COAL: 1962 Dodge Lancer, Part I • A Start

In the middle of November 1990 two things happened almost simultaneously: the Stinkoln Clown Car finally wore out its welcome (there wasn’t much else left on its list of things to wear out), and my first issue of the Slant-6 Club of America’s excellent quarterly magazine arrived late.

On the first page of the classified ads, I saw it. I wasn’t (yet) very knowledgeable about the early A-bodies, but the picture in the ad below it reminded me intriguingly of a Citroën DS in side view:

Things that made me go H’mmmm: dad needed a new car, right? Right. And he drove American-made 4-door sedans, right? Right. And his first car had been a ’62 Plymouth with Slant-6 and pushbutton automatic, right? Well, then! With all the hubris I could muster (more than plenty; I was a mouthy, cocksure 15-year-old) I set about campaigning for dad to replace the Stinkoln with this what sure sounded like a creampuff of a low-miles ’62 Dodge Lancer. Mmmm, creampuffs.

It was an uphill campaign, to be diplomatic about it. He was an excellent trial lawyer; he argued adeptly for a living. More, he’d already begun shopping round for a car; he’d gone test-driving a new Mercury Grand Marquis (jeeziz, dad, after that Lincoln, really?).

I begged, I pleaded, I reasoned (in childishly spurious fashion), I cajoled, I stamped my feet…no good, any of it; clearly my kiddie-toolbox was the wrong one and this, to invoke Bugs Bunny, would call for some more grownup kinds of stragety—that’s a central lesson of the teen years, I guess.

Hey, I know…I’ll use research and evidence! I went to the downtown Denver main library and found this Popular Mechanics review of the new-for-’61 Lancer (click the cover to get the whole article as a PDF):

He read it, so that was promising, and he made notes in the margins, which I took as an encouraging sign of maybe a leetle wiggle in the boulder I was trying to move. But he was still of a fun-idea-but-that’s-all-it-is mind until I took up a new tack. The ’84 Caprice ate its water pump, and I leveraged the high cost of the repair (A/C, etc) to babble about $20 Slant-6 water pumps changeable in minutes with a box-end wrench. “We could work on it together…!”. That was enough to get dad to say “Well, maybe”. Aha!

Bob (he from whom I’d bought the ’64 Valiant ) had a friend in the Orinda area, who checked out the car for us. Meanwhile, mother and sister tried driving Bob’s ’64 Dart, to get an idea what the Lancer would be like. Mother was indifferent; sister was…er…not in favour. Bob’s friend called in and gushed about the car. Came right out and said “Buy it or I will!”. Mother got onside and transferred some money from the left pocket to the right, making it a nominal anniversary present. Transport was arranged with an outfit called Sierra Mountain Express, and about a week later—we were into late November—I was sitting at the dining room table when a giant truck came stopping outside; the car had arrived! All by its lonesome on an enormous transport truck.

I ran round with my old screwmount Pentax (it was about the same age as the car), taking pictures as the driver offloaded the car:

I handed off the camera to mother and gave the car an eager (understatement -ds) inspection, starting with the most important part…

…then I fetched the barely-unfrozen garden hose, and my pile of hair and I washed off many states’ worth of road dirt before dad got home:

I was freezing and wet, but you want to believe I didn’t feel a bit of it.

By and by, dad got home. Maybe he caught the bus, I guess. Note his briefcase and stuff tossed aside in the bushes (and faded, chalky paint on the car):

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