COAL: The Nickmobiles – Extra-Carricular Activities

1953 Ford Customline


In 1963 my parents and I amicably separated. They went to San Juan, PR, and I went to Subiaco Academy in northwest Arkansas for my sophomore year of high school. Subiaco wasn’t on the edge of nowhere, but you could see it from there. 

Which was a good thing. It gave us the freedom to do things we couldn’t have done in a more populated setting, such as having a car club. Fr. Nick was our sponsor, and that gave our club the imprimatur to do pretty much what we wanted. To be a member of the Car Club you had to cough up five bucks. A driver’s license wasn’t required, which was a good thing since I didn’t have one. The seniors in the club went to a junkyard in Paris (Arkansas) one Saturday and bought a very straight (but very tired) 1953 Ford Customline Tudor with a flathead V8 and three-on-the-tree for 60 bucks. It was mouse gray (Woodsmoke Gray) and had ceased to shine a long time ago. Actually, it was kinda fuzzy. It had huge, gaping holes where the floor panels once were, but a few sheets of Masonite fixed that problem. Freedom? No registration, no insurance, no problem.

The first modification we made to the car was to remove the muffler so that the flattie could serenade us with its unique sound. We then spent many sunny Sunday afternoons cruising the back dirt roads surrounding the abbey.

In the spring we decided that the car needed to become a Sunliner, and so we cut off the top. Let’s just say that the driving dynamics went from poor to execrable. Before the seniors graduated in May, the car was returned to the junkyard from whence it came.

Fr. Nick’s Air Force International


One of the “institutions” at Subiaco was touring the countryside with Fr. Nick on Sunday afternoons. We shot squirrels, forded streams or just dicked around. The vehicle was an ex-Air Force International flatbed, which at some point had lost its hood and been repainted silver. This was a hugely popular event, as you can see in the photo I took with my trusty Kodak Instamatic 100. Once, when we had to take the hard road (Rte. 22) to get to where we needed to go, we were stopped by a cop who demanded that all legs had to be on top of the flatbed and not hanging over it. He wasn’t concerned about our lack of registration or insurance.

1954 Pontiac Catalina Starcraft on a mission


Subiaco was blessed with many alumni who had lots of crappy old cars they no longer wanted. These became fodder for Nick’s “test drives”. The fact that I can’t remember what happened on this particular torture test (the Pontiac didn’t float) probably means either that the car successfully made it across the stream or that we had to push it across.

These were fun times. I doubt that the school would allow such shenanigans to go on now, but I’m glad to have been able to partake in a freer time.