off across the desert until we flushed a rabbit. Then it was open throttles to see who could chase down the rabbit first. Do any of you have any idea how fast a rabbit can run and make a 90-degree turns? Needless to say, that could be a very bumpy ride as the wind would deposit small mound of sand around each little tuft of vegetation, and running over one would sometimes causing unexpected airborne adventures.
When I was 18 my parents finally relented and allowed me (Here it comes!!) to buy “My First Car.” I think the main reason for their decision was that the car was in pretty sad shape and needed a lot of work, so they figured I couldn’t get in too much trouble with it. I can’t remember who I bought it from, but I paid a whopping $50.00 dollars for it. It was a 1940 Chevy Coupe and all I can say is that it ran. Now came the challenge I had been waiting for all those years. Rebuilding lawn mower and motorcycle engines had kept me busy over the years, but it had not satisfied the desire to rebuild my own car. Now I had a car to work on that I could call my own. Believe it or not, when I said it would run, I wasn’t kidding, flat out it wouldn’t go over 50 mph on a level road, and much less up hill.
The first thing I did was to get the car into our garage and began to clean up the engine. I didn’t have a lot of tools or a hoist, so I didn’t remove the engine. But I degreased the engine, flushed the radiator, replaced the water hoses, replaced the spark plugs, cleaned up the distributor and installed new points. I changed the oil and installed a new oil filter and a new air filter. Then I rebuilt the carburetor and, with a friends help, adjusted the timing. I painted the rocker cover, oil filter, air filter, oil filler cap and water pump to make the engine compartment look a little flashier.
Then I started to work on the body. I found some replacement bumpers and grill at an auto salvage yard (that was back when you could remove the parts needed yourself and very cheaply). I had to replace the heater hoses, install new seat covers, install new floor mats, and recover the platform under the rear window. Of course I had to have a “Necker’s Knob” on the steering wheel. And amazingly the radio worked (on most local stations). The next thing was to sand down all the rough spots on the body (apply and sand “Bondo” where needed) and primer the entire body. We didn’t have clear-coat finishes back then and I didn’t have the money for a fancy multi-coat lacquer job, so a friend helped me with a nice enamel paint job. When I was finished with all that, the only difference between how my car looked and the one in the photo below is that my car was painted Turquoise, had a permanent windshield visor and no fog lights.
As it turned out, I finished fixing the car up just in time to meet, DiVoran, the love of my life. However, the when, where and how we met is another story for another time and blog. I knew DiVoran’s brother, David, from working with him at Furr’s Super Market, and when he told her he knew this guy at work who had a car and a motorcycle, she said, “I know a Bill Lites from school. Maybe I should get to know him a little better.” Well, she did get to know me better; a lot better, and we spent many evenings after that in “My First Car” running around town and at the drive-in movies. I drove that car until I shipped out with the U.S. Navy. Funny thing about that car; I had waited so long to get it, and now can’t remember who I bought it from. Then I put all that time, money and effort into restoring it, and now, for the life of me, I can’t t remember exactly to who or when I sold it. Oh well, I’m just glad I have this much of the memory of that time during my teenage years.