By the time Travis text me, my sweaty palms had been relentlessly clenching my phone for four and a half hours. Those 270 minutes were gut wrenching. When my phone buzzed, I thought for sure it was the reply I had been anxiously waiting for. Instead, it was Travis and coincidentally, he was sending me a link to a Craigslist ad. “Great,” I thought, “Word is getting out-people are seeing it.” I replied politely and winced, my stomach churned.
That unmistakable 1932 Ford grill shell
But still, I had not gotten a reply. By the time the sun went down, I had all but given up hope and was taking a drive along the Columbia River to clear my head. The sun was just disappearing by this point. The onset of the darkness brought with it a sense of closure to a long and disappointing day, one spent feverishly checking my phone every couple of minutes to make sure I hadn't somehow missed the call. But just as I was accepting my fate, there was a buzz in my pocket. Then another. I realized it wasn't a text, it was a call. I anxiously pulled my phone out as fast as I could. I didn't recognize the number.. “Hello?” I asked with equal parts skepticism and hope. “Yeah, hi. This is Wayne, you emailed me this morning about my 1932 Ford Coupe. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, it's been a busy day.” I picked my jaw up from off the floorboard of my truck and swallowed the lump in my throat. “ Ohhhh.. yeah.. sure, that's right, I did email you. I forgot about that. Sure. Hey, thanks for the call back....” (HA.)
Wayne seemed to be a pretty nice guy. I could tell by the way the conversation was going and by the way he was talking about the car, that he had likely spent the last couple of hours responding to emails and answering questions about it over the phone. He was polite, but wanted to get the logistics out of the way-to check me off the list if I wasn't the guy. The facts were: It was a '32 Ford three window coupe. Mostly complete. The body was in good condition, but it was apart and was a big project. “Ok,” I said, trying to slow him down. “I'm not going to waste your time with a lot of questions. I would just like to come see it. I can be there any time you want me to tomorrow.” There was a pause on the other end. Then an approving “Oh. Ok. Well, good.” I started to ask him what time would be best for him and was quickly interrupted - “No. No, tomorrow won't do. Tomorrow is Father's Day!” He said it in such a way that he was either appalled that I would suggest such a thing, or that I must have forgotten all together about this holiday that was just a few hours away.. I chose to latch onto the second scenario and thanked him for reminding me. “Of course, that's right..” I said as I hoped he couldn't sense my eyes rolling on the other end of the phone... We made arrangements to meet on Monday. “Sure thing,” Wayne told me, “I will call you first thing Monday then and we will figure it out.” Good.
Naturally, the next day was the absolute longest father's day in history.. I called my dad, did the dance, made small talk, etc. I didn't say anything about the car I was going to look at the next day. In fact, I didn't really tell anyone about it. I didn't want to jinx it. The only person that really knew was Travis, who I sent a follow up text to that read: “Going Monday. He's letting me in first.”
Rolled out and ready to be loaded - what a beauty
Still dreaming. Via: Eblack Design Co.
It was an hour's drive to Wayne's. Most of that time was spent going over the possible reasons as to why this other guy had passed on the car. Especially after driving almost 4 hours to see it, towing a trailer. “It must be a real piece of shit,” I told myself. But then again, I'd seen stranger things happen than a guy driving a long distance just to kick some tires and drive home with an empty trailer. Maybe the car was nice and the guy was just really picky. After all, everyone has an opinion of what “nice” is.
Some of the '32's parts loaded and ready to go
I pulled up to Wayne's. It was a normal looking house in a normal neighborhood. A mustang and a Subaru SUV sat in the driveway. It didn't look like the kind of place a hot rodder's wet dream would be hiding. But, as I got out of my truck and made my way toward the open garage door, there it sat. It was sitting on a pallet, covered in dust. The fenders and running boards piled on top of it. The grill sat on the floor of the trunk area and it wore the same thick dust and grime that had spent decades falling from the rafters of some musty old barn. In contrast, the garage itself was clean and typical: A small Craftsman tool box, a peg board wall with your usual hand tools hanging from it, a stupid clock with a saw and a hammer for the hands, some C-clamps and a work bench covered in junk. Your typical old-man-who-tinkers-on-stuff garage... And then, very much out of place, the body of one of the coolest cars ever made: This dirty old '32 Coupe.
Still wearing dust and plenty of bird poop
Wayne introduced himself. He sized me up right away. Clearly this was a guy who had already had his fill when it came to dealing with people on this car. He was an older gentleman, in his late 60's or early 70's and was hiding his surprise at how much younger I was pretty well, but I could tell he was expecting someone of retirement age to ring his doorbell, not mid-30's me. I on the other hand did know who I was dealing with ahead of time, and had come prepared in a clean pair of jeans and boots and a long-sleeve button up shirt to hide the fact that my arms are covered in tattoos. Sometimes you have to play to your audience, a lesson I had learned the hard way. I have been ran off more than once... Sometimes all it took was once glimpse for some old guy to decide I was a miserable puke who should get off their lawn before they called the police. Now I dress nicely when I go to look at a car. Now I don't give them a chance.
The only rust to speak of on this car
I always start by making some small talk with these guys, I never go straight to the car and start knocking on panels and picking it apart. Some people try to take complete control of the situation and act like a hard ass right out of the chute. That doesn't play well with these old guys. Instead, I ask questions about them, build some trust, chat them up. Most of them are just begging for someone to listen. They want to tell their stories and have someone tell them how neat it is. To agree with them. They want to be heard. That's what I did with Wayne, I listened and I agreed. But it isn't all for show, I do enjoy listening to the stories and usually I will take something away from them, some sort of knowledge I hadn't had before. It's always worth it. After twenty five minutes or so, I finally turned my attention to the coupe and began asking questions.
You'd never guess this car was in this garage
I should mention too that the entire time I was there, Wayne's phone was ringing almost non-stop. It was a cycle: “Hello? Yes. Hi. I do, but there is a guy here looking at it now. I will call you back and let you know if he doesn't buy it.” This happened almost every few minutes. These were the people who had apparently emailed on the car and Wayne had replied with his phone number. There were a lot of calls... Finally he just stopped answering his phone. I looked the car over. It was a nice body with very little rust. What rust it did have was in the rear trunk area, no big deal. The doors opened and closed nicely. The garnish moldings were there, as were the fenders, running boards, dash, firewall, etc. The frame was sitting in a shed out back and was in great shape with all it's factory cross members. The front and rear axles sat next to the frame. Absent though was the deck lid. “Stolen,” Wayne told me. “There were two of these in the barn and a guy broke in and stole a bunch of things off of them. He got the deck lid off of this one.”
Loading her up
“The barn,” as Wayne went on to tell me, was a very large building on some land his father had owned. His dad was an Early Ford V8 Club member and restoration buff who used his barn as a storage unit for his extra parts and project cars. Wayne told me that when his dad passed away, the family sold about 40 (yes, forty) antique Fords off of that property. “This is the last one,” Wayne told me. “Dad bought this car out of central Washington in1968 and stuck it in his barn. He never did anything with it, that's where it sat all this time until I went and got it here recently. Well, I'm not a young man either and I realized I will never get to it. It needs to go to someone who will do something with it.”
Exactly what I was thinking
As I talked to Wayne and listened to him about his life, his dad and their collective love of early Fords, I started to feel like I knew them. I also came to the realization that I should probably take a shot at trying to buy this car. I wanted it. Badly. But I had to be realistic, this thing popping up for sale wasn't part of the plan. If I were to buy it, I'd be having to sell some things off immediately. And above all, I would have to be able to get it for a good price. I don't want to get too far into the details, but I will say that the advertised price was probably spot on in terms of the car's value. And I will also say that I made an offer of about two thirds, which sounds low – and it was. Keep in mind that I had now been there for a couple of hours and I had built a good rapport with Wayne. It also helped that the first guy had already worn him out and I knew he would like to sell the car and be done with it. I put it like this:
“Wayne, this is a great car, don't get me wrong. But it's still a huge project. And at that price point, a little bit more money will buy a guy a LOT more car, that's the tough part...” I could see him nodding his head in agreement and I decided to take my shot: “You seem like a real reasonable guy, Wayne. So, I'm just going to tell you what I can pay – and I don't want you to take this as anything other than what it is-an offer, not an insult to the car or to you. Sound fair?” He agreed. I made my offer and waited for the yelling and to be chased off his property. Instead, he stuck his hand out to shake mine. “Yeah?” is all I could get out, trying not to sound so shocked. Wayne grabbed my hand and said, “I would like to see you get it, I know you will do something with it. Deal.” And just like that, it was done. I looked over at the thing again, this time in disbelief that it was coming home with me. It turned out, after all the agonizing I had done, that I was that lucky son of bitch dragging it home-the guy I had been loathing up until noon that day.
So there you have it: Promptness, a little patience and a lot of absolute pure luck brought my dream hot rod project home. I plan to catch my breath and gather parts for a while before I start in on it. The goal being to have it be a relatively short-term build, 6 months. ( Can you say: two hours a night?)
As for what the car will become, you will have to stay tuned. I can tell you that I have some big ideas and it should pan out to be a pretty bitchin' traditional hot rod. That is, with any luck..