Cars and Stories

1948 Ford

Doheny Photos 2004

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After a LONG day cruising 17 mile drive...


1948 Ford

The first and last time

In the summer of 63' I discovered a universal truth that had been mostly forgotten in modern times: wood is essential to survival. Wood for building boats to travel across the great oceans, for erecting fortresses to defend against the attack, for building homes to shelter our frail human shell, and, of course for making fire. You've gotta have wood.

Kirby and I absolutely had to have fire during the first night of our surf trip to Baja, so Kirby tore the upper lift gate off my dad's 46' Ford Woody and began breaking it to put in the fire. As I watched, wood's great importance to mankind became instantly clear to me through the tequila and Carta Blancas, and I was pleased to have come to such an enriched understanding. The next morning, the beer and tequila themselves filtered away, and left an enriched understanding of what my father would do to me when Kirby and I came back from "Our boyscout retreat in the mountains" with the upper liftgate missing."

Piece of cake," smiled Kirby as we drove towards Ensenada. "Tim Furgeson's dad is a carpenter and has every kind of wood and stain you could imagine." Once we're back, I expect we could build a new gate thing in less than 20 mins. Nobody will ever know it went into the fire. We pulled into a space 20 mins later and parked the woody in what seemed to be the perfect spot. But now thinking back, the 20 rowdy Mexican cowboys should have been a red flag.

Everyone knows the best thing for a major hangover is the hair of the dog that bit you. But "one beer" at the El Zapato Roja turned into a table full of empty brown bottles with half the labels torn off them. In Mexico you could drink in a bar when you were 17, and make plenty of noise. The juke box is there to fuel the fire with powerful magic (Mexican Polka) and the beers turn you into suave charismatic men. Even though Kirby was only 16, when you are Mexico you're invincible. You can feel the strength in your arms.

When the balcony and the 20 Mexican Cowboys above the woodie collapsed and fell on her roof, everyone was OK. Invincible, except for the woody. The front half of the woodie's roof was not invincible. It was broken and scattered all over the front bench seat.

Kirby offered that now would be a good time for us to leave before the federalies showed up and started asking questions. Using only hand signals we enlisted the help of the cowboys to help us remove the balcony support from the roof of the car.

Standing there looking at the car head on I noticed that the whole car now had a lean to the left appearance, even though the balcony was now free from the roof. The confusing part was that the fenders and running boards were correct but just the wood was leaning. A level and some nails would do the trick, offered Kirby. The hole, on the other hand, was going to be a problem. After trying in my mind to come up with a solution I finally decided to ignore it as much as possible. I vowed to never go home and to stay on the run forever. Anyway, we were most concerned about gaining distance from the El Zapato Roja, so we drove South with reckless speed. After a few miles we stopped and I rigged a towel over the hole to block the intense sun and make it look a little less obvious.

On our way back to camp just after the towel flew away and took off the rest of the top material like a big kite I stood on the front seat and perched half my body out of the wagon. Kirby took a turn, I leaned left, hit myself on the few remaining slats and heard the strangest creak I'd ever heard. Suddenly I saw the entire roof lift a few inches up and set back down a little off center.

We finally made it back to camp and decided to cut the trip short and head home in the morning. We woke the next morning with clear heads and assessed the damage. Overnight the moist ocean air had caused the sides to lean even more. They felt sturdy enough, but looked very odd. Here is this big woody wagon with half a roof, no upper lift gate or top material leaning to the left. No Bueno. So we tied the doors shut and climbed in through the windows. Heading for home, utterly defeated.

By the time we made the border I was numb and sunburned. When we were directed to secondary, I wasn't surprised. I must admit, when the federalies started laughing it didn't help.

I can remember nothing more than my father's sheer disappointment when we drove up in his destroyed car three hours later. There was never any mention of a scouting trip on my part. I never got to borrow the car again, but spent the remainder of that summer at my bag boy job working to pay my debt.

It's become somewhat of a family tradition. My father still tells this story to my kids. Then we go for a drive in my beautiful woodie. He drives. The first and last time.