Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Billy Flynn Story



                                                             The Billy Flynn Story
                                                                           1956
                                          A true story about my friend Billy a drag racing legend

                                                       Written 2010 rewritten 08/01/2015

                                                                  Howard Yasgar

 
      Who ever would have thought back in 1956 that my friend Billy, a seventeen year old kid with messy blond hair and buck teeth, would become a future drag racing legend?

       But that’s exactly what happened to him, it seems that after getting out of the service, Billy became the head driver for the Chrysler Corporation’s experimental car and drag racing team.

       Back in the late 1950’s and the 1960’s, all of the top automakers were trying to produce the fastest

“Muscle cars”, that was the terminology they used for factory built hotrods. They were factory production model cars that were built with souped up V8 engines and a lot of other modifications. All of the big three car makers did it, and the best way they had to show off their finished products, was at the drag strip.

       Billy’s car was known as “The Yankee Peddler” and Billy, hand in hand with Chrysler Corporation had made racing history with it. It was unfortunate for me but at the time Billy was making history at the drag strips, I was already out of the drag racing scene, so I never got the opportunity to actually see Billy racing, and then by the time I learned about all his success, I was already moving to Florida. Consequently, I never got to see Billy Flynn and the “Yankee Peddler” in action, nor did I ever get to shake Billy’s hand, or pat him on the back or congratulate him, and I feel bad about that. By the time I learned about what Billy had done, he had already died. I first heard about it, around 2004 and I had already been living in Florida since 1963.

      But in retrospect, Just the thought, that I had been one of the early stepping stones in Billy’s life and his automotive racing career gives me a good feeling.  

      It all started in 1955, when I was 16 years old, and I had just gotten my driver’s license. I had purchased a really neat, dark green 1940 Ford convertible, and at the time, I thought I really had a hot rod. Because in 1955, we were just in the beginnings of what was called the “Hot Rod Era”, kids were buying up all the older Fords, and then extensively modifying them. Hot rod and speed shops were opening up all over the place, and they were all competing with each other as to who could build the best looking and fastest hotrods. Just like in the computer industry today, a whole new vocabulary came into existence, people talked about chopping and channeling cars, they talked about candy apple paint jobs and flame jobs. These were words we had never heard before but were now part of our everyday language. Besides from the new words, new things were being invented and used in the hotrod industry, like fiberglass, polyester resins, and there was the famous Bondo, an auto body filler. To us at the time this was all new and revolutionary stuff. So 1955 was an exciting time to be involved with cars, and for any young man, who had some mechanical ability, not to be drawn into this national hobby of souping up and modifying cars, was almost impossible.  

       In my case, at age of 16, I knew very little about hot rods other than what I read in magazines. But by sheer luck, and my buying of that 1940 Ford convertible, put me right on the cutting edge of hot rod history, and I didn’t even know it.

       When I bought it, I desperately wanted my 1940 Ford to be considered a hotrod, so the first thing I did was install two Hollywood glass packed mufflers on it. Once I did that, everyone within three miles could hear me coming, I would speed down Whalley Avenue, in New Haven, just as fast as that 1940 Ford would go. At every light, I would start off in first gear and rev the engine up and then quickly shift into second gear, I stayed in second gear until you could hear the engines rod bearings knocking.

       My car was certainly no hotrod, but I thought it was, and then I heard that there was a New Haven hot rod club called the “Road Barons”, and since I thought I was a hot-rodder I wanted to join them.

       I don’t think the Road Barons were real happy about me joining up, but after a bit of discussion and technical questions I was eventually admitted.

        I attended my first club meeting, and didn’t know a soul, so I took a seat in the back of the meeting room. It was there that I noticed another fellow sitting by himself, he was in the back row, slouched down, his foot was on the chair in front of him, and he looked real bored. The fellow dirty blond hair that was messy and two buck teeth, and he was wearing a black motorcycle jacket. My first thought was that I should stay away from him, but then I reconsidered and when the car club took a break, I went over and sat next to him and introduced myself. He said his name was Billy Flynn, and he lived on Forbes Avenue in New Haven.

      We talked for a while and Billy said he was bored with the car club meetings. I asked him what he did for a living and he said he worked for a car agency and he specialized in building car engines. That caught me by surprise, because here I was just thinking about rebuilding the engine in my 1940 Ford.

       I attended several more of the Road Baron’s meetings and always found myself sitting with Billy in the back row, and I was asking him questions about rebuilding my engine. Eventually, Billy said that he would come over to my house and teach me step by step how to do it.

       About one month prior to my meeting Billy, I had the opportunity to buy another 1940 black Ford coupe which also had a burned out V8 engine in it. I had paid fifty dollars for it, it was a beautiful little car and I had all the intentions of fixing it up.

       When Billy came over to my house, he spotted that black 1940 Ford coupe in my yard and went right over to look at it, I told Billy all about my intentions of fixing it up.

        Over the next several weeks Billy came over to my house in the evenings and instructed me on how to remove the engine, and how to take it apart. He went over every detail with me, then he showed me how to properly clean all the parts, how to hone the cylinders and how to put new rings on the pistons. Billy had advised me to buy adjustable valve lifters to replace the original valve lifters that were in the engine. Then after waiting several weeks, the new lifers came in the mail, I went to install them and they wouldn’t fit in the engine, I panicked, I just knew they had sent me the wrong parts, and after I had  waited  so long, so I ran up to the second floor of my house and called Billy.

       Once I explained the problem to him, Billy said, “Put the new lifters in your refrigerator freezer, and wait until tomorrow”, I did, the lifters had shrunk and fit perfectly into the engine, Billy knew all these simple tricks of the trade, but I thought he was my savior.

       By the time the engine was completed, Billy and I had become good friends, he had come to my house in the evenings and I had gone several times to his house on Forbes Avenue. I noticed that every time Billy came over to my house, he looked at my black 1940 Ford coupe. Finally Billy asked me to sell it to him. He said he was building a new hot Ford racing engine and that 1940 Ford would be the perfect car for it. I didn’t want to sell it, but it was Billy, and I owed him, so I relented and sold it to him. That was back around 1957, and I didn’t hear another word from Billy for several months.    

      One day, I picked up the New Haven Register, and there was a big picture right on the front page. It was my 1940 Ford coupe, and it was wrapped around a tree on State Street in New Haven, and there sitting in the middle of  State street was Billy’s souped up V8 engine, it was just sitting there just like a photographer had purposely placed it there.

      The article said that the accident occurred on a Saturday afternoon and the driver Billy Flynn was taken to grace New Haven hospital, with injuries. But it was expected that he would survive the accident. I cut the picture out of the paper to save it.   

       I waited about two weeks before I called Billy, and I was surprised when he answered the phone. I said holy shit Billy what the hell happened. Billy said, “I had just finished building a new really fast racing engine, and I invited a friend named Vernon Carlson to come with me to make a test run. I wase going around one hundred miles an hour down State Street in New Haven when it started to drizzle rain. For some reason, this guy Vernon reaches over and pulls the ignition key out of the steering column, and threw the keys out his open window”.

       When Billy told me that, I already knew that when you removed the key from a 1940 Ford steering column, you automatically lock the steering wheel, and can no longer turn it. Then Billy said, “I tried to hit the brakes, but the street was very wet and worst of all, there was a big curve coming up, and I remember hitting the tree sideways at about ninety miles an hour, then I remember the ambulance came and took me to the hospital”.

       Billy said that no one even asked him if there was any one else in the car with him and he never mentioned it. He said he was told many hours later that when the tow truck came to pick up the smashed car, they saw his spare tire up a hill on the porch of a house. When they went to retrieve the tire they found this guy Vernon Carlson laying in the bushes and he was still alive. I asked Billy if the Vernon was still alive today, he told me he didn’t know and he didn’t care if he never saw the guy again.     

      I asked Billy, what was up next, and he said, he was going to enlist in the Navy. He was afraid that charges that might be filed against him. After that I lost contact with Billy, and I had no way of knowing that he would become a celebrity, driving for Chrysler Corporation. It wasn't until 2007 when I met people that had known Billy, they said he had an automotive shop in West Haven Connecticut, and he had died of cancer.

      After that I Googled Billy Flynn, on the internet, and I read that he was a paratrooper, so I guess he went into the Army and not the Navy. Google had all the stories about Billy’s car the “Yankee Peddler”. There was also a live interview with Billy and his hair was combed neatly and the buck teeth were gone. In the interview, Billy said that Chrysler had experimented with lengthening and shortening the wheel base on the Yankee Trader trying to change the cars center of gravity. He said that’s what started the “Funny Car” craze in drag racing.   

      I kept that picture for a long time, the one showing Billy’s car, (My car) wrapped around the tree on State Street in New Haven.

 

                 

 

 

    


                                                        

The Crooked TV Story

                                                           The Crooked TV Story
                                                                        1964         
                                                                  A true story
                                           Written 12/29/2011 and rewritten 02/04/2016
                                                                 Howard Yasgar


       In 1964, I was living in Hialeah Florida.
       I had come to Florida to manage an auto wrecking business for a friend of mine.
       However, once I took over the management of the business I realized that the previous manager had embezzled so much money that it was impossible for me to save the business, so at that point my friend opted to close the place down, and I had to find something else to do to make a living if I wanted to stay in Florida.
      My mother had leased a very small hotel on Collins Avenue on Miami Beach. She had leased the hotel on a fluke for two years, starting around mid, 1962.
      The hotel, was called the Norman, was located on Collins Avenue near 70th Street, on Miami Beach, it was right above an auction gallery. Mom’s hotel caught the overflow from the larger hotels that were across the street like the Sterling and the Carillon, and it also attracted a lot of hippies and wacko’s that couldn’t pay their bill.
     Mom said she never made a dime running the hotel but she always felt like she was the queen of Miami Beach.
     When her hotel lease was up, mom liked Miami Beach so much that she wanted to stay there, so she rented a room at the Cadillac hotel.
      One day my mother called me and said that one of her friends who was also living in the Cadillac hotel was liquidation all her furnishings as she was returning back up north. Mom said we should hurry up and come down to the Cadillac hotel and look over her furniture as perhaps there was something her friend had that we could use.
      So we drove down to Miami Beach, and my mother’s friend showed us all her worn out, used furniture, and just as we were getting ready to leave the women said that she had more furniture in storage in the hotel basement. We didn’t want to appear rude, so we agreed to take a look at it.
      As I had expected, it was mostly a bunch of worn out stuff that no one else wanted. But there was also a thirteen inch black and white television on a brass colored metal wire stand, so I asked her if the television worked. She said, it worked perfectly, it was there in the basement because she had replaced it with a larger model. She said, she only wanted forty dollars for it. As there was no place to plug it in, and she appeared to be an honest person, we bought it.
       Once we got home, I immediately plugged the TV in, and sure enough it worked. The only problem was that the picture was crooked, it was higher on the right side by about three inches.
       Being mechanically inclined, I had always heard that you could fix this type of problem by moving the coil that was on the TV picture tube inside the set. So I took the rear cover off the television. However, once I looked inside I decided I didn’t want to stick my hand in there and get some kind of a high voltage shock, so I put the TV back together, and I placed a small cardboard box under the right side of the set to level out the picture, it really looked pretty stupid, and nobody in the house wanted to look at it.
       Now, whenever I was driving in the old neighborhood, where the auto wrecking yard had been located, I always looked to see if there was someone new renting the place.
      The wrecking yard I had managed was vacant for over a year, and then one day I saw several cars parked there. So out of curiosity, I pulled in to meet the new tenants.
      They were three Cuban fellows and they spoke some English, so I introduced myself telling them that I had come to Florida a year or so before to manage that very wrecking yard, but unfortunately the owner had to close it down.
      The three fellows said they had come down to Miami from New Jersey, and they had just rented the property. They said, that they were all sleeping on the floor in the wrecking yard office, it was temporary until they got the business up and running. They asked me where they could buy a cheap Television set.     
      I told them that I had a nice thirteen inch black and white TV that worked fine, the only problem was that the picture was a little crooked. Two of the fellows told me both in English and in Spanish that a crooked picture was an easy to fix. They said, all you had to do was take the back off the TV and turn the magnetic coils located on the back of the picture tube. They said they could fix the TV in five minutes.
      So I sold them the TV for the same forty dollars that I had paid for it, and I kept the TV stand. I also gave them my business card, in case they didn’t like the TV, they could call me.
     I never heard another word from them, so I assumed they had fixed the television.
     About a year passed by and I saw the wrecking yard was closed, and it was again available, the three Cuban fellows were long gone.
       About another two years passed, and one day my family decided we should go and get a pizza from a pizza joint located down town on East 4th avenue in Hialeah.
       We had remembered the store because it was owned by an old guy who wasn’t Italian. We knew that both he and his store were a little seedy, but his pizza was pretty good. We hadn’t been to his pizza place in over three years, so we hoped he was still in business.
      As we walked in the store, the first thing I saw was on a shelf in the back, he had a 13 inch black and white television with a crooked picture, he had put three books under the right side to make the picture level.
      We couldn’t stop laughing, I should have told him all he needed to do was remove the back of the TV and adjust the coil on the picture tube, it was an easy fix.  
       

  

The Cute Little Forklift Story


                                                   The Cute Little Forklift Story  
                                                                      1975
                                          And how Barney Kaplan modernized me                              

                                       Written 12/2011 Re Written 8/2015 unedited
                                                              Howard Yasgar

         This is a story all about how stubborn I was, and how a good friend, had to threaten me, in a nice way, to get me to change my way of thinking about forklifts, and once he did that, it set in motion circumstances that was worthy of me writing about it.

       It all started in 1973 when I had started a new division of our company called API Marine. We had started the new company in Miami at the same location as our original automotive company, Automotive Parts Industries or API.

       We had just started doing business with a parts dealer located in Detroit named Barney Kaplan, and soon our supplier Barney had become our friend and business mentor as well as our supplier. Every time I talked to him, he gave me a lot of suggestions on how to improve the running of our business.

        The reason we were doing business with Barney in the first place was because he was buying most of the excess marine electrical parts surplus from a company called the Prestolite Corporation, and we were purchasing almost all of it from Barney. It was because of that reason, that I would travel to Detroit every few months and sort through what Barney had bought from Prestolite, and I would fill up fifty five gallon drums with all the parts we needed. Once I had picked out a full truckload, which was about thirty to forty thousand pounds, Barney would contact a commercial trucking company and he would then, using his heavy duty forklift, load up the trailer with the filled barrels and ship it to our company in Miami. Each barrel that was on the truck, depending on what I had in it, weighed between four hundred and eight hundred pounds.

       Every time I went to Detroit to see Barney, as he was a bachelor at the time, he would have me stay with him in his apartment. This gave him the opportunity to give me his mentoring advice twenty four hours a day, and that was whether I wanted to hear it or not.

        Now at the time Barney was in his late fifties and he had a lot of experience in the automotive rebuilding business. Barney had experience from just about every aspect of rebuilding, and he never once stopped advising me about how to improve my business. Barney didn’t care at all if I disagreed with him, he just wouldn’t stop advising me, and sometimes I would get so tired of listening to him, I would go so far as to tell him that I thought he was dead wrong. But usually, many months later after telling Barney he was wrong, I would find out that Barney’s advice was actually correct.

         Whenever that happened I usually called to apologize and I told Barney he was right, and naturally that always inspired him to give me more advice. In the long run I estimated that my friend Barney was giving me good advice at least seventy present of the time.

       One day he asked me how we were unloading the truckloads of parts he was shipping to us. I told him exactly how we did it.

       At the time, our receiving of a full truck load of parts was a relatively new experience for us. We didn’t have an unloading dock, forklift or anything like that, so I told Barney how we unloaded his parts. We would put about six used rubber tires on the ground, then I would climb up into the truck with three husky helpers, and two or three more guys would wait below on the ground. We would then, by hand, jockey the heavy barrels into position on the end of the truck and let them drop on to the tires on the ground. The three fellows standing below would kind of steady the barrels as they bounced off the tires. Occasionally a barrel would bounce the wrong way and tip over, then my guys standing on the ground would pick the barrel back up and refill it with what had fallen out. We knew this was a crude way of unloading a truck, but the cost of me buying a forklift just seemed too expensive for us at the time.

      One day, Barney said, “Don’t you have a forklift”, No I told him we never had one and I don’t think I need one. Then Barney said, “How many of your guys show up for work the next day after unloading a truck”. I had to think, Barney was right, most everyone complained about sore shoulders and arms the next day, some of the guys even stayed home two or three days with aches and pains.

       Barney said, “It looks like I need to get you a forklift”. I replied, please don’t do it, I don’t want one, and besides, I really can’t afford one.

       I had hoped that was the end of my forklift conversation with Barney. I felt that owning a forklift would be an expensive situation, and as our business was just growing and I certainly didn’t need any more expenses at the time.

        About a week went by, and Barney was on the phone, and he was again talking about a forklift. He said, “Listen to me, on your next truck load, I am sending you a forklift, and when you get it, and the forklift is running 100 percent to your satisfaction, send me two hundred and fifty dollars”. Barney then said, “If you don’t take the forklift, I won’t sell you any more parts in the future.

        I knew Barney couldn’t be serious about not selling us, and even though I didn’t really want the forklift, how could I say no?  I felt it was easier for me to accept the forklift from Barney than to have to listen to him talk to me about it every time I spoke with him. 

      A few weeks later, a truck arrived from Barney and I went out to look at what he had sent to us. The truck driver opened the rear doors and laying there laying on its side in front of the loaded barrels, was the smallest rustiest forklift I had ever seen. I have to admit that at first, I didn’t even know what I was looking at, because it had faded yellow paint and there was rust everywhere, I thought it was a pile of scrap iron.

      We called a neighbor and he came over with his forklift and he carefully unloaded the piece of junk Barney had sent me. Once it was unloaded and standing on four hard rubber tires, I could see it actually was a forklift and I could see what horrible shape it was rusty and full of mud and leaves and it was missing parts.  Especially noticeable was the missing front forks which were needed to lift pallets with. I was just livid, it was truly a piece of junk and you could be sure I intended to call Barney and give him hell. It was pretty obvious that this forklift had been laying in some ones out door junk pile for a very long time. Did Barney think I was a complete idiot to buy it?

       I was so mad, my hands were shaking, so I instructed my men to push the tiny forklift off to the side of the warehouse, and out of the way. I needed to compose myself before I called Barney and raised hell with him for sending me such a piece of crap. I was steaming mad, but once I was in my office, I sat at my desk and got busy with phone calls, and I soon forgot to call Barney.

      After a day or so, and when I was a bit calmer, I walked out to look at the forklift again. I looked at the data plate. What I saw was that the forklift was a 2000 pound Towmotor, and it was built in 1942. Besides from that, it was only about three feet wide, it was so narrow that it probably could fit through my office doorway.

       So here it was 1975, and Barney had sent me a 1942 forklift, it was like an antique piece of junk that was over thirty two years old. I felt that it had probably outlived it’s usefulness a long time ago, and someone had thrown it into the junk pile. But as a mechanic myself, I admit I was curious, so I forced myself to look at the rusty antique Continental four cylinder engine. It looked like it hadn’t run for many years. The more I studied it, the more I smiled, I had to admit it was the smallest and cutest little forklift I had ever seen in my life, so I instructed one of my men to go ahead and put a new battery in the thing so we could see if the engine would turn over. I did that even though I was sure I was fiddling with an antique that I knew wasn’t going to run.

      Well two hours later, the new 12 volt battery was in, and I sat on the torn forklift seat and I turned the starter key several times, but nothing happened. By now I had collected a crowd of all my curious employees. So I kept trying even though it was obvious to all of us that the starter motor was not turning the engine over.

      Well, I considered the situation, and as long as we already wasting time putting in a battery, I asked one of my men to remove the starter motor, after all, rebuilding starters was our business.

       Later that day, the rebuilt starter was installed, and I again turned the start key, but the little four cylinder motor wouldn’t turn over, it didn’t move, not even a little bit. I tried turning the engine by hand, by grabbing and turning the cooling fan and belt, but nothing happened, the engine was obviously frozen solid.

       Well, I was a mechanic and I knew how to fix a rusty engines, I thought that perhaps it needed some oil in the cylinders, and since I had gone this far already, what the heck, wasting a little more time wouldn’t hurt anything, so I then proceeded to remove the four sparkplugs and I looked down the sparkplug holes into the motor. I could see there was nothing but rust inside the engine. So I checked the dip stick to see if the engine had any oil in it, the dip stick was clean and the engine had no oil in it. Well like I said, we had already gone this far, so I figured I couldn’t hurt anything by putting some oil in the engine. So for two days, I poured oil into the four sparkplug holes, I did it until they were full, and then I watched as the oil slowly went down the sparkplug holes and into the valves pistons and cylinders, all the way down into the engine oil pan. By the next afternoon, I tried the starter again, and believe it or not, this time the engine turned over. The entire shop was watching me and just like me, they couldn’t believe their eyes, the engine was actually turning. Now I looked down the sparkplug holes and I could see the tops of the intake and exhaust valves, and they weren’t moving, they appeared to be rusted in the open position, so I poured more oil down the spark plug holes and pushed the valves down with a hammer and metal shaft. Then when I turned the engine over, to my surprise the valves came up. So I then poured more oil in, and repeated the process of pushing the valves down while turning the engine over with the starter. I did it until the valves went up and down without me having to push them.

      We cleaned and gapped the sparkplugs, and drained the fuel tank and then filled it with fresh gasoline, that’s all it needed, the engine started right up, none of us could believe it.

       It was a 12 volt battery I had installed, so I immediately removed the 6 volt ignition coil and replaced it with a late model 12 volt coil, then put in new points and condenser in the distributor. I removed the old 6 volt generator and put on a new 12 volt alternator and voltage regulator.  

       First thing the next day, I saw everyone was standing next to the forklift. We couldn’t believe it, when I started the engine right up. We all were one hundred percent certain this was the first time the engine had run in over twenty years.

       For some reason, I wasn’t mad at Barney anymore, for us, it was now a challenge to get this little Towmotor working.

       So I called Barney, and I told him what a beautiful and cute little forklift he had sent us. I told him the engine ran absolutely perfect but the forks for the forklift were missing. Barney said, he would find a set of forks for us somewhere. He also said that in the meantime I should check the forklifts transmission to be sure it had oil, and make sure everything was working OK,  before we paid him the two hundred and fifty dollars.

        I went back out to the warehouse and looked at the forklift transmission. It had a tall gear shift lever that was held down with eight bolts, I loosened all the bolts. I already knew from my old hot rod days that you always lifted the transmission shift lever forks up very carefully, you did that so you could install it back exactly the same way it was removed. This was very important as the shift lever forks could rotate and could be accidentally installed incorrectly. So I removed the entire shift lever assembly and gently placed it on a shelf, I did it without moving any of its parts.

       Then when I looked into the transmission, my heart nearly stopped, I could have cried, as it was full of water, and the water was reddish brown like milk chocolate. The water had been in there so long it had completely rusted and pitted up the entire inside of the transmission. I stuck my finger in the mud and it was a solid thick brown, it was the kind of reddish brown mud that stuck to your finger and wouldn’t come off.

       I again thought that dirty bastard Barney had sent me a piece of junk.

       It took two days for me to calm down, and then look closer at the forklift transmission. I studied it from all sides and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t like a simple car transmission, and the only way to remove it was to take the entire mast assy off of the forklift, and then move the whole engine forward, once that was done, then the transmission could be unbolted from the engine, slid backwards, and lifted out, boy was I pissed off.

        At that point, I could see that the entire forklift needed to come apart. And by now I had so much time and money invested in this piece of junk that I knew I had to do it, like it or not.

       It was certainly a major project, but by using heavy duty jacks, levers and wood blocks and a lot of sweat, I was able to disassemble the entire mast which was the entire front of the forklift. Most of the work had to be done with me laying on my side on the concrete floor of the warehouse.

       When I finally unbolted the transmission from the engine, it wouldn’t slide back. I called out to a few of my shop mechanics to come and look at it, perhaps I had missed taking out a hidden bolt. But everyone agreed there was no hidden bolt so we proceeded to pry the transmission out with a crowbar, but that was only until we heard a sickening cracking noise. There was a hidden bolt, and now I had broken off the top of the transmission bell housing.

        I tried to remain calm, as I removed the transmission and unbolted the broken piece of housing off the engine. Then I had one of my men thoroughly wash out the inside of the transmission out removing all the brown mud, so I could see what was going on.

        As I looked inside the transmission I was surprised to see that all the gears were still intact, and yes they were all pitted from rust. So my solution was soaking everything two days in mineral spirits, until all the gears in the transmission turned by hand. Then I proceeded to disassemble everything, carefully putting all the parts all in proper order on a bench so we could sandblast the rust off them. I knew that I could easily reassemble the transmission as long as I kept everything in the correct order, and not mix the parts up.

       There was an upper main shaft that had a large sliding gear on it, the gear had a place on one side for the shifter yoke to slip in, so it was important to make sure the gear didn’t get taken off the shaft and reversed by accident.

        I called over my trusted sandblaster Jose, who had worked several years for me, I knew he would do as he was told.

       While I welded the transmission case, Jose sandblasted all the gears, bearings and shafts. He did a beautiful job, oiling all the parts after sandblasting them. I was a little nervous, so just to be sure, I asked Jose if he had taken off the gear the main shaft. Jose looked me in the eye and said “No Mister Howard”.

        I decided that even if all the bearings and gears were badly pitted, I could reassemble the transmission, and because worked in oil anyway, the rust pitting would actually help lubricate everything. The transmission assembly job went like clockwork. I then bolted the transmission on the engine, and reinstalled the forklifts mast. It took two days to complete but there was a big sense of satisfaction by me and everyone involved.

        I got on the torn seat and started the forklift up. I put it in reverse gear and backed the forklift out of the warehouse and onto the street, everything was going just fine. Then I shifted into first gear, and the forklift took off just like a race car up the street. When that happened, it was an incredible feeling, I was so proud of my accomplishment. Well, that was until I went to shift into second gear. There was no second gear, nor was there a third gear. I kept trying to shift and eventually discovered that I had three speeds in reverse and only one speed forward. At that point, all my employees came out to see what was wrong. We all diagnosed the problem at the same time, I had probably put the shifter forks in wrong, even though I had carefully taken the assembly out and placed it on a shelf so no one would change its position. Someone in the shop must have been fooling around with it.

      Well, I again took the shift lever off and tried installing it in several different positions, none of which worked. I peered into the transmission and quietly studied every gear and what was going on. The problem became obvious, Jose had reversed the large sliding gear when he had sandblasted it. I questioned him about it and he gave me a blank stare, that’s when I found out that Jose didn’t speak a word of English, he never understood when I told him not to reverse the gear. The only English he spoke was “Yes and no Mister Howard”.

       It took another two days to take apart the whole forklift and take out the transmission again. It was easier the second time, we knew where all the nuts and bolts went. Finally to the clapping hands from all the shop guys, the little 1942 two thousand pound Towmotor was all together and actually worked, and the 35 year old engine ran perfectly.

       By now we had invested so much time and labor into the little forklift that I probably could have bought a brand new fork lift cheaper.

       Well we paid Barney and we used that 1942 Towmotor for over ten years, unloading hundreds of trucks. We used it continuously until 1985, when Barney sent us a much bigger, used, thirty five hundred pound forklift.

       We then retired that cute little Towmotor by parking it under the pallet racking in one of our warehouses, and it just sat there for another 20 years, until 2005.

       My wife Katherine was now running our company and I told her the story about the

$250.00 dollar, 1942 Towmotor forklift that Barney Kaplan had sent me in 1975. When she heard the story she brought that little Towmotor forklift back over to our main building, and we gave it a new coat of yellow paint, wrapped it in clear plastic, put a giant red bow on it and loaded it on a truck, sending it back to Barney Kaplan in Detroit, along with a note thanking him for the use of the machine.

        Over 30 years had passed since Barney had talked me into buying the rusty little Towmotor and we thought sending the little Towmotor back to Barney would be our little joke on him, we thought he would display it at his company as an antique. After all Barney was then close to 90 years old at the time.

        When I called Barney I was surprised, when he told me that he had again sold the

Towmotor forklift. Barney said that he had sold it to a mutual friend named Mike Murley, of Murley’s Marine, in Fairhaven Michigan, so I just had to call Mike Murley to find out how his new little 1942 Towmotor forklift was doing and to tell him my story. Mike said, he loved the machine and only the gas was bad. After all the years of storage in our warehouse, he said that all he did was change the gas and the carburetor and the forklift was running just fine.

       On January 2012, Mike Murley called to wish us all a happy new year, and he said that he had just converted the 1942 Towmotor to run on propane gas.

       It that a cute Towmotor forklift story, or is that a cute Towmotor  forklift story?        

 

 

                                                   

The Tommy Letis Pick-up Truck Story

                                             The Tommy Letis Pickup Truck Story            
                                                               1959 to 2011
                             A true story about Tommy Letis and his 1956 Ford Pickup  
                                                 And how Tommy became a legend                                                                                         
                                  Written 03/2011 and rewritten 05/29/2016 unedited
                                                             Howard Yasgar


     This is a true story of how I met my best friend Tommy Letis, and it is a friendship that has now lasted more than 55 years. This story took place starting in late 1958, when I was living in Westville Connecticut, and was attending New Haven College. I was also working part time in the evenings at a Gulf gas station located on Derby Avenue in New Haven. My parents were concerned that I didn’t have decent and reliable transportation to attend college, so my father suggested that we just go to the local Chevrolet agency in New Haven.
     At Cooley Chevrolet, the sales manager asked who was going to be using the car and I said I was going to be using it for college. He said, “If it is for college, why not get an Impala convertible it was only a few hundred dollars more than a regular model”, well I just loved the idea, and my father just shrugged his shoulders which the sales manager assumed meant OK.
    As the salesman was writing everything up, he said, “You are here just at the right time. Chevrolet is offering several promotional options. He explained that Chevrolet was experimenting with putting Corvette 4 speed transmissions in the bigger passenger cars to see how it worked out. He said that if I wanted one Chevrolet would throw it in at no charge, so of course I wanted one. Also he said Chevrolet was trying to stimulate sales of their 348 cubic inch engines. They had introduced it into the passenger car line, but the public’s reaction wasn’t as good as they had expected, so to make the engine more powerful, they were experimenting with using 3 carburetors, they called it a Tri-power package, and he would include it in the car if we wanted. Then he said, “Any 1959 cars that came with those options automatically came with Chevrolets new positraction differential.”        
     What we received from the Chevrolet, was actually a 1959 Chevrolet, Impala Convertible, factory made muscle car. It was an absolutely beautiful car, and to this day I don’t fully understand how we ended up with what was apparently some kind of experimental model.  It was a jet black convertible with a red interior, and it had a 348 cubic inch engine with the Tri power package (three carburetors). It also had an experimental four speed Corvette transmission installed, and it had a special non-slip positraction rear differential, and dual exhaust. It was absolutely a factory made hotrod and it sounded like one. Consequently anywhere I went, as soon as I stopped for a red light, someone always pulled up, revved their engine, and they wanted to race me, and I usually I accommodated them.
     At the time, in 1959 organized drag racing and street drag racing were fairly common activities. There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic in those days and whenever we wanted to race seriously, everyone simply would head up to the Connecticut Turnpike and we just drag raced.
    At the time, one of the common hangouts for the hot rod race crowd was Jimmy’s Restaurant located at Savin Rock amusement park at West Haven Connecticut. Jimmy’s was both an indoor and outdoor restaurant specializing in split hot dogs, cooked on a flat top, and they also had fried clams and lobster rolls. Jimmy’s had a huge parking lot, with room to park hundreds of cars. So every evening lots of cars would come and they all parked in long rows, all the back rows were sort of reserved for the guys with hotrods, so that’s where I parked most evenings.
    Parking at Jimmy’s was like a big social event, everyone would walk up to the take out windows where Sal the hot dog chef, would be cooking hundreds of hotdogs. Sal would split them, cook them on the flat top and put them into hotdog rolls faster than the eye could see. Working behind Sal, was Jimmy himself, he was handling the French fries, sodas and the fried clams. Everyone would come up to the windows, stand in line and order. Sal and Jimmy knew all of us regulars, and they always joked around with us as they assembled the plates of hotdogs, which everyone would take back to their cars to eat.                        
    Every so often, in the evenings, a shiny black 1956 Ford pickup truck would appear. The truck would drive slowly between the rows of cars. Its driver revving up the trucks engine and making its exhaust roar. Occasionally the driver would horse the engine and pop the clutch making the front of the pickup jerk up in the air, which was a novel maneuver rarely seen in 1959, as most engines just didn’t have the power to do that kind of thing.
     No one at Jimmy’s had any idea of who owned that truck, but the rumors were always circulating hot and heavy. Some people said the pickup truck had an experimental engine in it, and the hood was locked with a chain so no one could see it. It was said that whoever sat in the passenger side of the truck would always partially roll down his window always looking for someone to race, and it was said that they would take on all comers, and it was also said that the truck had never lost a race.
     As the pickup drove up and down the rows of cars in the parking lot, I could see there were two people riding in the cab, but I had no idea as to who they were.  
     Every evening, I waited in trepidation, hoping the pickup wouldn’t challenge me to a race. Because I was told by pretty much everyone that I didn’t stand a chance of winning. Several people claimed that they had witnessed the truck racing, and they said it was so incredibly fast, and it beat all the competition like they were standing still. So I felt that I didn’t need that kind of embarrassment.
     Then, several weeks passed and the black Ford pickup truck didn’t show up anymore. Its absence became a topic of conversation among every one of us parked in the back row, we all wondered what had happened to the truck.
     Then one day the truck appeared again at Jimmy’s, but something was very different, there was no revving of the engine and no popping of the clutch, it just drove in between a few rows of parked cars, and then it just drove off and disappeared for good, after a few weeks the truck was all but forgotten about.
     Then on one summer evening, I was parked in the rear row of Jimmies parking lot. It was a nice warm evening and I had the convertible top down. I was sitting in the passenger seat, the car was running with the air conditioner on, I was waiting for several of my friends to show up.
     I had hardly noticed him, but there was someone standing near my driver’s side door. I looked over and saw a fellow studying the interior of my car. He looked to be about 5 foot 6 inches tall, with sandy blond hair, and a friendly cherubic face. He had on a flannel long sleeve work shirt and green work pants and he was twirling a stubby small cigar in his mouth. He took the cigar from his mouth and with a big friendly smile and kind of a chuckle he said, “How does it go”, she goes OK, I replied. “How’s that four speed Corvette transmission working out, he asked”, OK, I replied. He said, “Does your 348 cubic inch engine have the 3 carburetors,” yes it does, I replied, “Does the engine have any punch,” he asked. Yes I replied but not as much punch as I would like. He said, “I had heard that Chevrolet was building these factory hot rods, but I never really saw one up close until now. His face was still smiling, “I want you to know I think it’s really a sharp looking car he said,” and that was the moment when I knew that I liked the guy.
    Now, still to this day I still don’t know why I did it, but I asked him if he wanted to take the car for a drive, I had never said that ever to anyone before, but that was exactly how I first met Tommy Letis. Tommy then introduced himself, as he got in the car and he took it for a spin up on the Connecticut turnpike. When we returned to the back row of Jimmies parking lot, I asked Tommy what he was driving, he said, “I’m just driving a pickup truck,” and he pointed behind us, and I looked across the street where a shiny black 1956 Ford pickup truck was parked in the shadows.
     We walked across the street and got into Tommy’s truck, and he drove cautiously up to the Connecticut turnpike, but once we were there, he stepped on the gas. I was startled, it was like I was in a jet aircraft, I was thrown back in the pickup trucks seat, and it just took my breath away. I had never experienced a force like that before, as Tommy then backed off the gas, and the truck slowed down to the turnpike speed limit, and all I could say was, Wow.
      Tommy said, I’m sorry, but I can't really open it up, as I’m having a little problem with the Connecticut State Police right now, and they have their eye out for me. I thought, my goodness, he wasn’t even going at full speed and we had already accelerated faster than I had ever done before.
     By the time we returned to Jimmies parking lot, Tommy and I were good friends, and I gave him the directions to come visit me at the Gulf gas station on Derby Avenue, where I was working part time in the evenings. Tommy promised that he would come and visit me, and he did. He came every night that I worked, just to talk and keep me company.
     As Tommy and I became friends, he came to my home and met my father and mother, and I also went to Tommy’s home. But I was jealous of the way Tommy lived. His home was like nothing I had ever seen before, he lived with his mom and Dad and his brother and grandfather, and they lived on what was formerly an egg farm located on Hunt Lane, which at that time was a rural area of Foxon Connecticut. The chicken coops were now all falling down, but behind the house there was a large barn, and that’s where Tommy parked the pickup truck, and also worked on his ten wheeler dump truck.
     Now the reason I was jealous, was that although Tommy and I were similar in age, here Tommy was already in his own business and earning what I thought was some very serious money, and I was still in school, and hardly earning anything. Wherever we went Tommy always carried a roll of cash in his pocket and it appeared that he could afford to do just about anything he wanted, and that was something I certainly couldn’t do.
    At the time we were both only twenty one years old, but Tommy’s having plenty of money, allowed him to do things that would have been impossible for me to do.  
    One day, Tommy asked me to go with him to a Ford truck agency, and I watched him order a brand new dump truck for $26,000.00, a whole lot of money back in 1959. Tommy walked out of that agency like his buying that truck, was nothing out of the ordinary.
     I started spending more time at the Tommy’s home, watching and helping as he worked on his dump truck in the barn. For me, just being at Tommy’s home was always a learning experience. His grandfather, was an old time woodworking craftsman from Germany. He taught me how to boil and bend wood to make sleigh runners, something I will never forget how to do. So you could say, I just loved hanging around Tommy’s house, and the best part was that Tommy’s father George treated me as if I were one of the family.
     In the summer evenings, Tommy and I would always go out riding in the Ford pickup truck, Tommy was constantly looking for cars to race. He would drive to all the popular hang outs, places like hamburger and hotdog joints, because those were the places where all the guys with the souped up cars hung around.
    Tommy, had a simple routine, he would drive right into the restaurant parking lots, and start revving up the pickup trucks engine, that always got everyone's attention pretty fast. Then Tommy would roll down his window and offer to race anyone. But usually there were no takers, as always the pickup trucks reputation had preceded it, but you never knew, as there always seemed to be someone new around that thought they could beat him. But inevitably they always lost, with Tommy pulling away from them just like they were standing still.
     Tommy would always start each race from a rolling start, and no one seemed to mind it. Even when sometimes a competitor would get the jump on Tommy, he would quickly pass by them like they weren't even moving. After watching him win so many races like that, pompously, I would roll down the passenger side window as we raced and I would wave goodbye to the competitors as Tommy rapidly pulled away from them. It was just an amazing sight to see, as Tommy accelerated I could turn and look out the cabs rear window and see the competitor falling way behind us. It was a special feeling to be with him, it was just like we were in a rocket ship.
    On some evenings my cousin Allen, came along with us and even with the extra weight of having three of us sitting in the truck’s cab, Tommy would still beat the all  the competitors.
     I recently discussed this story with my cousin Allen, and he remembered some of the humorous confrontations we had with the police. It was unfortunate, but as the reputation of Tommy’s Ford truck grew, the State and local police started to recognize us wherever we went.
    Now trying to pry the true story out of Tommy, as to how the truck came to be, was no easy task, but I questioned him constantly about it, mostly because I was just curious. But once I heard the story, I felt that the reason Tommy didn’t like to talk about it, was because the story had ended up with lots of hard feelings between him and one of his good friends.
    He said that it all began in 1956, when Tommy, who was doing well with his dump truck business, went out and bought a brand new 1956 Ford pickup truck. At that time, Tommy, had a friend that lived nearby, his name was Billy Quick. Billy Quick was not only Tommy’s best friend but he was also a very good mechanic.
    After driving the pickup truck for a few years, Tommy got the idea that he wanted to soup the truck up. He decided that he wanted to make the 6 cylinder Ford truck into a “Street hot rod”. He wanted to do it because it was the kind of thing that lots of other guys were doing back in 1958. Also, by 1958, the local junk yards were starting to get in late model wrecked cars that had powerful V8 overhead valve engines in them. So Tommy told Billy Quick that he decided to pull the small 6 cylinder Ford engine out of the pickup truck and replace it with a high powered and souped up V8 engine that would be much more powerful, and more fun to drive. So they started calling around to the junk yards to see what was available, and they eventually located an auto wrecker that had just gotten in a wrecked 1957 Pontiac automobile with a V8 overhead valve engine. The only problem was, at the time, Pontiac V8 engines were not considered worthy of building up into racing engines, and few companies sold any parts to soup them up, and that was a big negative, but Tommy and Billy took that as a challenge, and he bought the 1957 Pontiac V8 Engine anyway, and then they did everything they could to soup it up.
They bored the engines cylinders out, and they located special racing pistons, and then they shaved down and ported and relieved the cylinder heads, and then they had the entire engine completely balanced. Tommy had called up the “Howard Camshaft Company” who, at the time, were the leading manufacturers of automotive racing camshafts. He told them that he wanted them to design the most radical, experimental camshaft that they could come up with for his Pontiac engine, Tommy told them that cost was no object. So the Howard Camshaft Company did design a special cam shaft for Tommy’s engine, and it cost him close to $400.00, which was a lot of money in those days. Prices like that, were out of reach for most people, but not for Tommy, he had the money, and he was now on a mission to build a high powered Pontiac engine for his pickup truck.
     Once they installed the new racing camshaft, the engine ran so crazy that all the studs that held the valve rockers into the cylinder heads pulled out. So to solve the problem, Billy Quick drove in oversize studs, hitting them into the engine with a 10 lb. sledge hammer. This was a solution that was unheard of at the time, and it was a very unorthodox way to fix the rocker stud problem, but then, nothing Tommy and Billy did to the Pontiac engine was orthodox, everything  was just as unorthodox as can be. When the engine was finally completed, they then had to design a special adapter to bolt the engine to the 1956 Ford’s three speed manual transmission. Then they had to fit the 1957 Pontiac engine into the pickup trucks engine compartment.
    Tommy said that the transmission they used was originally designed for the Ford six cylinder engine so using it turned out to be a wise move as the high gear ratio combined with the big V8 engine was what made the truck literally jump off the ground when in first gear. They eventually got the engine to fit in the truck, and surprisingly enough, it started up and it ran, but that radical racing camshaft they had installed made the engines RPM  difficult to control. So Billy tried playing around with the engines carburation and he finally determined that they were just not getting enough fuel into the engine. So then he installed a high volume Stewart Warner electric fuel pump, and this allowed them to get the motor to run smoother, just smooth enough so they could actually drive the truck, on the street.
    To first try it out, Billy got behind the steering wheel, and that's when they found out that they had somehow accidentally built a rocket ship.
     That was when Tommy and Billy started to make the rounds of all the hamburger and hotdog joints, and taking on anyone that wanted to race them. By doing this they eventually ended up at Jimmy’s Restaurant. Tommy told me that Billy Quick was always doing all of the driving.
    One evening they were on the Connecticut Turnpike racing another car, and as Tommy’s pick up pulled away from the competitor, they noticed a State Police Trooper was right behind them. The Connecticut Trooper was trying his best, but he couldn’t catch up with Tommie’s pickup truck.
     Billy Quick, was determined to escape, so he took off down an exit ramp at over 110 miles per hour. Tommy said he thought that at that speed, they could never negotiate the turn in the ramp and he was bracing himself for a horrible crash. But somehow the truck stuck to the road and they eluded the police, and Billy then slowed down and kept to unlit city streets, until they got to Tommy's home and the truck was safely hidden in the barn.
     That evening the police came calling, it seems they had taken Tommy's license tag number. They asked if Tommy had been driving the truck that night, and he said no. (That was true, Billy Quick was driving). The police asked to see the truck, it was in the barn and the radiator was still hot and smoking so Tommy was arrested.
     Now, being arrested was no concern to Tommy, but possibly losing his driver’s license was a big concern. If he was ever convicted he would lose his license and lose his dump truck business, so at the
Police station, Tommy said he was not driving the truck, he said that it was Billy Quick, and Billy Quick when arrested said that it was Tommy that was driving. I don't exactly know what happened at that point as Tommy never seem to want to talk about it, but he didn't lose his license and he never spoke to Billy Quick again, nor did Billy ever talk to Tommy again, and that was the whole story behind that Black 1956 Ford Pickup truck, that is, until I met Tommy at Jimmy’s Restaurant.
    After a year or so of street my racing with Tommy, He began to get antsy about wanting to make the truck go faster. Tommy said that he wanted to be able to race the truck from a standing start, rather than a rolling start. Personally, I didn’t think the truck needed to be any faster, but Tommy kept asking me what I thought he should do, and I was hard pressed to come up with a solution for him, as I thought he already had a winning combination and he probably had the fastest street racing vehicle in the entire New England area.
      Finally, the only suggestion I had for Tommy was to lock the differential on the truck. This would make both rear tires turn at the same time and give the truck more traction on the take off. If we locked up the trucks differential, Tommy would be able to race from a standing start. But I warned Tommy, in locking the differential, there were some sacrifices that had to be made, and because both tires now turned at the same speed, and this would make going around corners difficult and put a lot of stress on all the gears in the differential.
    “Let’s do it, Tommy said, who gives a shit about turning corners”. So we jacked up the truck in the barn and I slid under and opened up the rear differential case, and with an electric arc welding machine I carefully welded the spider gears in the rear differential together, this now locked both rear tires, making them turn together at the same time. As soon as I was done, Tommy was anxious to try it out, so we tried to push the truck out of the barn by hand, but by locking the differential, making the turn out of the barn was now almost impossible.
    Once we were on solid pavement, Tommy, tried spinning the rear wheels from a standing start and they grabbed the ground perfectly. That pickup truck didn’t lose even one moment on the take off, it now had one hundred percent perfect traction, and Tommy could now race from a standing start.
    Tommy said he loved it, he said the truck was perfect. But every time we took a corner, the truck would make loud chirping noises coming from the locked rear tires, it bothered me, but Tommy said he could care less about hearing the chirping noise coming from the tires as we turned the street corners. But the fact that Tommy could now race from a standing start, was what he always wanted, and I had to agree with him that there was no question that the truck was now much faster on the takeoff then before.
      For the next several weeks, we continued going out in the evenings looking for anyone to race, and the truck performed absolutely perfectly, but one evening, we were driving by the Yale Bowl in New Haven, we stopped at a red light, when all of a sudden a black 1957 Chevrolet coupe pulled up next to us. Before the light turned green and with expert control, the driver let out his clutch, making the 1957 Chevy lurch forward then he punched it again, making the front end of that Chevy lift up.  Now that Tommy could race from a standing start, he waited for the red light to change to green, and as he let out the clutch, the truck lurched forward and we heard a loud explosive noise that came from the rear differential, was awful, the truck stopped dead in the street. The power from the engine was no longer
Turning the rear wheels. We both knew immediately what happened, the rear differential had destroyed itself. So as we got out of the truck, that black 1957 Chevy backed up to us, and he rolled down his window. “Do you guys need a lift he asked”, we did need a lift and he drove us all the way to Tommy's house, in Foxon. Once there we got in my 1959 Chevy, and with a tow chain we pulled the truck home and into the barn.
     The times were changing, and also our lives were changing, we were both getting older. So Tommy and I started an auto wrecking business, and then all of a sudden, girls were becoming interesting to us. So for a while, Tommy and I double dated, and whenever I brought up the topic of the 1956 Ford pickup truck, Tommy would always say, “Sure we can get it running again”, but we never did. That truck just sat in the barn, and it seems like we never had the time anymore to get around to working on it. Eventually Tommy got married, and he built a new house across the street from his father’s house, but he still used his father’s barn, to store the pickup truck and for his dump truck business.
     I left for Army, and then in 1963, I also got married, and moved to Florida. Tommy and I sort of lost touch. But then in 1969 I called Tommy from Miami, I told him I had gotten involved with a friend and we were removing the railroad from Haiti. I needed Tommy’s advice regarding an old Mack truck my friend was rebuilding in Haiti. We ended our conversation with me asking him about the 1956 Ford pickup truck, and Tommy said it was still sitting there in the barn.
    Again around 2001, I got the idea to call Tommy up again, and this time when I called he was really surprised to hear from me. Tommy said was delighted for me to have found him again. Tommy said he was always thinking about going to Haiti to look for me, somehow he had gotten the idea I lived there.
     I told Tommy we lived in Miami and were renovating a place in the Florida Keys. Tommy said that he and his girlfriend Sandy were in Florida every year for NASCAR races in Daytona where she also owned a condo and Tommy said they always came to Miami, and to the Keys to visit friends. So he promised to come visit us, and the following year they did.
     Tommy, was still in the dump truck business, but had expanded into sewer and cellar excavating as well, and now with his girlfriend Sandy's help they had also expanded into the home construction business, and as expected, we talked about the 1956 black pickup truck.  I could see that Tommy got wistful every time the conversation came up, and it was now hard to get him to talk about it. It appears that somewhere down the line he needed more room in the barn and he sold the pickup truck, but now he regretted doing it.
     Sandy told me that sometime in 2009, she located the original 1956 Ford pickup trucks registration papers, so they went to a junk yard that had a computer system that traces registrations, but it turned out to be a dead end. Sandy said that Tommy told her that if they could ever find the present owner, Tommy would buy the truck back.
     Then just by chance, at a car show in Essex Connecticut, they bumped into a fellow, who said that he knew a guy in “Deep River Connecticut” that collected black 1956 Ford pickup trucks.  So off, to Deep River Connecticut, Tommy and Sandy went, and they eventually found a house with two 1956 black Mercury (Canadian Ford) pickup trucks, that were parked in a garage. There was even a black Ford pickup truck parked in front of the house. Tommy looked into the window of the pickup truck in front of the house, and laying inside, were the two inner door panels, from his original 1956 Ford Truck, he recognized them, but as no one was home, they could only leave a note.
     That evening they received a call from the trucks owner. Yes he said he had once owned Tommy’s pickup truck, but he gave it to his brother who lived in Vermont, and he thinks his brother junked it.
     As of March 2011, Sandy says that Tommy thinks the truck may still be in Vermont, and if I know
Sandy and Tommy we haven't heard the end of this story yet.
     In May of 2016, I received a call from Sandy, It appears that they had just attended a car show at a local Dairy Queen, and a fellow there recognized Tommy. He said, “Aren’t you the guy that had that fast 1956 Ford pickup truck back in 1959”.  Tommy said, “Yes”.  The fellow said, “Man, you are a legend around here, can I stand next to you”.