In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding tells the story about his first car and all the elbow grease (and the detailed costs) that went into it.
This is what my car would have looked like brand new in 1957. I imagine this car probably cost around $1,900.00 brand new back then.
So, Grandson, as I was telling you in my last letter about the shape my car was in, you know I had some work to do.
Our next-door neighbor, a wonderful man, worked at an automotive parts store and one evening he came over to take a good look at the car and figure out what was needed to get it into good shape. Oh, okay, just presentable shape. Or maybe in enough shape where I could drive it at nighttime when no one saw me in it.
Our neighbor wrote down a long list of supplies that we would need to fix this thing … oh, I forgot to tell you that the neighbor was willing to help with this project. (Yes, I said “project” and not “reject.”)
Our neighbor knew a lot about cars so, after he got all the supplies, he came over to the house and showed me some of the things to do and first on the list was to get rid of all the rust spots. That task alone took me several days. And in the process of removing the rust, I left some areas with holes or gaps. These had to be filled and treated with a primer and a type of fiberglass (today they use a bondo), then I would sand it and smooth it out for paint to be applied.
When I finished the repairing of all the rust, it was ready for a paint job. I went to Earl Scheib in Cincinnati for his advertised $19.95 special paint job. I picked the color Jet Black for the car. When I got the car back the next day, I couldn’t believe how good this car looked.
Next was the tires. I went down to Newport to a tire recapping store and bought four recapped tires for $20 completely installed. You ask what a recapped tire is? Well, it’s an old tire that they put new rubber on with a type of glue. Safe you ask? Probably not. But at the time I didn’t have the money to buy new tires which were $25 apiece.
Next for the car was brand new seat covers. A friend’s dad owned a seat cover place and so my friend hooked me up with a great deal on new seat covers for $30. I got red-and-black-colored covers to go with the black exterior.
This car was now looking pretty hot, not bad for approximately $69.95 added to the price of the car at $50; I invested $119.95 and I have a car that looks hot and new. I also got four baby moon hubcaps at a junkyard for $5, bringing the total to $124.95. Again, not bad for a pretty hot looking car.
Grandson, I said hot “looking” car, not hot “running” car!
That was the other story about this car. My neighbor brought home everything that was needed for an engine tune-up and helped me do a complete tune-up on the car, new points, plugs, air filter, condenser, and all the belts. After this was completed, the car sounded pretty good and we took it out for a little ride. Sounded great and looked great.
That night it rained and the next morning the car would not start, so my neighbor helped me push it for a jump start and it started right away. After a lot of frustration and digging up information on the car, it appeared that there was a problem with the distributor cap, so we ordered a new one and put it into place and, lo and behold, problem solved.
Now, I have a car that was my transportation to school, to work, and to home.
My manager at Kroger’s came to me one day and asked if I would be interested in moving to the meat department because they needed butchers. I respected the manager and went to the meat department to work and became a member of the meat cutters union and after a few weeks I was licensed. I got a pay raise for going to the meat department and then another raise when I got licensed.
Little did I know that this move was going to change my life, big time, down the road.
More later, Grandson.
Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.