This is the third in a series by Howard LaPlante on his early experiences with cars.
About the police – there they were, a city police car sitting next to the Nash and two police men standing by the car. The first things that they said was, "rather nice car you boys have. Where did you get it?" We were all rather speechless. Before we could quite gather our senses, They turned to me and said, “get in the car,” (the police car). The policeman got in the driver's seat and questioned me about who I was and where did the car come from? Told him in detail. He was very noncommittal. Simply saying, “OK, get out I want to talk to the others.” Fortunately we all had the same story, simple when we all told the truth. Finally, after everyone was questioned and we all told the same story, the police said that they had a report of a missing car and the Nash matched the description. They told us that we could go. We went! Oh but it put the fear of God into us all! We drove very carefully that day! The trip went without incident, a wild and lawless group we were not!
After my arrival home I was without a car, and that had to be remedied very quickly. I had my eye on a new car from Willys-Overland (The Jeep company). This was the new in 1948 Jeepster. A unique car to the USA, A two door, four passenger phaeton (side curtains, no roll up windows). It was unlike anything on the market at the time. I found a 1948 model (this was in 1952) that seemed to be in good repair and purchased it. It was a 4-cylinder, with 134.2 cubic inches producing a whopping 63 horsepower! But oh but it was different! Nothing like it! Especially in rural Minnesota! The car was indeed fun, it was light and agile, soon discovered that it could be tossed around; however only on gravel roads. It did not have enough power to do much on paved roads except sort of stumble. It was a fun car, but it really did not have much power. Then I saw a Jeepster for sale with a 6 cylinder engine with 72 horsepower; I traded cars. Yes it was smoother and a bit more powerful, but the side curtains were a inconvenience. The car did not last long, perhaps it should have since it was an extremely low production model with only 673 of the six cylinder and 2307 of the four cylinder ever made. But there were so many other cars!
One that had caught my attention was the Nash Rambler convertible. First produced in 1950, it was also unique, set on a 100" wheelbase with a six-cylinder engine of 172.6 cubic inch displacement producing 82 horsepower. The feature that really made it unique was that it was a two-door convertible landau. This was one of the first of the so called compact cars. Nash thinking that to help usher in the new smaller cars the first would be a unique and "up scale" car. The top was unlike anything seen in the states for a long time. The canvas top opened from the windshield header all the way to the back and stored in the trunk area. This unique convertible design featured steel framed roof rails called "Bridge Beam" around the car's doors and side windows. The side of the car was as you would see on a regular sedan. (For reference think of a Citroen 2 CV.) The top was electric and moved by a cable that ran from a "drum" in the trunk up alongside and above the side frame to the front of the convertible top and back.
Several memories of the car, most not good! In fact, it was the most troublesome car that I have ever owned! The first problem occurred one Sunday afternoon, driving to see a girl friend, who lived on a gravel road. I was going slow, as I had just washed the car. What is that noise? I continued, sounds like something is dragging? I stopped and got out and walked around the car, OH YES, something is dragging! The gas tank! Good thing I was going slow! Found some baling wire and wired it up in place again! Took a little doing, I had to lay on the road and push it up and hold it up with my knees while I wired it in place! The next problem was also on of those things that it was fortunate that I was going slow! Out on a date, we had driven to a park, quite a way out in the country. Finally, when it was time to take the girl home, drove slowly out of the park. Just past the entrance was a set of railroad tracks as I crossed the tracks the steering wheel whipped furiously right and left and then the car did not want to go any more! NOW what? Got out and walked around the car, oh there is the problem, both front wheels were pointed in sharply! The tie rods had disconnected! For the life of me I do not remember how I got the girl home or how I got home, and I lived a good 10 miles from the girl. Oh but that was not the end of it, more problems to come!
To be continued.