About My Car
I own a 1956 Buick Super model 53 four door hardtop. It is an interesting car, not because of the make or model necessarily-- but because of the story about her.
A little history...
1981: Mom trades the family ski boat to the neighbor in return for a very large blue Buick to drive to and from work. My sisters and I are confused why Mom would go from a '65 Beetle to an older car, 1956. It sure was a big car compared to the bug.
1983: I turn 16 and my parents purchase a 1967 Buick Riviera with a 430 4bbl engine (very fast car + 16yo male = trouble). 4 months later, after repeated warnings from my parents to SLOW DOWN... I come home to find the Riviera had been taken from me and sold. My parents were loving, but firm. I now have no transportation other than my 10 speed bicycle that I'd already put way too many miles on. Mom tells me, "You can drive the old Buick...". "Noooooo..." I pleaded. " My friends will make fun of me in that old car... don't make me drive that car. Pleeeassseee." But, faced with that old Buick or the thought of riding my 10 speed to school (again), I take the car to school. My friends see me pull up, and I cringe thinking "Ok, Here it comes....". The first words I hear are "Oh my god, what a cool car!! Where did you get that? Jeez, it's huge!..." And of course, my response is "Why.... uh... yes... yes it is a cool car :) " Was I going to tell them I dreaded bringing that car to school that day? Hell no.
She looked pretty good at this point. Drove like a champ.
Homecoming week, can't remember which year of high school-- maybe 1984 or 1985?
So the love affair with this 1956 Buick Super 4 door begins. I drive it everywhere, with darn near all of my friends fitting in the car at the same time. Junior year, Senior year, proms, homecomings, dates, double-dates, triple-dates (yes, we all fit) and on, and on... My entire graduating class of 1985 even posed for pictures on it during one particular homecoming week, '50s flashback or something to that affect. By the way, that photo above with all my friends draped over the Buick-- try doing that with today's Hyundai ...
1985: I graduate from High School, and head of to college. The Buick goes with me. Again, more memories are made driving that car around campus. Being darn near unique in Northern California, it wasn't hard to tell where I was or where I wasn't. Just look for the large Cadet Blue Buick. Being a college student, I have zero money to put into the upkeep of the car. I had to mine for pennies in the couch to pay for gas. I pray that it doesn't break on me. For the most part it doesn't... you just can't kill a car made of that much metal. Press the pedal, fires up every time (hoping there was a whiff of gas still in the tank-- the gas gauge only worked when it rained!).
1987: I find out after 2 years of college I still have no clue what I want to do or be in life. I move back home to Napa, where my parents are now, and find work at the local hospital. I'm still driving the Buick. Later that year, I move out to rent a room in a house in Napa. Besides the owners, other tenants of varying occupations live there as well (PG&E worker, plumber, phlebotomist, etc). I ordered a new license plate for the Buick... "I8TABMW". It read "I ate a BMW". Living in Napa at the time, back in the late 80's, every yuppie known to man was driving around in their crisp little BMW's and Volvo's. Here was my big whale of a car in town, with that wonderful chrome front grill... well, it just looked like it had swallowed up one of those little beemers. I got honked and waved at all the time with people laughing about the license plate message. The local paper even had a commentary column that once said "Has anyone seen that huge, baby blue late 50's car around town that says "I8TABMW" ?? Priceless!"
1988: I meet my wife at a local gym where I worked out. My wife and I go out on our first date in this car (Sam Wo's in Chinatown, San Francisco). But at this point, the car is old, and I live in a town where everyone is driving fancy cars and such. My wife-to-be comments that she doesn't particularly care for the "big bomb" of a car that I drive. So I contemplate selling it and buying something sportier. I'm 21 at the time, and still not wise to the ways of the world yet (yes, hindsight is a perfect 20-20). The plumber, whom lives in one of the rooms at the place where I was renting, agrees to buy the car for $900.00 He was, how should I say, not one of societies finest members. However, me being a bleeding heart, I give him an opportunity to buy a car (he was divorced, and had a young son who lived in Modesto that he was trying to re-form a relationship with, and he needed wheels). I let him give me $200 as down payment, with the agreement to pay the remainder in $100 increments over the course of the summer. After two weeks, I never saw him or the Buick again. It was Summer of 1988, and that was the last I thought I'd ever see of that car. But life goes on, and I go out and buy a new car and press on. I kept a spare key for the car, you know, just in case. I really did like that car after all.
1988 - 2002 My wife and I marry in 1988, we live in Chico, then I joined the USAF and was stationed at McClellan AFB in Sacramento, CA. So we relocate to Sacramento. I finish my BS finally and get a job locally as a programmer in 1993. Every time I see a car go by that looks remotely similar to my old Buick, I think back about how I'd love to have that car back. This happens over and over for 14 years.
2002: My wife and I move to Roseville, larger house, closer to work for me. I meet someone with, lets just say, access to information that I wouldn't normally have access to. I'd already purchased a 1961 VW beetle to restore, but my heart was still with that old Buick. Wouldn't it be great if I can restore that car instead? The wheels in my head start turning, and I ponder... "I wonder where that old Buick is now?" I rummage through old papers and documents and find the VIN number from the car. I have my friend do some research. At this point, I figured it had already gone to the crusher or was lost forever. My wife encourages me to go for it. "If you're going to restore a car, make it one that is worth your time..." she says. She was right, it was worth a shot to try and find that old car. A few weeks later, my friend comes back with a name and address of the current owner. "It's in Bakersfield. The owner has it on file as PNO (Planned Non Operation)." Holy cow! It's still alive, and it's in Bakersfield!
I immediately put together a letter to send to the registered owner. I include a picture of me with the car in High School, the original bill of sale I wrote up when I sold it in Napa, and various other little tidbits of information I (and only I) would know about the car. I mail it off on Dec. 14, 2002. On the following Tuesday, I get a call from a man named Bob Morris who says "Hi, I think I have your Buick down here." I couldn't believe it. Bob rents the property from the current owner of the Buick. I had addressed the letter to the owner, Don. For some reason, Bob's wife opened my letter prior to forwarding it on to Don (who was out in Kansas). The picture of me with the car in High School fell out, and she noticed it and started reading the accompanying letter. She runs into the kitchen after Bob and tells him "Bob, I think we've got this boys car out back! Go take a look, he gave the VIN number and a description." So Bob went out back, and sure enough, one of the cars was my old Buick. Bob tells me that someone may be coming to purchase it next week, and that I better get on the phone with Don and find out if I can purchase it from him. Don owned a trucking company in Kansas, so it was difficult to get ahold of him. Finally, on Christmas Eve, I get ahold of Don in Kansas and we chat about the car and strike a deal for me to purchase it. I made a small Christmas wish, and it came true.
So I come to find out from Bob, and the actual owner, Don, that Don found the car at an impound yard in Modesto (remember Modesto? That's where the plumber guy I sold it to was from). It was only 5 months or so that he had the car before it was impounded and never returned to him. Don says his mother-in-law lived across the street or near the impound yard where it sat. Don is apparently a Buick fan as well, driving a Roadmaster himself. He spies the Buick Super sitting there, and inquires about purchasing it. He does, and drives it to his then-home of Bakersfield, where he parked it in the back of his property along with a few other older Buicks. The car sat there for 14 years, untouched, until I came along asking if I could buy it back. Bob and Don are astounded that I found the car. Both were very nice gentlemen, and didn't hesitate to sell me the car back. For that I am very grateful. Of course, Don didn't make out too bad in the deal either, I paid $2k for a car I only got $200 for in the first place! Do I care? Nope. I have my car back!
So the rest is as they say, history. I drove to Bakersfield on December 26th and towed the good ol' Buick back to my house. My wife's Uncle James (cool guy) drove down with me for the "haul it out of the field" event. Bob and Don never did have keys for the car, but as luck would have it, I never threw away the set that I had. Still in my desk drawer, after all these years. Never give up.
Bringing her home, December 26, 2002. Poor 'ol gal barely fit (and I mean *barely*) on that U-Haul trailer !