(first posted 10/14/2013) Los Angeles, 1971. I was long-haired, feckless, aimless, jobless, and ready to deliver another car from coast to coast for AAACon, the Driveaway agency. I had about $150 for the seven days of the journey. Assuming 10 miles per gallon, that was 300 gallons at maybe 30 cents each. If I allocated $100 for gas, the remaining $50 would pay for a few cans of beans and tuna fish, a pound of processed cheese, some milk and raisin bran, and an occasional “All the fried chicken you can eat” for $1.99 at a Howard Johnson’s. Credit cards? Long-haired hippie deadbeats such as myself did not have credit cards.
The money seemed sufficient because I wasn’t worried that the car would develop any problems. In those days, people of my age had a habit of not worrying. Going with the flow, doing your thing, groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon–these activities were incompatible with worrying.
This time I would be traveling solo, after a recent unfortunate experience in which I had shared a vehicle. I had tagged along with two members of a Northern California macrobiotic commune who were delivering a Buick Skylark. Because they had absorbed a lot of yin in the cool climes of the Bay Area, they were in urgent need of yang, which meant that as we journeyed through sweltering August heat in the heartland, they absolutely refused to use the air conditioning.
Following the dictates of their guru, their diet consisted almost entirely of rice balls while they maintained a severely restricted fluid intake. By the third day their epidermis had become so dehydrated, I had the perversely interesting experience of watching it peeling off their increasingly scarlet faces. It was like a really bad case of sunburn, without exposure to the sun.
“Would you like some water?” I asked the man of the couple one morning, feeling concerned in case he might suffer renal failure before we reached New York. He eyed the bottle ambivalently. “I’d like some,” he said, “but I’m afraid of what it might do to me.” Such was the extent of cultism in those days. But I digress.
My ride was located in San Clemente. It was a 1969 Olds Delta 88, owned by an elderly Army colonel who had been re-posted to New Jersey but was unable to drive there while recuperating from a brain operation. He had a noticeable dent in his head, and a tremor in his voice. “So you’re the er-um fella gonna drive my car,” he said, as he walked me out to the garage. “Think you can handle it?” He nodded toward the monstrous Olds, which was gold with a black vinyl roof. Utterly tasteless, but I loved it on sight. I especially liked the look of its bench-style front seat. It was about 65 inches wide, which would allow me to sleep in comfort. Motels? I had no interest in motels.
“I’ll give you a bonus,” the colonel told me, “if you er-um get there on time, with everything safe and sound.” He went on to explain that the trunk of the vehicle was packed with priceless watercolor paintings. I assured him that the paintings would be safe with me. He surrendered the keys, and I hit the road.
The Olds had a signal-seeking radio, which was a radical concept at the time, incorporating a small internal motor that turned the variable tuning capacitor while the radio hunted for stations. Another novel option was a speed buzzer that could alert you if you were driving faster than you intended–a useful item, as the Olds was so massive and silent, everything that happened outside it seemed vaguely irrelevant. (True cruise control was still rare in 1971.)
I drove into LA to say goodbye to some friends, and went for a spin along Mulholland Drive. The Olds rolled like a yacht as I entered each turn on the mountain road, and I wondered just how fast I could go around bends that were helpfully signed with a 30 maximum. I managed to get it up to 50 before all four tires started to slide. I was impressed.
Somewhere outside of Las Vegas, I stopped for gas at a self-serve station. Pumps took coins in those days, so I went into the office to get change. The attendant wandered out and noticed a bump like a cyst on one of the front tires. “It’s separating from the casing,” he said. He was right, but since I had no money for new tires, I decided not to worry about it.
As I cruised across the desert, the afternoon sky became almost black at the horizon. Before long, I was climbing mountain roads into those thunderclouds. Snow started falling, turning to rain as I crossed the Great Divide. The sun set, the storm became more intense, and the front-right tire blew out.
The car was so totally sound-insulated, there was just a little “thump” from somewhere. Then came the annoying tug on the steering, followed by that driving-on-a-washboard sensation as I reduced speed. The car started slewing from side to side–very slowly, because it had so much inertia. Trucks overtook me, spraying water across the windshield.
I wrestled the Olds to a stop and sat there with the flashers on while the rain kept pouring down. The spare tire was only accessible through the trunk, and the trunk–well, the trunk was full of those priceless watercolor paintings. Maybe if I went to sleep, the rain would stop during the night. I punched the signal-seeking radio till I found a weather forecast. It told me I was in the middle of the storm system that was likely to last for a couple of days.
Desperation begot inspiration. Suddenly I remembered an exit about a mile back. There had been an overpass, hadn’t there? Maybe it could shelter me from the storm. Backing up for a mile in that monstrous vehicle, along the shoulder of Interstate 80, at night, in the rain, with a front wheel that now felt as if it was square, was not easy. But it was possible, and my memory had been correct: There was a bridge over the highway.
When I unloaded the trunk and found the jack, it consisted of a vertical rod with notches in it, and a lever which engaged with the notches. If you pushed down really hard on the lever, it would raise the car another notch. I ended up looking apprehensively at that huge car, weighing two tons, supported at one corner by a notch in something that looked like a steel toothpick.
Still, I put the spare on the car, repacked the (undamaged) paintings, drove on through the relentless rain, and stopped somewhere in Nebraska. I ate a can of tuna fish and a can of baked beans while I wrote my daily journal on the portable typewriter that I always carried with me. The radio now warned me that tornadoes were likely, but as a British person, all I knew about a tornado was that it was a strong wind. How bad could that be? I decided not to worry about it.
When I woke the next morning I found myself surrounded by earth-moving equipment. I had inadvertently parked in a construction site. Guys in hard-hats were staring at me.
I drove out of there and stopped at a nearby Esso station. Rain was still falling, of course. A nice mechanic checked the remaining factory-original front tire and said that it was separating from its casing, just like the other one. He recommended two new tires before continuing, but when I opened my out-of-state check book, he slowly shook his head. “You better try the bank,” he said.
The customers and the bank tellers were all chatting to each other on a first-name basis while carefully avoiding looking at me. Here in Small Town USA, “hippie” was still a bad thing to be, and “unwashed hippie” was worse. I had two days of beard, had spent the last couple of nights sleeping in my flower-patterned shirt, and my bell-bottom pants were stained with tuna fish.
“I would like to cash a check on a New York bank,” I said to the teller. Soon I was sitting opposite the manager, who had a brown jacket and a crewcut. He called directory assistance and asked for the phone number for Manufacturers’ Hanover Trust in New York City. “Uh, no, you don’t want to call their head office,” I told him. “You need to call my branch. It’s a big bank. It has, like, forty or fifty branches.”
He stared at me as if he found it hard to believe that such a thing was possible. But, eventually he got through to the right branch, and asked them if I had more than $100 in my account. They said I did, so he cashed my check for $100. There was a service charge of 15 cents.
Back at the gas station, the mechanic took the spare off the front. I stowed it, repacked the paintings yet again, slammed the trunk lid–and realized with dismay that I had left the car keys inside. As I stared at the closed trunk, I imagined maybe tunneling in through the rear seat; but that seat was not designed to come out easily.
The mechanic called a friend who ran a hardware store. The friend said that if he was supplied with the code numbers of the keys, he could punch a replacement set. The mechanic turned to me. “You got those numbers with you?” he asked. I placed a collect call to the colonel and asked him the same question. “Why er-um yes, we have those numbers,” he said. “Hold on.”
Soon his wife was on the line, carefully reading the numbers to me from a little card which their Delta 88 instruction manual had told them to keep in a safe place. As military people, they were conscientious about following instructions.
The mechanic drove me through the rain to his friend at the hardware store, who looked the numbers up in a reference book and converted them into some other kind of code that worked his key-punching machine. He charged me a dollar.
By this time I was dumfounded by the decency of Nebraskans. I didn’t have enough money to tip anyone, so I just thanked them profusely and continued on my way.
The remainder, as they say, was uneventful. I delivered the Delta 88 to the colonel, who had flown to his new home in New Jersey. He gave me the promised bonus (because I had delivered the car on time, with everything safe and sound) and reimbursed me for the new tires. I wondered, briefly, if my torture test on Mulholland Drive had been the cause of the tire problem–but a little hard cornering shouldn’t cause that much damage, should it?
I went home to my New York apartment and took a long hot bath. As I lay in the tub watching a week’s grime rise to the surface, I realized that my life was becoming rather aimless–and also hazardous, as a result of my obsession with seeing the United States by delivering cars. But I decided not to worry about that.
Totally freckless huh?
I owned a ’69 Delta 88, 4 door hardtop…gold with the black vinyl top. Rocket 455 with a 2 barrel, turbo-hydramatic. One of the best road cars I have ever owned. It had been owned by an elderly gentleman who parked by feel. Not an un-dented panel on the car, but engine and trans had been recently overhauled and it was a wonderful car. AS many say, wish I still owned it.
Another great read Charles,thank you.You’ve a look of Jim Morrison with that haircut
At the time, these were the most boring cars in the world to me. In the midwestern US, they were simply everywhere. Even my Ford-loving father picked one out as a company car for a short while. Gold, at that. I saw him as a turncoat.
Now, I see them for what they really were – perhaps as thoroughly competent as any car made at the time. This car really had very few faults. I suspect that a lot of happy Delta 88 owners came back and bought Cutlass Supremes in the 70s. Cars like this built the foundations of Oldsmobiles 3rd place sales rank during the next decade.
Thank you once again for so effectively and amusingly evoking a time and state of mind, with its openness to adventure/ experience, that has all but disappeared. Am so very impressed with your ability to recount these tales without ever succumbing to nostalgia. The photos too are beautiful. In spite of your fecklessness, aimlessness,etc., you had the prescience to document these trips, and we are very lucky that you are sharing them with us all these years later here at CC. Please keep them coming!
+3 — definitely! Keep these coming!
This story is enjoyable on so many levels. I agree, more please! Charles, your writing is a wonderful addition to CC.
I truly miss the days when Oldsmobile was at the top of its game. A shame one of the great automobile marques of all time was left to decline and disappear.
When I was a child, there were two older ladies who lived down the street from us, who owned a silver 1968 Delta 88. They were a mother and daughter, and the daughter was the one who always drove, and she drove very, very slowly. Doing 15 MPH in a 35 MPH zone was how these ladies rolled. The daughter would hunch over the steering wheel, getting her nose as close as she could to the windshield, apparently attempting to maximize her viewing distance. Perhaps at her slow speeds, it did indeed make a difference.
The thought of a young English longhair having such a strange transcontinental adventure in a nearly-identical car is very amusing. I wonder how long it would have taken the ladies down the street to make the same trip. I’m going to guess that if they left home in the summer of 1975, they would have made it to the east coast almost in time for Barack Obama’s inauguration in early 2009. If they had tire problems, perhaps even longer.
The photograph of you with your hair billowing out around your head really brings back some memories for me. I’m a few years younger than you, but when I was a teenager in the mid-70’s, I was able to annoy the Hell out of every grownup in town by simply refraining from getting a haircut for two or three months. It’s odd now to remember how polarizing a head of hair could be back then! Much like the Biblical Samson, I viewed every reluctant trip to the barbershop as an emasculating defeat.
I hope that you have some more of these road trip tales left to tell, but I won’t be surprised if you don’t. The peeling tires preceded by the peeling macrobiotic nutters would have put me off of doing car deliveries. (My only experience with delivering a car, from Denver to Seattle, was wonderfully uneventful and would make for a very dull story.)
One of my Aunts had a ’69 Delta 88 for some time….I had two spinster Aunts who lived together (in the family homestead) and one died the year before..my Grandfather kind of inherited the Delta 88 after the second Aunt had a stroke some years later…I think I may have driven it myself back in the ’80’s, but I can’t remember clearly…I also remember my Uncle bought her previous old car (I think it was a ’62 or ’63 Olds mid-sized, not sure of the model) and remarking that the dealer (they always bought from the same dealership) must have sold them a hot-rod engine..the car was a handful for him…he wondered why my Aunt (kind of like the little old lady from Pasadena) was sold a car with such a powerful engine.
Also, I wondered if the tires might have been radial, my Father had bought early radial tires and ended up replacing all four due to sidewall separation…I know even bias-ply tires could have bubbles in them, and cars were often under-tired as mentioned in other articles here, but having two tires go for the same reason seems a little suspect…interestingly, my same Uncle who inherited my Aunt’s hot-rod Oldsmobile also used to carry two mounted spare tires in his trunk when going on vacation (the big cars could easily hold
them plus their luggage), explaining to me that he wanted to make sure if he ran over something wide (or on one side, that could rupture 2 tires at once) he’d have it covered. Makes me wonder what people now think when spare tires are becoming a rapidly disappearing option on cars (can of sealant instead of spare to save space and weight in the trunk)
Another great read Charles, keep them coming. I am approximately your age (will be 62 in a couple of months) and I can still remember hopping into cars for road trips at a moment’s notice during that era. My friends and I would think nothing of driving 8,10,12 hours to attend a concert, or just to be somewhere else. The great thing was that we weren’t driving late model vehicles but our own cars, of which we were likely the 4th or 5th owner. I can only remember one time getting stranded; we went from our hometown in western Kentucky to NYC for a Grateful Dead concert. On the way home my friend’s 1963 Ford suffered a catastrophic failure of the automatic transmission not far from Columbus, Ohio. As I remember we didn’t have enough money for the repair (as you said, no credit cards for us), and we had to wait until my friend’s sister could wire him the money. In many ways life was much simpler then.
I do wonder what the Skylark’s owner thought of the car being delivered with – peelings – all over it, like Goldmember had been driving.
Like monster dandruff. It was memorable. The guy actually wanted to start using the A/C but his girlfriend wouldn’t let him. He just sat in the back seat with a glassy-eyed stare.
Anyone else spot the ’70 Cougar in the sixth photo? 🙂
Great read, thoroughly enjoyable.
Needless to say, your description of yourself applies quite perfectly to me in that era. I spent a good five years hitchhiking and driving around the country, and was quite aware of the driveaway operations. They were the way to go, if one wanted to get across the country cheap and comfortably.
My great regret is that I didn’t take pictures of my adventures. But I have written about some of them: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/auto-biography/auto-biography-the-hitchikers-guide-to-the-galaxie-500-and-other-rides/
Speaking of (former) hair….
I forgot to add that I knew a girl who went macrobiotic, and almost killed herself. Much of her hair fell out, her skin turned yellowish…and she got very weak. It has been proven that the macrobiotic diet lacks certain vital nutrients. But how many folks fell for that diet back then. The human urge to “cleanse” is so primeval, even though the body does it quite well naturally.
The main problem was lack of protein. I watched two people eat almost nothing but rice balls, day after day. Each rice ball had a dried plum in the center. And that was about IT.
I had a hippy-chick girlfriend in university who was all into the macrobitotic nonsense and she was sick ALL the time. On days she was particularly dragging her macrobioticbutt, I’d cook up feasts like chili and home made bread. She would rip into it, in order to “balance out her diet,” and then have extreme guilt trips, leading to chili and castor oil. Major drama all the time.
Medium hair but no beard not a proper hippie Paul
My dad had a hippie-colleague in the early seventies. Long hair AND a beard. He drove a Citroën 2CV. (what else ?….)
At some time his 2CV wouldn’t start. No worries, a VW T2 pick-up and a nice piece of rope came to the rescue. Dad told him to honk his horn as soon as his 2CV was running. So off they went. Shortly after dad saw the 2CV move over to the left, coming alongside the T2 with the hippie-guy smiling and waving. The guy was actually trying to pass the Volkswagen. Luckily it all ended well, after some “speed-matching” and furious -“look out, the rope is still attached”- hand gestures….
Must be the macrobiotic food. Or too much beer. Or smoking too much pot. Or a combination of the three.
Would you ever grow your hair back like this Paul?
Not likely, for a number of reasons 😉
Does the inner tube become visible ?
Peter frampton?? 😉
I was gonna say Robert Plant!
That’s a terrific picture!
Proof that no one at that age is ugly.
(I don’t think that came out quite right, sorry.)
Nothing is more attractive than the natural glow of youthful life.
How it is wasted on us when we were young.
Quite an adventure and well written as all of your articles have been.
To me the Delta 88 of this generation represents the peak of the great 4 door GM hardtops. Upper line full size GM cars of this era had world class styling, strong engines and transmissions, and classy exterior and interior details.
Arguably, you struck me as the spitting image of Jimmy Page. More appropriate given your British heritage. Funny and wonderful read with a great lens on American Cars and period culture.
Thanks for the positive comments, much appreciated. Just in case there’s any doubt, photos 4, 5, 6, and 7 were taken by me during the trip that I described. Kodachrome holds up fairly well, and I found a Canon slide scanner on eBay that does a much better job than flatbeds with slide adapters.
The first photo was taken of me by my mother. visiting the USA at the time.
I have one more transcontinental experience, from 1980. Not sure how interesting that one is. I’ll have to re-read the notes I made. Oh, and there was also the 1972 Camaro that I bought in Phoenix and drove back to New York…. And come to think of it, a 1980 Cadillac….
If other people have experiences with foolish behavior involving automobiles in 1960s/1970s I’d like to read them!
Any transcontinental road trip back in the day is worth a read. People don’t realize what is was like to experience car trouble prior to cell phones and easy access to credit cards. I bet that most of the service stations wouldn’t have taken a credit card even if you had one. It was mostly cash and carry. I think the hippie/rice ball trip needs a write up of it’s own. Their diet and disdain of water and AC and likely deodorant must have led to a foul traveling companions.
Yes the trip with the commune people was memorable, but I don’t have any photographs of it! I travelled with them as far as Chicago, then took the bus from there….
Yeah and its not really a long distance either try going across or around Australia in a well beaten old bomb no people or towns out there.
yessir.. I did a 1/2 transcontinental trip this summer, and had the starter go out in my ’77 Chevelle about 3/4 of the way through the trip. smart phone told me the number and the location of the closest parts store, though a kind Hoosier picked me up on the side of the road in Biloxi Mississippi and saved me two hours of walking and carrying a 40 pound starter.
It was still an ordeal to change that sucker out in the beach parking lot cussing and spitting at it. (step one, remove exhaust crossover pipe and catalytic converter…)
Doesn’t have to be “back in the day” to be without those things as I found on a trip nearly 10 years ago or even today. On a trip into the South Australian desert north of Port Augusta there were actually roadside signs to advise when there was coverage! Credit cards – well there would need to be any sort of commercial premises to take one of those, 2.5hr drive to the closest town when I broke down once. I was prepared enough that with some help from locals (I don’t carry a shop press and didn’t realise I would need one) I could do the repair.
The good thing is that when you are that remote it is rare for someone to pass without stopping to see if you are ok, I do the same myself. On the other hand, break down on an urban freeway and see how you go…
Yeah I broke down in the middle of nowhere in OZ in a 20+ year old Valiant 200kms from any wrecking yard, by the third schooner in a pub a member of the local Aboriginal community had been found who had several dead Valiants had been found and I got my parts and help to install them.
I realize it and I’m only 35. Had a problem with a VW Rabbit washer relay. This was in 1996; no cellphone, no credit card. Had to drive 120 miles thru a rainstorm. Stupid me didn’t know about Rain-X 🙁
Amazingly, you resemble Barry Newman in “Vanishing Point”! I think a lot of guys did in those years.
At that time, in the air force, I practically lived in my car. Wished I’d parked it more often, but couldn’t stop driving it, though I never ventured farther than the Bay Area or Lake Tahoe/Reno area.
Those, indeed, were the days.
I knew someone who met the director of Vanishing Point. My friend swears that the director told him, very seriously, that Vanishing Point is an allegory for the life of Christ. Apparently it is loaded with religious symbols. For instance there’s a helicopter shot of the desert, showing two tire tracks crossing each other. The shot dwells for an extra couple of seconds on this…cross! Which is supposed to tip you off that it’s really a religious movie.
Hard to believe.
I must have missed the allegorical aspects of Vanishing Point. Not so in Greaser’s Palace (1972), written and directed by Robert Downey Sr., and starring Alan Arbus (Diane Arbus’ husband) as Jesse. Deals with the apocalyptic consequences of constipation. Great flic.
Never saw that one. But Downey’s “Putney Swope” left a lasting impression on my teenaged brain, especially the Borman Six ad.
The Borman ad made me laugh out loud. I then realized that I was the only person in the theater laughing. Bunch of Chicago tight asses. Another great scene was the leather and chains consultant who stated “remembah, beer is nothing but pee pee weewie”. I actually own the Putney Swope DVD.
I became a Robert Downey Sr. fan when I projected his first movie, Chafed Elbows, at the Aardvark Cinamateque in Old Town, Chicago, 26 times. I watched it each time I ran it.
Someone else who knows about Greaser’s Palace!
Vanishing Point & Two-Lane Blacktop are two of my favorite movies from the ’70s.
Great story Charles. I’ve been on the receiving end of small town folks’ kindness when stranded too. Restores one’s faith in humanity.
Your tale of the trip with the macrobiotic people reminded me of Charles Portis’ book “Norwood”. It’s full of weirdos that Norwood meets while delivering a car across country.
Huh. The movie “Norwood” with Glen Campbell & Kim Darby – made after “True Grit”, but not related to the book – might have been more entertaining… I don’t know.
I read lots of weird stuff in those days. Good times, for me, though, at least until 1973.
Credit cards? I couldn’t get one no matter how hard I tried – young, single, military.
Thanks, great story!
1n 1962, a few years before I was born, my parents moved to the burbs, and spent pretty much all their cash on their house. A few months later, their car, which was my dad’s old Mercury, died. They bought a 1963 Rambler, and it served as their only car until 1969. By then, it seemed pretty old to my 5 year old self, having known no other cars, and being already completely car-obsessed.
Things were looking up by then, so it was time for a new car. You’d think they’d go for a wagon or sedan, but my mom had to have a convertible, and a 1969 Olds Delta 88 it was, in all its brown and tan glory. I guess stuffing kids into a 2 door, no matter how big, got annoying, because after that, it was sedans all the time (no wagons for my stylish mom). They kept the Olds as their ‘second’ car for a good number of years.
I saw this at the beach a few weeks ago…
After all of those years with the Rambler your mom deserved to have a convertible – good for her! I remember when my cousin got married to a man with three young sons to raise and she gave up her nearly new Olds convertible (a 59) for a much more practical Rambler station wagon (1960).
Charles, another wonderful story and great photos too. Please advise – what model of standalone Canon slide scanner? I have a Canon flatbed scanner with slide adapter that performs only mediocre scans, and my many hundreds of 1970s slides have sat unviewed for years.
With respect to “True cruise control was still rare in 1971”: Our somewhat lowlier, somewhat older ’67 Pontiac Executive wagon had true cruise control, the first year it was offered by Pontiac. It consisted of a recessed button at the end of the turn signal lever; press to hold speed, brake to deactivate. Before 1967 GM offered an “Electro-Cruise” system, but I’ve only seen one car, a ’66 Bonneville, so equipped – it appeared rather cumbersome to operate.
First you should realize, only two types of 35mm slide scanners are still being made any more. One is by Hasselblad, for around $10,000. The other is a company in California–Pacific something–for around $1,000, but all the reviews on B&H photo say the carrier jams and is useless.
Therefore, we look at the second-hand market.
I bought a Canon FS-4000. They’re sold on eBay every week or two. Prices vary widely depending how many people are bidding. I was the only bidder, so I got it for around $300. I think I got lucky, and it seems to be in excellent condition.
Nikon slide scanners have a better reputation, but I used to own one, and I don’t see any difference between its results and the results from the Canon. Second-hand prices are much lower for the Canon than for the Nikon. Just make sure the Canon is sold with plastic slide and film carriers. It cannot be used without them, and they are unobtainable.
You can download drivers from the Canon web site but I was not impressed by the Canon scanning software. So I paid an extra $79 to download the pro version of Vuescan, really excellent third-party scanning software that works with just about every scanner ever made. It takes advantage of the infra-red feature on the Canon, to eliminate dust.
ALL slide scanners are extremely slow. Maybe 3 minutes per slide at high res. No way around this. My flatbed is much faster, but the result is very soft-edged and has chromatic aberration. When I compared it with the Canon scans, there was no contest. The Canon will do four slides in a row, and Vuescan will chug along in the background while you multitask your computer.
The Canon will scan at 16 bits per channel, if this means anything to you. I think it’s very important as the dynamic range of slide film is so much greater than the color space on any computer monitor. You need to be able to open up the shadows or suppress the highlights.
You can pay for slides to be scanned by services, but their cheap rate (usually around 75 cents each) is for low-res, and they save in jpeg at unknown quality setting. For tiff format (i.e. uncompressed) at higher res, you will pay more. Also the services insist that they “retouch” or “fix the color” of the slides, which I did not want. I think they just click the “auto levels” option on the scanning software. If you want it done right, I think you have to do it yourself, especially if the colors of your slides have deteriorated a little.
I have now told you the sum total of the info I was able to gather!
Fascinating read, Charles! I learned something today.
Just last week I bought a Brookstone Instant Slide & Negative Scanner which is advertised to convert slides and negatives to digital files, no computer needed. I spotted it a few months ago and the price was $99. It happens that right now it is on clearance at Brookstone.com for just $59.99. I figured what the heck it can’t be any worse than the Epson scanner we have that is supposed to do slides but turns out an unusable result. So I bought one, tried it out today and I am truly amazed at the result. I have done about 20 slides so far and each one scans in about 3 seconds on to an SD or MMC Memory Card that you have to provide, doesn’t come with the unit. I then stuck the memory card in the slot on my imac and the pictures came right up in iphoto to be put in the system. I clicked them in and then edited a couple of them with the imac version of photoshop (not quite the same but close) and the results are very good. This scanner tends to produce an excellent quality scan from what I have seen however sometimes the colors are off. All of them tend to have a bluish cast but I was able to fix one slide perfectly and the second was pretty good but for some reason I could not get out all the blue tree branches. I have not touched the other 18 yet. I think I have about 250 slides to do all together and it seems that this scanner will do the job I need.
My 63 Cad Fleetwood was equipped with cruise. There was an on/off switch and a big thumbwheel on top of the dash. Turn it on and rotate the thumbwheel to the indicated speed, and there you were. There was no resume feature, and you would accelerate or decelerate by turning the thumbwheel. There was a second mode that simply put backpressure on the accelerator pedal at the set speed, so you controlled your own speed but would not go over.
I can’t remember, but surely there was a cutoff when you tapped the brake. It may have turned the whole system off. Mine worked, but I didn’t use it often as the car was not really good enough for lots of extended trips.
I use an Epson V500 flatbed for scanning slides. I touch up the scans in PhotoShop. I haven’t had any complaints from the commentariat.
Can you see every particle of film grain clearly defined? That’s my gold standard. Of course it’s not really *necessary* to see every particle, but, I like it.
I have tried a brand-new Canon 9000F flatbed, and older Epson Perfection 3200 (top of the line in its day), and they’re okay for the web, but a bit … soft. Not familiar with the V500.
Most of the slides that I scan were shot on Kodachrome, therefore no grain. Everything I scan is either for archival purposes or for sharing online. I don’t print out nothin anymore.
I used Kodachrome 25 (very slow-speed film) which minimized grain, but with a good scanner you can certainly see it. Whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage depends on your point of view! Grain will be more visible under some lighting conditions than others, and also depends on the exposure. For example, if you click on my photograph above of the approaching storm (taken from the driver’s window with the mirror in the foreground), you can see the grain in the dark sky. A scanner can also introduce sensor noise, which sometimes looks similar to grain, but that can be greatly reduced by making multiple passes of a scan. Because sensor noise is semi-random, the additional passes help to cancel it out. You can end up taking 15 minutes to scan one slide, though.
Nice writeup. I could feel the desperation of the problems you faced.
Nice car. The only thing remotely similar I can think of is the current Holden Caprice.
Charles enjoyed your story looking forward to the next. I have not done a road trip in years.
Paul – I saw Putney Swope at the theatre when it came out. It had so much buzz I had to see it. Now all I seem to remember was the nudity.
You are really lucky to be around to tell these stories. Keep them coming please.
I seem to recall that OEM tires on cars in the 60’s were notoriously weak. Something about 2-ply tires that had a “4-ply rating”. My father used to drive a brand new car to the tire store and purchase new tires (that were really 4-ply). A few years later government safety regulations put an end to the weak (brand new) tires. Also radial tires became much more common around this time – this Olds possibly didn’t have radials.
This is true; my step-mother’s brother in law was the Firestone distributor for our town. He had stacks and stacks of “two ply/four ply rated” tires behind his shop. People would buy a new Cadillac or a new Buick, drive it for a couple or three months, become disatisfied with the cheapo tires and then come in and get some “real” tires. He would let me pick through the stacks to find the best ones and then only charge me for mounting them. I would end up with four tires that would last a few months for maybe 5 bucks. I was 18-19 years old then and went through a lot of tires, especially on the back wheels.
By my memory, GM cars (that were not Cadillacs) did not start to see radial tires in any serious numbers until around 1973-74. My mother’s 74 Luxury LeMans still had Uniroyal bias ply tires, as radials were still optional (and came with a nifty “Radial Tuned Suspension” label on the dash).
I remember riding in family cars in the late 50s early 60s and having a tire blowout. Also back then – on a highway trip you often saw people changing a flat at the side of the road.
Firestone was still making bad tires in the 80s. I bought a new Dodge Omni in 81 and during the first 3 weeks three of the factory tires blew out!
As usual Charles, a great read.
Great story and remind me when I was back from Viet Nam in 1968 and out of the military in Kansas City. MO. My then girlfriend wanted to relocate to Connecticut with me where I could go back to college paid for with the G.I. Bill. So we took off in a 1964 Chevrolet pickup we bought for $600 and hit the road. The trip took a while and was pretty uneventful (good thing) as we didn’t have much in the way of money. We slept in the cab of the truck as the back was full of everything we owned.
We got to Connecticut and stayed with my parents until we could find work. Then I enrolled and went to college. I wasn’t a hippie type as the military experience kept me straight, but going to college back then was a trip all by itself!
Enjoyable ready….great story! Like a mini-novel.
A terrific story!
Imagine NO CELL PHONES!
How did we all survive?
Sorry, but when I read the title and saw the photo, I thought “blowout” was about your hair.
No GPS systems either – maps of all things! On paper!!
Great context. Gas pumps taking coins is news to me but makes perfect sense for the time. Your limited knowledge of tornadoes made me laugh. Even more so at the thought of small town peoples reactions (albeit empathetic) to encountering a young brit in the middle of nowhere america. The minutiae of your photographic process brings to mind a visual-audiophile of sorts.
Mr Platt, your writing is outstanding! I love your anecdotal humour. I’ve now read through all of your CC articles.
Laughed out loud at the two poets patronizing your efforts.
I worked with a “Morris” from Yorkshire, and was surprised to see that he spelt his name in French fashion: “Maurice”. I presume your Brit father used the “Morris” pronunciation as well.
Thank you so much for these stories!
(And Paul, thank you for republishing these classics that we CC newcomers missed the first time around.)
Oh man, that could have been me. I was built a lot like you, except maybe a little thinner. Lots of hair, I mean it was ’71, and I’d just moved back to LA. Good thing I never thought of doing a driveaway thing or else I might have dropped out and just driven, I’ve always like traveling. More than a couple of trips I subsisted on a diet of packaged lunchmeat and a soda or maybe a half pint of milk. One time I found myself 2,000 miles away from home with $25 left and made it home with $10. Cheap gas and an old VW bug that got low to mid 30’s MPG. I was doing hypermiling tricks before the term existed, coasting etc.
Used tires for the win, I bought a number of them in the 70s. I don’t think the long term numbers pencil out, but when you’re broke and need something that holds air they’re a lifesaver.
More great story telling from a vanished age .
I too traveled a lot back then but I learned early on to take “bird baths” in those tiny corner sinks gas stations used to all have…
I dislike being dirty .
I prefer to travel the “blue roads” and have met many fine people doing so, not always because of problems, often I’d just meet someone whilst filling the tank or emptying my bladder…
This is a re-post of an old write up, I see, but what the hey, I’ll respond to it. It reminds me of similar story in reverse. In 1981 I was in the Air Force and being transferred from NJ to California. I needed to get one of my cars across country and someone suggested a drive away service, which I had never heard of.
I ended up contracting with a company to deliver my 1976 Fury 440, which was picked up from a friend of mine in NJ after my departure. It was delivered to me in California by what I remember as a father-son team. Their trip was apparently without incident other than a small repair for which I reimbursed them.
I had not thought of my one and only experience with a drive away service for years until I read this oddly similar (but in reverse) story.