Recently I decided to take a few days off from work to get some various tasks done around the house. Going through a cabinet in the basement uncovered a photo album from the mid-1990s. The findings were simply too good to keep to myself.
This Chevrolet was captured in the midst of this grouping, as these pictures were all taken between May 1995 and mid-1997. This 1961 Bel-Air was found near Osage Beach, Missouri, and, no, it’s not pointed up that steep of a hill. This was the age of 110 film (remember that?) and the human zoom; these pictures were all taken with the same camera. Even better, my photography is on the same illustrious level now as it was then.
This Kaiser is perhaps the best find of all with this picture (and many subsequent ones) being taken in May 1995. I found it near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, parked in front of what appeared to be an abandoned building. Sioux Falls was a stop on a journey west. It was parked not too far away from a water fall where it seemed half the town was enjoying the water. Young and old, all were there trying to beat the heat.
We later stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the Corn Palace, to spend the night. If memory serves, we stayed at the Thunderbird Motel, a quaint little mom and pop establishment near the interstate.
We found this 1988 to 1991 Ford Crown Victoria owned by the South Dakota Police in the parking lot of the South Dakota Department of Transportation district office. The red car parked behind the Ford is a 1989 (at newest) Plymouth Reliant owned by the SD-DOT.
My paternal grandmother accompanied me on this trip. Perhaps an odd pairing, I really didn’t want to be alone and knew spending that much time with any of my friends likely wouldn’t bolster the friendship. On the other hand, Grandma was ready, willing, and had no qualms about demanding old folks discounts wherever we went.
A few nights earlier, we had spend the night in Jackson, Minnesota. Another locally owned establishment (which seem to have since become extinct), the early 30s male owner asked if we were married – well, we did have the same last name, so what else could it be? At the time I was twenty-two and looked to be about eleven; Grandma was seventy-four and wasn’t trying to hide it. When I told her of his question, she bulled up, then marched over to the office to make a big production about how she and her grandson were making a tour of North America.
He gave her a fist full of coupons.
At the time, I was a rabid connoisseur of the various auto trader magazines. One dealer I would frequently see was Motion Unlimited in Rapid City, South Dakota. So, before going to see Mt. Rushmore we had to go see some cars (or maybe it was the other way around; it’s been two decades).
This 1956 Ford really got under my craw in a good way. Nothing about it should have been so appealing; it has those ghastly whitewall tires mounted to tacky wire rims, it was a six-cylinder, and it had a two-speed automatic. However, I think it was the silver and black two-tone that really burrowed itself into my memory. This picture no longer does the color contrast justice.
Oddly, it has stuck with me more than the 1931 DeSoto that was also for sale, likely the only one I’ve ever seen.
And, that Ford has stuck with me more than the 1959 Mercury, again likely the only one to have ever presented itself to me.
To emphasize how precious film used to be, I took zero pictures of the Dodge Charger or the 1950s era Dodge parked on either side of the Mercury. Nor did I capture the 1959 Chevrolet wagon parked behind it. With film running about $0.20 or so per shot, plus developing costs, one had to choose pictures wisely back then.
Spending a few cents to get a picture of the Chief Crazy Horse Monument was a no-brainer.
It has come a long way in twenty years. This picture came from www.crazyhorsememorial.org
For security purposes, there was a 1956 Chevrolet patrol car for the Chief Crazy Horse monument parked near the visitors center. It didn’t appear to have seen any recent action as it’s been blocked in with various and assorted crap.
My automotive sightings during this trip were varied. For instance, in Yellowstone National Park, I saw this Chevrolet Sport Van. According to information provided (and I wrote on the back of this picture), the conversion process was eight hours from highway duty to snow duty but only two hours going back to highway duty. As seen, this van would cruise at 35 to 40 mph and return a stupendous 3 to 4 miles per gallon.
On the flip-side, the 1991 Dodge Dynasty I drove for this trip returned 27.7 mpg. Yes, I know many people had bad experiences with the Die-Nasty, but this one was as near to flawless as ever there was. The odometer at the time of this picture in June 1995 was 85,100; my parents kept this car until it had nearly 140,000 miles. The only hiccup was a sensor that killed the engine after running for a few seconds. That happened soon after I returned from this trip, so my timing was great.
It’s parked behind my college apartment in Rolla, Missouri. The green 1992 Ford Ranger behind it belonged to my sister. It met the same fate as the 1992 Ford Tempo that preceded it – she wrecked it.
The Dynasty is seen again here in front of the state capital building in Olympia, Washington. Seeing state capital buildings has always been a mild hobby of mine and I’ve seen many of them. The state capital building in Indianapolis is the crummiest I can remember for accessing. It happens.
A short hop away from Olympia is the Boening Museum in Seattle. At the time, this Aerocar was on display. No, it’s not a flying Ford Pinto.
However, this photo album has more than just pictures from a long ago trip west glued to its pages. One of its inhabitants is my old 1962 Ford Galaxie, seen here on my parent’s property south of Carbondale, Illinois.
My father purchased this Galaxie at an auction in August 1988 for the princely sum of $500. It had been parked next to a 1966 Lincoln Continental that I liked a smidgeon more, but this car wasn’t anything to sneeze at. Powered by a rattly when cold 292 hooked to a three-speed manual, this body and suspension was phenomenally tight. I drove it some but sold it a few years later to a guy from Hayfield, Minnesota, who turned it into an Andy Griffith special.
It’s better than being parted out. Plus, we made money on the car.
Part of me has always suspected my 1955 Chevrolet 210 was parted out, but it’s a small part. Supposedly, it was being shipped to a buyer in Sweden and I sincerely hope somebody there is driving the wheels off it. I bought this Chevrolet from the grandson of the second owner for $900 in 1996 or 1997. It had the straight-six and a three-speed manual transmission. It seems all of my older cars have had a three-on-the-tree.
I sold it in May or June of 1998 to finance my honeymoon.
There was a phase of my being a car hoarder. To keep miles off my 1996 Ford Thunderbird, I purchased this 1986 Plymouth Gran Fury in March or April of 1998 from a guy in Lawton, Oklahoma. It cost me $1,200 and I put a bunch of miles on it before selling for $1,500 in 2002.
This Plymouth had the four-barrel 318 and it was one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever driven.
Having had a taste of the M-body, I went back to the well for another drink. No, it’s not a Dodge Diplomat or Plymouth Gran Fury despite its stark appearance.
For 1981 only, Chrysler had a LeBaron with the full-blown A38 police package. This is likely one of the rarest M-bodies produced; I once spoke to Ed Sanow, who wrote a book on Chrysler police cars. He was shocked I found a LeBaron like this as so few were made.
In the background, you can see my parent’s 1995 Mercury Cougar and my 1975 Ford Thunderbird.
I paid $200 for this Chrysler and was able to drive it onto the trailer to haul it home. It ran pretty well but I never got around to doing anything with it. This is the most bare Chrysler I’ve ever seen as it had vinyl bench seats, a rubber floor, and nothing else option wise. It was powered by a two-barrel 318 and supposedly came from Florida. I sold it to some guy in Ohio.
When I discovered it, it was for sale in the front yard of a house between Malden and Kennett, Missouri. There were some impolite letters from debt collectors in the glove box.
Since we are talking Mopars, here is a 1971 Plymouth Road Runner and a 1968 Dodge Coronet I found in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one weekend in October 1996.
These last two are rather sad, but that’s how life goes. Both of these Cadillac Eldorados belonged to my father-in-law. Parked on the family farm near Hawk Point, Missouri, they had been languishing there for a while when I took these pictures.
When the property was later sold due to a family dispute, both of these were hauled off to the salvage yard.
Lest anyone be concerned about a great loss to humanity, they weren’t. Both were getting pretty rotten on the bottom and needed more work than was worthwhile.
So, with any luck, some more pictures will turn up again one of these days!