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On the Road With Johnny B: Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend and Remembering One Long Gone

How an old Chevy and a classic car magazine sparked a lifetime obsession.

Not sure when it happened. Maybe as young lad I had spotted a classic car going down the street or in a movie. As long as I can remember I have been drawn to wide white walled classic from 1920′-1940′s.

Now don’t get me wrong I have had my share of Muscle Cars, Triumphs, Benzes and VW’s but my true love is wire wheeled, running boarded and dual side mounted war wagons from the FDR years. Alot of you know my first car back in 1975 was a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Convertible. Purchased for $500.00 from Ron’s Esso I worked an entire summer washing pots in a steamy Italian restaurant to save the money. The tired looking old Chevy was solid but a little worn out. In the days of Mustang’s, Camaro’s and screaming chicken Trans Am’s I was an outcast from the start. Most of my speed freak friends were shocked when I didn’t want to Hot Rod my 48 Chevy droptop. The sturdy 216 Stovebolt Six was a runner and the stiff when cold vacuum shift were in good working order. I still today feel like you are destroying history when you chop up a restorable classic car.

Never a Hot Rodder myself I still respect what they do. I just love them original. Me and my 48 Chevy were a little slow but we always made it to and back from my teenage adventures. She got the name “Betsy”. My Mom’s idea and it stuck. I had her painted in the original maroon with leather and broadcloth seats. In the days before the internet and Coker Tire I slapped on white wall paint to simulate wide whites. As I drove Ole Betsy we became close friends and I learned to love convertibles.

A few years passed and Betsy was getting in need of an engine rebuild. Choosing between Betsy or fast cars,beer and girls my young stupid mind would make one of its many bad choices. I let her go and bought a 1971 Camaro that was neither fast or as charming as Betsy. Remembering my long gone friend makes me teary eyed for simpler days and my first car love.   When you were fixing an old car in those days you had no internet or eBay to help you in your search for rusty gold. The Carlisle Fairgrounds swap meets had just started and Hershey was only once a year. So you had to count on luck, word of mouth, Hemmings Motor News or my favorite Cars and Parts Magazine. I think it was Car and Parts that gave me a true love of Packards, Peerlees, Hudsons and other long gone classics. The thing I loved about Cars and Parts was yes it had an excellent classified section but it told great stories and history of old cars. Alot of my overstuffed automotive brain came from the pages of Cars and Parts.

 I would wait every month by the mail box for it to come. Cars and parts also had a wonderful section called the “Tool Bag“. In the Tool Bag people would ask all kinds of repair questions. Not normal things but stuff like “When installing my king pins on my 1931 Hupmobile do I put the clevis pin in from the bottom or top?” I would save every issue and go back to re-read about grand classics from the days of The Great Depression. As the years past Cars and Parts to keep pace had to do some features on newer cars from 1960′s and 1970′s. Sadly like all things in life everything comes to an end. Cars and Parts readers would dwindle more and more every year. Part of the reason was that some of the older subscribers had passed away into that big junkyard in the sky. Interest in brass era cars and older classic cars were giving way to muscle cars and big dollar Barrett Jackson darlings. You could find almost anything on the internet and the monster known as eBay gave you instant access to millions of listings worldwide. Not sure but I think eBay has hurt the old car hobby. That’s a story for another time. Even I had lost track of my old friend as life and work kept me busy. I found Cars and Parts magazine again a few years back. Still had the same charm but in a smaller package. I paid my subscription but never got the promised 3 years. Cars and Parts Magazine has been gone for a few years now. I still go thru some of my older issues. Even today I find some fact or piece or trivia I didn’t know. Oh well Cars and Parts Magazine thanks for the memories and a sad goodbye to an old friend.

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