COAL: 1965 Valiant, Part III • Making Friends and Bucking Entropy

I felt no longer like just a visitor, but a proper resident once I brought the Valiant out to Oregon, and so I started to explore. I was happily astonished to find the mild climate and favourable registration fees made it easy to keep a car good shape and on the road, so people did, so there was robust infrastructural and commercial support for old cars.

There was just about every kind of repair shop. Across Franklin Boulevard from the main UO campus entrance, not far from Track Town pizza (which I still crave, after all these years) there was a BP service station with a friendly, good mechanic (Chet) who did my oil changes and other suchlike.

I easily got my speedometer calibration checked at a place just over the bridge in Springfield with a speedometer dyno out front of their shop. Could’ve got the speedo rebuilt, too, if it’d needed it, or the radiator re-cored, or the springs re-arched. I kept thinking it’d be cool to get a new battery built on site at Mac’s—still in business, as it seems—but never wound up needing one. When the vinyl’s seam let go, It wasn’t hard to find a shop to rebuild the front seat with new springs and foam and correct new vinyl perfectly fitted to the original cloth. The car (and I) flourished in this environment. It reached its peak condition, and it ran and drove really quite well.

Also in Springfield was Brooks Cut Rate Auto Parts, one of those family-owned parts stores in business since forever.

A little further afield were even bigger treasures. I found (in the White Pages!) a business called Elderly Auto parts in Jasper. The name caught my attention, and the friendly phone call made it official; I had to check the place out. The drive took about 20 minutes, but when I crossed the river into Jasper and passed the water tower, it seemed as though I’d zoomed back 30 or 40 years. The density and development was much less.

Jasper felt and looked like those kids’ town in Stephen King’s “The Body”, the story basis for the movie “Stand By Me”—some scenes in which were filmed elsewhere in Oregon. Elderly Auto Parts was like Svigel’s in Denver: a big warehouse full of goodies for old cars. Tin roof…rusted! I went there often and bought many parts, at least as often (probably more often) because they were nifty and I wanted them as because I needed them. The second-or-so time I came asking after Slant-6 and Dart/Valiant stuff, the easygoing owner Doug showed me a new-never-tossed Mopar frisbee that looked a lot more like a vintage item than a modern reproduction: “I want forty dollars for it now, but gimme some time to show it to people who’ll get a kick out of seeing it and then I’ll drop the price down where it should be.” I eventually bought it, don’t recall for how much, and kept it for 24 years before selling it on—still never tossed.

There was a Chry-Ply or Dodge dealer in Creswell, 20 minutes down I-5 from Eugene, with a goodly stash of old-stock parts up in the attic. Think I bought a never-filled windshield washer bag for dad’s Lancer there, for some small number of dollars. There were dozens of successful local treasure hunts like this.
The ’94-’95 school year ended, and I shoveled my half of the dorm room into the car, pointed it eastward, and left for Denver. It had been a long day, and I didn’t have it in me to go very far, but I didn’t have to: in the middle of the forest I was driving through, I saw a roadside sign advertising cabins to let. More than fifty cents, but the price was reasonable enough that I went for it, so the first night of my second road trip I was serenaded to sleep and the next morning awakened by river sounds. The cabins had obviously been there for many years, but they were sturdy, clean, and well-kept. I looked, but never again found them; perhaps they were in Brigadoon.

I stopped at Oñati in Boise for supper, and eventually wended my way back to Denver for the summer. A few months later, I packed up the car to go back to school. Timed the driving so I could have supper in Boise at Oñati again.

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