This is the second in a series by Howard LaPlante on his early experiences with cars.
About the pig – it must have been shortly after I started to drive the 1932 Ford on a regular basis. Sunday afternoon There was gas in the car, no chores that had to be done immediately, time to go for a drive! Headed south along the Mississippi river. The second farm was located right on the road, that is, the house and a few buildings were on the left side of the road and the barn and a few more buildings were on the right. Why that arrangement? I have no idea. Did the road come after the buildings were already built? Doubtful. But the arrangement was the cause of trouble! As I approached the farm, at perhaps 35 MPH a very large, FAT sow came at a good trot, heading right across the road in front of me! I pushed as hard as I could on the brake, it had little effect! I hit the pig! The car went up in the air as though it was taking off like an airplane! And just as quickly back to the ground! The car simply went up and over the rolling pig! I was so astounded that I hardly knew what to do! As soon as I could get the car stopped and turned around, I got out and looked at the front of the car, there was no damage anywhere! I drove back to the farm. The farmer had the tractor out and was hauling the pig away, he apologized for the pig getting out and hoped that there was no damage to the car! He said that he would simply butcher the pig right away! So ended my very first accident! Can not but wonder at the difference between those times and what would happen if that accident was to occur today.
The wonderful 32 Ford was to stay on the farm for many years, but, there were so may cars that were attractive and cheap. The second of the 37 cars in my life, (so far) was a 1932 Chevrolet 4 door deluxe. The two door roadster and coupes of this model were called the " The Confederate Series. Interesting name? Remember that it had chrome engine vents on the side of the hood. The hoods in those days came down on both sides to the side of the frame and inside of the fenders. The vents, sometimes called hood ports, were about 4" X 10" and could be opened to give better engine cooling. And they were chrome! In addition, the interior of the car was very plush! It even had roll down shades on the side rear windows and the back window! Very sexy, but I never had an opportunity to sit in the back! Do not remember why, but this car spent very little time with me until it was sold to someone. Besides, it was very slow even though it had a 6 cylinder engine, but with only 46 HP!
The next car was another low mileage car, this time a Plymouth business coupe. A business coupe had very neat storage compartments in back of the front seats and a very large trunk. The car had a very smooth and easy ride, it was very nice in every way. Best of all was that it had hydraulic brakes! It would stop! However, it had a major problem! It was the most undependable car that I have ever owned! In Minnesota the winters are severe. Yet sometimes it would start when nothing else would! Yet not all the time! In the middle of summer, hot weather, sometimes it would start right off, other times, NOT! It could be high humidity or low, it could be hot or cold, it did not matter, sometimes it would start right off, other times it would not start at all! I took the car to several mechanics, most of the "shade tree" variety, no one was ever able to solve the problem! The car was soon sold to some other unsuspecting young man.
Ah, the next car on the list, this was a winner! 1941 Ford Convertible! A V-8 of 85 HP! And hydraulic brakes! Interestingly on of my strongest memories is that it was a big car! And the added advantage of having a convertible in rural Minnesota was unique! But the second memory is that it was not very warm in a Minnesota winter! Of course that did have the advantage that in cold weather girls would be more inclined to slide over close. Ah yes, bench seats did have there advantages!
As my college days came to a close, three of my friends and I hatched an idea. After graduation, we should see some of the country. Eventually we decided that a drive around the western USA would be fun. What to drive? None of us had a car that would work. Then on a used car lot "The Car"! A 1931 Studebaker President 4 door, ( One of the Studebaker models was called the "Dictator"!) The car had a 337 CI engine of 122 HP. A large car with a wheel base of 136" on wood artillery wheels. Old, but distinctive! Do not remember just what we paid, but think that it would have been about $200.00. Well now we had a car. The plan that evolved was that we would drive from Minneapolis south to Oklahoma City, Dallas TX, then west to Los Angles. (One of the guys had a brother there and he was sure that we could stay there for a bit.) Then north to San Francisco, (I had an Uncle and Aunt there. I hoped that we might stay with them.) Then north to Seattle, (again I had another Uncle and Aunt there). Then east to Montana, One of the guys had relatives there. We were set to go. Fortunately on of the guys Fathers had sympathy for us, a week before we were to go, he volunteered his 1949 Nash Statesman 4 door. This was the most modern of the 1949 models. The car had what came to be called a "uniframe" that is, a body frame combination. It was unique in many ways, the front suspension was coil over shock, similar to the modern "McPherson" suspension. And of course the car had what came to be called a "bathtub" look. The front wheels were half covered by the fenders. The engine was a flat head 6 of 115 HP. The same engine that Nash had used for many years. The interior followed suit with a unique dashboard that was without any instruments save the clock. All instruments were clustered together in a "pod" mounted high on the steering column very close to the steering wheel. - And the front seat backs folded down, all the way. Making into a highly touted Nash feature. We were set for an adventure! We left Minneapolis and elected to drive all night. Advantage of the fold down seats, two guys would sleep, (well try anyway) and two guys would stay awake and take turns driving for two hours each. Then we would rotate. We had an uneventful night of driving and daylight found us in Oklahoma City. We found a place for breakfast, walked back to the car, The police were waiting!