I sat down to write the first line of this story and realized that it, like so many of my other stories, starts off with a text message and a link to an advertisement online. It's kind of funny and ironic that the way we find these antiquated cars now is through all this new-fangled technology. No relevance to the story really, I just thought it was ironic. Maybe you don't. Whatever. Anyway:
The message was from my friend, Todd. Now, I've never actually met Todd in person, only via Instagram and text. He is a nice dude down in Southern California that finds a LOT of really bitchin old cars. He buys and sells, and is always getting into something cool. Occasionally Todd sends me links to things for sale in my area that may be of interest to me. He knew I was looking for a '36 3 Window Coupe and was nice enough to send me a link to an ad for, of all things, an estate sale in a small town called Weiser, Idaho. I don't know how he spotted this ad, but if a guy was really careful, he would notice an exciting little blip of info buried in the description of generic household wares. Not only was the mention small, it was also incorrect. There, at the end of the long list of their offerings it said, simply: "1935 Ford Three Window Coupe." That didn't match up with the small, grainy photo they half-heartedly included in the ad though. Nope, the picture showed enough for me to make out that it was in fact a '36 3 Window Coupe.
The listing did include an address and a phone number. I mapped the address first, it was about 7 hours away. No big deal. Next, I made a phone call to the number in the reply section to see what was what. I figured the car would be spoken for, but you never know.
On the other end of the line, a lady named Grace answered. She was very nice, but I could tell she was a little overwhelmed. She, along with other members of the family had made her way from out of state to her Father's house in the middle of nowhere, Idaho to settle his estate after he passed. It was a sizable collection of things that needed to be dealt with. To her, this car was just one of those things.
Just an old car and a bunch of experts.
More photos from the pros.
Grace made it clear that she didn't know anything about the old Ford. She suggested I speak to one of her brothers and passed the phone over to him. "Yeah, hi, you want to know about the 34 Ford?" Ummmm... ok, not much help there either, so on to the next guy, "Hello, this is Bob, what can I tell you about this 37 Coupe?" Shit.... One more guy to go, "Hi, what do you want to know about the Roadster?" Fuck. Me. These guys didn't know shit about anything. The only thing they knew was that it was worth some money. Of course, they didn't want to say what they wanted for it, just that I should "make a serious offer.." Right, ok. I asked to speak to Grace again, she was the most helpful of the bunch and was clearly running the show over there.
"Grace, your dad's car is a 1936 Ford 3 Window Coupe. I'd like to buy it from you. How much money do you need for it?" I could tell she had already been through the paces with this car and was sick of dealing with it. She began to tell me about all of the yokels that had called already, and some local buzzards that were circling around trying to get it for nothing. She may not have been a car person, but she was also no pushover either. Grace knew the Coupe had some value to it, but after so many people feeding her lines, she really had no clue what its actual value was.
Dig that gas door and those tail lights..
Citing the fact that I was hundreds of miles away, I asked if she could text me some additional photos. Within a few minutes, she sent me several pictures of what looked like a very nice car. I called back and asked a couple more basic questions. This was a mistake, as it just meant that I had to be passed around to every family member again, none of which knew anything more about anything at all than they had the first time I talked to them. ".....Can I have Grace again please?" It was time to cut the shit and get to it.
"Grace, how much for the car?" Now, by this time, we were several phone calls, a few dozen text messages, a bunch of photos and a couple hours deep into this process. I built a little rapport with Grace and I was hoping to use it to cut to the chase. It didn't work. "Jake, I'm sorry but you will just have to make an offer." Great. So, sight unseen, off of a few photos and the assurances of a half dozen know-nothing-know-it-alls over in Idaho, I took my shot. "I will pay $15k for it." Now, that may seem like a low offer, but you have to understand that nobody could tell me much about it, it didn't run, and it was a long way away. That, coupled with the relationship I had built throughout this process (I thought) made it seem like a good jumping-off point.
"Hang on Jake," I could hear her pulling the phone off to the side to address the other family members who were quite obviously crowded around her waiting for an update on when they could count on booking their tropical vacations with the net proceeds from this sale... "He said fifteen thousand dollars," Grace announced to the group. Immediately the room absolutely exploded into an uproar in the background. Scoffs, boos and hisses erupted in protest. I think if I had been there in person, I'd have been tarred and feathered. Through the chaos, a voice more prominent than the others said, "Hang up on that fucking guy!" Ha. Jesus.
Grace came back on the line, "Yeah, that won't work for us Jake." No shit, I could tell! No problem though, it was my turn to play now. I said to Grace, "Well, I've made an offer, now it's your turn to come back at me with a counter offer, something that makes sense for you guys." There was a pause on the other end of the phone. I think maybe she was just thinking someone would say the magic number and that would be that. It was clear she didn't want to get into some kind of back and forth negotiation. "I'll call you right back Jake." *click*
All loaded up, this guy decided to inspect the jack at the very end, a huge help.
The frustration in her voice had me slightly worried, but at the same time, I was getting frustrated too. Just tell me how much you want, I'll tell you if I can pay that or not. It seemed simple. But on the other hand, I know how hectic and complicated it can be when you're trying to settle an estate. Not to mention dealing with all the family members and their personalities and differing opinions, it can be a lot. I understood that. On the other hand, I wanted to buy this car.
My phone lit up one more time, I didn't even give it a chance to ring though. "Hi Grace." She got right to the point, thank god, "Jake, a couple of the family members will buy this together from the estate for $20k, just to keep it in the family. If you want it, you'll have to pay more than that." Well, it was *almost* an answer... Close enough for me. "Ok. If I leave early in the morning, I can be there by noon. I will bring you $21k in cash. If I do that, will you sell me the car?" The pause was probably only 2 or 3 seconds, but it felt like an hour. Finally, she simply said, "Yes. I will." Fine. Great.
A little sad-looking, but what a nice, solid, rust-free car.
I left early in the morning. I didn't have my trailer, or access to one on short notice, so I planned to rent a Uhaul in Weiser, Idaho to drag the car home with. It seemed like a simple enough plan. Finally, a few hundred miles later, I pull into the driveway of this palatial house on the top of a hill. I could see this place for a good ten minutes as I wound my way up this mountain to get there. It was the only house around and it had an amazing view.
I pull in and there is the car. They had pushed it outside and it looked great in the noon sun. As I approach it, there are two guys circling it, checking it out. I walk up, put my hand on the door handle and right away this old fucker barks at me, "There's some asshole coming from Portland that has first shot, then I'm next in line." I could tell he took one look at my tattoos and decided on the spot that I was a worthless puke, my favorite kind of guy. I just smirked at him and opened the door. I wanted to see the A pillars and the floors. I no sooner squat down to have a look and the guy comes at me again, "No need to look it over, I'm buying it if that other prick doesn't!" I stood up, took a step toward him and said, "I'm the prick. And I'm buying this mother fucker. You can hit it." I don't think I've ever seen someone turn that particular shade of red before, but he was not a happy person. I think he thought about cussing me out for a minute, maybe worse than that. He decided against it though and stormed off. I didn't give a shit about that guy, I was too pumped about this car. Ultimately, he sat in his truck and waited until I had the car loaded before he actually left, he wanted to make *sure* it was really sold. Ya, bud, it's sold. Dick.
There are quite a few people milling around and I'm looking for someone that looks like they may know what's going on. Those type of people seemed to be in short supply here. Finally, I find a guy that seems to be a part of the sale. I ask for Grace. He just points at the house and keeps walking. Tough crowd.
Meeting for the first time.
Finally I find Grace. She's acting as a cashier to the people in the house scrambling to buy worthless trinkets from her dead father. I plop down the money and make a little small talk as she counts it. She is clearly worn out and ready to be done with the estate sale. But she was pleasant toward me, and seemed to be relieved that the car portion was over with. "I didn't expect that many people to want that car," she said. I did my best to act surprised too. She goes on, "You know, there's a guy here now that came first thing this morning, he's been here all day. He offered more than you did. I told him you had first shot at it though." Hmm.. "Yeah, I think I met that guy.."
Title in hand, I headed back into town to retrieve the Uhaul trailer I had reserved online the day before. I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of doing this in an insanely small town or not, but I had and I knew a little of what to expect. They advertise online as being Uhaul facilities, in reality most of them are small repair shops or parts stores that also happen to be Uhaul dealers. Most of them rent a trailer about once a month, and not one of the employees seems to have ever done it before. You usually have a guy smoking a cigarette, glasses on the tip of his nose as he pecks one key at a time on the keyboard and complains about "All the bullshit they make us do" while he attempts to fill out the paperwork. You get the idea.
I know you're eyeballing those Cragars...
So I pull up to this shop. There are Uhaul trailers parked in the back, so I know I'm in the right place. One problem, it looks like it's closed. I go to the door. Locked. I knock, nothing. So I'm walking around the place and calling the number. I can hear the phone ringing inside the office on the other side of the wall from me. Nobody picks up. Finally, I call Uhaul. You know, the 1-800 number, and try to get any assistance I can. After a long, painful process of trying to explain what was happening, the lady says, "Ok, let me see if I can reach them." Great. She puts me on hold. As I'm standing there, the phone starts ringing in the office of this building. It rings and rings and rings. Funny, it rings for the exact amount of time I'm on hold. She comes back on the line, "Hmm. Yeah, they don't seem to be answering...." NO SHIT.
Robbie helping me with ride-height, which was the first order of business. Note the torch and fire extinguisher...
Finally, after 45 minutes, a guy comes waddling up to the door. No clue where he came from, he just materialized. He walks up, keys happily jingling as he looks for the right one to unlock the office door, and says "Can I help you?" Yeah. You can.. I get inside and explain I have a trailer reserved. He tells me what I expected to hear, that he had "No clue how to do any of that crap," and that I'd have to wait for the "girls" to get back from lunch. Fine.
You know that scene in National Lampoon's Vacation when Clark wrecks the car and has to take it to a repair shop, then asks how much the repair is, and the guy's reply is "how much you got?" That's what this felt like..
Me, getting to know the locals in Weiser, Idaho.
Another twenty minutes go by and the "girls" show up. They are clearly mother and daughter, both smoking and carrying an approximately one thousand ounce 7-11 cup full of presumably Mt. Dew. Both have the biggest and most bedazzled purses I've ever seen in my life and one is carrying a small dog. Fantastic. Alright, it seems we're all here now, let's make it happen.
The younger of the two goes to the desk to help me with the trailer paperwork, the older woman goes into an office just behind and sets her dog down. Some kind of Chihuahua mix, it's about fifty years old and smells like it hasn't had a bath in forty nine of those years. Through the entire process, this dog stands in the doorway of the office and barks. Not at anything really, just barks non-stop. Fine with me, I just want my trailer.
As the dog barks and the lady cusses at the computer monitor, a question pops into my head. It hit me that I didn't know how Weiser, the town I had never heard of before, but was now in, was pronounced. "Say, I was just wondering, is it pronounced "Weezer", or is it "Wiser"?" All at once I could feel everyone in the building turning to look at me. It got quiet. I think even the dog stopped barking.. Nobody said anything for a painfully long time, just looked at me. Finally, from the back office, the older woman hits me with, "It's "Weezer" if you live here, but it's wiser that ya don't." WOW. Top notch.
Good enough to drive around town for a while!
Finally, I meet the guy in the back where the trailers are and hitch up the only car trailer they have. I go to hook up the plug and it's broken. I can see this guy's face as he realizes this and he immediately starts to say "Hmm, I'm not sure we can rent this out with that broken... you won't have lights.." There was absolutely no way I was leaving that place without that trailer though. Honestly I probably would have stabbed that guy and ran off with the trailer before I left without it and without my car. Rather than lead off with assault though, I decided to reason with him. "No problem, I will stop in town and buy a plug, I'll take care of it, I promise. It's no big deal." A clear break in protocol? Yes. But, the idea that he wouldn't have to do anything himself? Well, I could tell that was pretty appealing to him. Quickly the urge to get back to his Big Gulp and the Kid Rock album he left blaring in the shop won over. "Ok," he says. "You stop in town and get it a plug for it." Yup, no problem. Happy to. Great. Thanks.
There's nothing like that first drive. Pre-hasty lowering job.
I make it back to the car about two hours later and back the trailer up to it. There are even more people there now. Some folks are milling around the car and for some reason the door is open. Whatever. Two of the brothers are standing there talking to a guy about the car and watching me get the ramps out and set up on the trailer. I keep expecting one of these guys to offer to help, nobody does. Everyone just stood there and watched me while I got a come-along and a chain out. They watched me attach it to the trailer, then to the car. Aaaand, they watched me slowly winch it up the trailer by hand, an inch at a time. Not one offer to help, nothing. Never mind that two of us could have just shoved it right onto the trailer. Whatever, I didn't care. I just wanted to load up my car and get back on the road before dark. After all, my trailer didn't have any lights...
Sun setting on the first full day of ownership. Looks a little different, eh?
I rolled in as the sun was setting. My first stop wasn't even home, it was my friend, Robbie's house. I had been in contact with him all day and he was excited to see it. We rolled it off the trailer just as it got dark and looked it over. I honestly couldn't believe I had been able to put the deal together and load the thing up, it was one of the best days of my hot rod "career."
Quick drive through the back roads.
The next day, I put fluid in the master cylinder and the brakes pumped right up. I put a battery in it and some fresh fuel, then primed the carburetor. I turned the key, flipped the switch, crossed my fingers and hit the start button. After about 5 revolutions, it fired right off. Unreal. I put it in gear, rolled forward and hit the brakes. Then a little further. Then reverse. Man, it felt great and ran awesome. Time for a trip around the block!
Updated stance thanks to my friend Darryl Schroeder at Schroeder Speed and Custom.
Anyone that's ever built or bought a car they've been wanting for a long time knows how exciting that first drive is. There's nothing quite like that feeling, it's a combination of excitement, and the fear of not knowing if you were going to make it back under your own power or not. As I pulled back into the driveway, I couldn't help but think about how weird it was that yesterday I barely knew anything about this car, and today I knew it would be a part of my life forever. And it all started with a text.
Where we are now after a quick trip to East Bay Speed and Custom
SIDE NOTE: I will have a complete story written soon about my experience with East Bay and the fantastic job they did chopping this car for me. Absolutely top-notch guys with unmatched talent. YOU WILL WANT TO READ IT! Stay tuned......