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Car Lust in the early 1950s: A Boy And His '39 Plymouth

A bit of a digression from our usual fare for this post. Over the last couple of years I've developed a bit of a hobby with old diaries. I'd always wanted to maintain a diary/journal, though not so much because I think I have so much of importance to say for posterity. After my dad died several years ago, I realized that all of the stories he'd told us over the years now only existed in our memories; we couldn't go check them with him or hear them again, they were all lodged only in our imperfect memories as something of an oral history. I made a few attempts over the years to keep a diary (even when I was a kid) but they never lasted, I 1939 Plymouth Ad-07think because I never thought I had anything of profound interest to write. 

Then one day on a lark I bought a diary at an estate sale and started reading it through. That one was from 1948 written by a 60-something-year old Seattle housewife by the name of Lillie May (Reasoner) Smith. She wasn't anything particularly special and mostly she just recorded her daily doings. . . .which I found utterly fascinating. Instead of profound thoughts on Life and the Big Events of the day, she recorded her shopping trips, her husband's work as a longshoreman, picking berries on Orcas Island, dinner parties they attended, etc. Such a different world from the one I inhabit here in the later 20th and early 21st century with our computers and Internets and cable television and cell phones and such. So, I started my own diary, online this time, and went through and transcribed Lillie's  entry for the same day ("On this day in 1948. . .") and then entered my own doings. And I kept at it, I guess, partly out of a feeling of obligation to give the world her story as well as my own. When the year was up (her diary only was for a single year), I found another and started in on it. The second one was for 1967, a man this time, and he was kind of dull. 

But I found another one that was fairly complete for almost three years from 1952 to 1954 and started in on that. To be honest, for the first month or so I thought it was a teenage girl -- there was no identifying information in it -- but turned out it was written by a teenaged boy from Yakima, Washington. And he had a 1939 Plymouth coupe, much like the one pictured here. He was 16 at the time and the Plymouth kept popping up as he went through his daily teenaged high school boy life.

While we were both teenaged boys at one point, like Lillie May, it was a different world from the one I grew up in. He's had a few adventures in his Plymouth and many, many problems with it, some of which were his own fault. But the way he related to his car and the things he did with it are far different from what I experienced, and I thought I'd share some of his entries with Car Lust readers. No doubt some older readers will relate to what he went through, and younger ones may find the actual writings of a car-loving guy from the early 1950s enlightening. 

A couple of notes: He had very small, cramped writing and it was often difficult to make out words. Those I've put in [brackets] with the the word I think it is or in some cases just the letters it looks like in hopes context can render it intelligible to someone. More on the diarist below the fold. 

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Car Lust's $100,000 Fantasy Garage Challenge Update #1: The Jeep

A while back, we here at the Car Lust home office and used vending machine storage area suggested a $100,000 Fantasy Garage Challenge. And among other dream machines, I said that I wanted a Jeep.

DSC_1023Yes, a new CBR600RR found its way into the delapidated smokehouse/shed structure that doubles as its garage, but since I didn't mention that bike in the Challenge, we won't count it. But I did recently make one addition to the "fleet" that should be mentioned here, a 2001 Jeep Wrangler SE.

In my contribution to that Theme Week, I wanted a brand new Jeep per the Challenge's requirements that required at least one new vehicle. But after nearly a year of failed negotiations with our local dealer, I gave up searching for a Jeep... for a while. Then this one popped up out of nowhere.

Somehow I knew this Jeep was "right" as soon as I saw the ad's pictures. This one looked clean. And I mean clean! And it was. It's a 14-year-old TJ Series, but just look at that shine... and that's the original paint! Plus, there's not even a door ding on it. The only scratches are where a previous driver's boots met the paint under the door while climbing in and out. Rust? Nada!

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Nissan Week--1987 Nissan Sentra Sport Coupe (Car Lust Classic)

This was first posted on December 25, 2012. I enjoyed driving this car for the time I had it and would like to have another, but they are very scarce these days. And if you have any comments, please leave them on the original post. Thanks, --Chuck.

Sentra Sport CoupeI've been wanting to write about this car for a while, so I finally pulled out an old photo album, copied the prints, and went to work.

And this is why: When I worked at the Nissan plant here in Tennessee (Where they now build the Leaf), they had a very affordable Lease Car Program. A version of it still survives. Any full-time Nissan employee, after 8 months of employment, was eligible for the program. The only requirement? You had to have a driver's license; your previous driving record was of no concern.

You could order any Nissan vehicle that was sold in the US and wait about three months for its arrival. The Infinity Division had not yet been born while I was there; I don't know if they are available now or not. But a stripped Sentra could be had back then for as little as $88 a month, and a 300ZX Turbo was, if memory serves, around $270. The BIG NEWS was that insurance was included, with a $250 deductable.

So for a whopping sum of approximately $185 a month, I had the unlimited use of this custom-ordered Sentra Sport Coupe SE. I had seen a prototype/early production model in the plant's Quality Assurance Department for whatever reason (They were never built in Tennessee), and immediately had to have one. The car you see here is the first white Sport Coupe delivered in Tennessee, or so I was told.

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Our Cars: 2010 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition

003Before we begin, I have to clarify that this isn’t really my car in the sense that I own it. Another thing worth mentioning is that I have 3 uncles. To avoid confusion, MR2-driving uncle shall be known as Uncle J, his older brother shall be known as Uncle V and their sister’s husband –and former Chevrolet Astro owner- shall be Uncle D.

An interesting proposition was bestowed upon me earlier in the year (May 2013): my family was to drive Uncle V’s new-ish Toyota 4Runner as part of our daily-drivers, with me being the main driver. This came to be for the following reasons: Grandpa’s former steed, a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Special Edition has been acting up. Not once, but twice I left work in it only to not start, while blocking the same fellow employee in this concrete slab we call parking lot. Thank goodness it had a small descent towards the exit. We got it fixed, but it’s just one of a list of problems that it’s given us. It doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence and its days are numbered.

The second reason was that Uncle J was in Bolivia, at least until mid-July. While over there, we took care of some minor bodywork on his new Ford F-150. Convinced that the truck needed to be used, Uncle V began to use it more as his daily-driver. After the 4Runner got much needed dealership work after serving as my Aunt’s driver while her Toyota Sienna LE was at said dealership, and after I finished ridding the Grand Cherokee of its electrical faults, Uncle V told me to take the 4Runner and park the Grand Cherokee until further notice. While my Mom was the first to let me in on my Uncle’s idea, it came as a surprise that not only did he actually go through with it, but also how soon it was. At least until Uncle J returned in July and order was restored, I have a 4Runner… I kinda like the sound of that.

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Theme Week: New Cars Week--A Tale of Two Cars

Regular readers may know that I recently purchased a new vehicle, primarily for fieldwork: a 2014 Subaru Forester. Thus far it's* performed its job quite admirably, and I'm really pleased with it overall. Readers may also be aware that for the 24 years preceding that purchase, my daily driver was a 1978 Mustang II. As this is New Car Week here at Car Lust, I thought I'd take the opportunity to offer a little BothCarscomparison as to the driving experience of the two. I do this because probably not that many of you have been regular drivers of anything made in the 1980s, let alone the 1970s, and probably few have done so recently (and many of you young'uns, not at all). 

To start off with, at the right there are two photographs of the driver's side dashboard of each; I'm assuming you can tell which is which. When first stepping behind the wheel of the Forester I was immediately struck by the wide array of controls and bits of information display devices that were present compared with my Mustang. I haven't actually counted them up yet, but thought that might be part of the fun of this post: how many functions can you count on each, just from the photographs? 

Hidden behind the wheel on the Mustang's left are the climate controls (one heat slider control and one controlling the various fans, heat/vent, etc.) and on the right is a knob for the side mirror, the "cigarette lighter", and a modern radio/CD player with a USB input. The left turn signal stalk also has a cruise control attachment on it.

On the Forester I don't believe anything is hidden, although there are probably a dozen or so additional indicator lights on the dashboard that can light up. 

So have at it! You'll undoubtedly fall far short on the Forester since the screen has dozens and dozens of entries, most of which I haven't even seen yet. I'm betting the ratio probably at least 10:1. 

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Theme Week: New Cars Week--2013 / 2014 Honda CBR600RR (Race Replica)

600RR frontI've mentioned here before that this bike is a motorcycle masterpiece.

And to quote Honda, "And for 2013 the best just got a whole lot better. We’ve given the CBR600RR some major updates, including new 12-spoke wheels, revised ECU settings, and a fine-tuned ram-air system to increase torque. Best of all, the CBR600RR gets a new “Big Piston” fork and retuned rear shock.

And it’s all wrapped up in some sharp new bodywork. There’s even a version with Honda’s revolutionary Electronic Combined Anti-Lock Braking System (C-ABS), the first ever on a production Supersport motorcycle."

All of this is carried over for 2014, of course. And since there's absolutely no difference between a 2013 and a 2014 model, we'll just call them the same, if that's OK.

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The Way We Were: Chuck Lynch, aka That Car Guy

Chuck Lynch (That Car Guy)

Well Anthony, you asked for it, you got it. First off, here's a picture of me in 1972 standing beside my first street legal motor vehicle, a 1972 Harley-Davidson 125cc Rapido. That's me, second from left, under the arrow. The late Mr. Bill Abernathy, who sponsored the event, is to the left; David and Kevin are to the right. Dave owned a 1966 GMC Value Van about three years after this picture was taken:


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The Way We Were: Cookie the Dog's Owner

Cookie the Dog's Owner

Here are a few pictures I found in the ancestral photo albums.

The first is of Dad and me and the 1949 Ford sedan. According to the date stamp in the right-hand border, the film was developed in May, and it's dated "62" in pencil; but based on how I'm dressed, it was probably taken earlier in the spring. I would have been just over a year old.1949 Ford

This was not necessarily a formal occasion. Dad wore a fedora with his business suit well into the 1970s.

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The Way We Were: Anthony Cagle

Anthony Cagle

First up, this is me and "my" 1975 AMC Hornet.


That was taken in 1985 just before I set out from Wisconsin to Washington state for grad school and the Rest of My LifeTM. As my demeanor suggests I wasn't particularly happy upon leaving behind "my" Hornet, but c'est la vie I guess. I would have been 23 at the time, still in my (happily long abandoned) beard phase, and freshly graduated from college with a degree in archaeology and ready to head for the west coast in my new/old. . . .

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Jan 6 Weekly Open Thread and The Way We Were

We here at Car Lust have highlighted our own vehicles and those of our readers on several occasions, but one thing we've not done -- except by accident every now and then -- is shine a light on our vehicles and ourselves. We've often argued that the reason we write in glowing terms about mostly forgotten or Cary_grant_exiting_a_tiny_carunderappreciated models is that many of these vehicles, despite their flaws and foibles, sold many thousands of copies and ended up being important parts of the everyday lives of their owners. People drove them to their very first job, went on their first real date in them, drove in them with their buddies to the seashore or the lake or the mountains, or piled into them with the rest of the family for long drives on summer vacation. They bought them, drove them home, parked them in the driveway, and admired their own personal form of freedom: the ability to go where one pleased when one pleased.

So we shouldn't forget that, behind these cars we love so much, are the people who drove them and cared for them and showed them off and. . . .well, sometimes wrecked them (hopefully without unduly damaging themselves or anybody else in the process).

Hence, over the next week or so we'd like to take this opportunity to submit a few snapshots of our very own automotive histories; and this time not only the vehicles themselves but of us as well. We realize that there is risk in this endeavor, as readers may be shocked to learn that those of us penning these missives -- especially those of us over a certain age -- may have some none-too-flattering photographs in our past. Hard to imagine, I know, as most of you no doubt imagine us all looking like literary equivalents of Cary Grant or, for the younger crowd, Hugh Jackman (and for our latest contributor Grace Kelly or Scarlett Johansson). But we throw caution to the wind and set them out there anyway for all to enjoy.

And we also invite readers to send in their own photos -- modern or not -- for submission. The older the better. The more dated the better. And hopefully along with a few sentences describing the scene, the vehicle, and what was going on in your life at the time.

And, as always, feel free to discuss anything else automobile related.

Credits: The top photo is of, yes, that's me, exiting my old Isetta (via Chris on Cars). All others for the remainder of this week, unless otherwise indicated, are by the authors.

Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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