West Coast Report 13th Edition: By John Gilbert

Happy Father’s Day — Fellow Mothers of Invention


The third time’s a charm. The following Father’s Day tribute originally appeared in an editorial during my editor-in-chief stint at Custom Classic Trucks. Some years later, last Mother’s Day actually, I did a rewrite as an entry into a contest Bobby Likis at www.CarClinicNetwork.com was running. If you get on Bobby’s website it’s not the contest for $500.00 worth of free gasoline, but the one where the winner scores a radar detector, it’s called Car Story With Dad. Probably more fun than watching chrome rust; Here’s the third version, if you have a lot of time on your hands why not Google all three versions, and see if you can detect the changes. The winner will receive an autographed booklet on FIF (Feline Idiopathic Flatulence). *  This is not a real contest, so please disregard reading the contest rules that do not appear anywhere — Not even in my weirdest dreams, and trust me brothers I have a lot of weird dreams. I think my nightmares might be caused by the cabbage burritos I like to chase down with a big bag of Fiery Cheetos dipped in organic asparagus juice. Ah, but that’s yet another story.

Test Drives With The Old Man

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California during the 50s and 60s I really enjoyed going to the gas station with my dad in our ’58 Chevy pickup with a Corvette mill. Pop, always seemed to know where there was a gas war going on, and that would be the station that we headed off to. Sometimes it was the Hudson station across the street from Reynolds Buick in Covina with Premium at 29.9 cents, or maybe the Martin station in West Covina had the best prices around. My dad would often tell my mom we had to go get some Purple Martin in the pickup, and then maybe we might go look at some new cars. Looking at new cars with the old man was always fun, because that usually meant we were going to take Detroit’s latest and greatest offering out for a test drive.

I think if I had to narrow it down to my all-time favorite test drive story with the old man it would have to have been when the ’66 Oldsmobile Toronado first came out. After checking out the new ’66 Rivieras at Reynolds Buick we jumped back in the ’58 and drove over to Mandy Williams Oldsmobile in West Covina. Back then there didn’t seem to be any kind of real procedure when it came to test drives, sometimes the salesman went with you, and sometimes he didn’t. In the case of the new Toronado for whatever reason the salesman was insistent that he tag along.

I was bummed-out the salesman came with us because it meant I had to ride in the back seat like a 13-year-old kid, instead of being cool and riding shotgun up front. I don’t think my dad really cared one-way or the other if the salesman was there because he had a mission to accomplish. Not in the sense of flying a brand-new Boeing bomber underneath a bridge during World War II, but it was a mission nevertheless. The ultimate goal was to see how fast the new Olds Toronado could go up Kellogg Hill. Our family car, a dual-glasspacked ’61 Buick Invicta could hit a 100 up Kellogg and that was always the benchmark that my dad held other cars up to. I could tell right from the moment when we first pulled onto the east-bound San Bernardino Freeway that the big ‘ol gold Oldsmobile with the chrome wheels was going to make a good run. Everything was perfect, traffic was light and we got a good clear lane with nothing up ahead. The Toro hit a hundred and just kept climbing, but then suddenly at 105 mph the salesman who had started to clench his fists at 80 was now tilting his head way back and screaming like a girl.

Not because the poor salesman was having a tearful bout with extreme incontinence, but because the Olds had peaked the top of Kellogg the old man backed off the gas. Back at the Olds dealership the salesman was still quite shaken, and the last thing on his mind was selling my dad a new car.

After serving in WWII, and Korea, my dad was first a plumber, and then a steamfitter by trade. In June of 1967 at 200-feet high into the air a drunken crane operator at the Texaco oil refinery in Long Beach, California, snagged a 30-foot long by 3-foot diameter cement-steel pipe my dad was guiding into place. The snagged pipe slingshot into my dad and broke his spine, feet, and every rib leaving him a high-level, almost quadriplegic, paraplegic.

From his very first car a hot-rodded Model T Ford, automobiles were always a source of freedom for my dad. After he lost the ability to walk being able to throw his wheelchair behind the seat and drive off to anywhere he wanted was the ultimate freedom.

In 1968 my dad bought a brand-new Oldsmobile 98 2-door hardtop, and I installed hand-controls so he could drive it. The Olds was optioned with a Highway Patrol suspension package, standard 455-inch engine, and 2.56:1 rearend gears. The old man said on Montana highways the car could top the speedo at 127mph, maybe more. The next Olds, he bought was a 1973 Toronado. It was a good car that he traded in for a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado. The Cadillac was a real pile of junk, and made him miss the Toro. There were a few more new cars, but the last car my dad owned was a black 1994 Z-28 Camaro. The magazines reported a ’94 Z-28 could top 156mph. My dad said he got his Z-28 up to 150 before he ran out of clear highway.

After six months of confinement to a hospital bed with constant suffering my dad passed away on January 27, 2003 from complications related directly to paraplegia.

I wonder what memories future generations of fathers and sons will share— Video games I imagine. A fierce battle with opposing space alien armies, or perhaps a leg-wetting drive behind the joy stick of a virtual Z-28 Camaro.

Outlaw Rodder

Miranda Lambert is Real Pretty

Here’s a quick update on the Hot Rod to Hell build. As you can see these are the early shots of Jim Rizzo and I loading up Candy’s Car for what I hope is its one and only trailer ride.

Of course come to think about it I might have to load it up on a trailer to handle some of the many things that will need to be done in a very short time. I set the track T’s completion date as June 29, 2013, but that date’s coming way too fast. The drop dead deadline is August 10. I’m leaving right from the Donut Derelicts early Saturday morning, and then heading to Tucson for the first night’s stay.

Oh, and the name Candy’s Car comes from the car’s buildup in Street Rodder by Candy, Riz’s wife. There must be half a dozen tech features archived on Street Rodder’s web. A Google search Street Rodder Hot Rod Girl will bring up a raft full of tech features on the car. I’ll probably be referring to Candy’s tech features when I start to put the car back together.

The first thing I’m going to do after I fry up a big pot of coffee at around five AM tomorrow morning is fire off a product order to Eastwood. It won’t be in the next West Coast Eastwood, but the one after WCE 15 I’ll run some progress shots. Here’s how its looking under the hood right now. Yeah, I know there’s no hood. I’m looking forward to painting the body Rat Rod Black, the frame with 2K Ceramic Chassis Black, and the engine with Chevy orange Ceramic Engine Paint.

Any girl that sings about burning rubber in a song like Miranda does in Famous in a Small Town just has to be about as cool as they come… Oh, and did I mention she’s real pretty?


  1. This is what I like about this column, Mandy Williams Olds, Reynolds Buick, that’s my old neighborhood. back in the late 70s I bought a 48 Chevy school bus with the thought of free rent for life. “Powered” by a 235 six, I remember redlining that bus up the Kellogg drive at 3 mph. My dad used to take us kids for rides in the hills and drive real fast giving us a thrill when we would come out of our seats as we crested a hill. We had a succession of Ford station wagons in those days. My dad worked for General Motors in Southgate as a HiLo driver. He worked there 35 years. In ’76 he bought his first GM car, a big 4-door Buick LaSabere. He was so proud of that car. When he passed my brother in law inherited the car and destroyed it in a month. I don’t have a lot of good memories with my dad, he was out of the house at 5 am most days and fell asleep on the couch by 7 at night. I do remember sometimes watching demolition derby on weekends with him. How come they don’t have that on the tube anymore?

  2. Thanks, Kit. I hope other folks enjoy the geographic nostalgia as well.

    And yeah, I guess today is the day where we look back and realize the sacrifices our father made for us and our family.

    There has to be tapes of Dick Lane and the demo-dirby stuff that used to run on KTLA channel 5 somewhere.

    My Grandpa bought a new ’68 Olds 98 right after my dad did, and when he passed away the Olds was given to the A-hole son in law of my new Grandma. New as in she wasn’t my Grandma, just some old hag Grandpa married right before he died. And the Olds lasted about a month in the A-hole’s hands. Nuff said, thanks.

    — John

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