COAL: Cars Of My Father, Part 1

Inspired by Adam Dixon’s recent post, I’ve decided to bookend my own COAL series by writing about some of the cars of my father. I’ve already covered some of his cars in my early COAL entries, but there are lots more to go over (enough for several articles, as it turns out). Let’s take a look back.

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Dad, Mom, and the Karmann Ghia on their wedding day.

It was many years before I discovered that my Dad owned one of these, and I gotta say I was shocked when I found out.  He was never much of a car guy, and I still have a hard time believing it, even though the photographic proof is right here: The picture above was taken on my mom and dad’s wedding day, August 15, 1965. It would be the first and last imported car he would ever own.

I have no idea what year Ghia this is: I am no expert on these, so I will leave it to the grizzled car spotters in the comment section to properly identify it. Since my parents married in 1965, so it can’t be any newer than that.

Dad never spoke much about this car, but I do remember on one occasion him extolling the virtues of the air-cooled engine, being able to drive through all kinds of hot weather when other cars were pulled over due to overheating (a common problem back in those pre-coolant recovery tank days).

Sadly my Dad is no longer around to ask about this car, but according to one of his brothers he bought this car because he wanted something “inexpensive and economical.” I might add “stylish” to this list as well since the first two requirements could have easily been met by any VW Beetle, which were in abundant supply in the ’60s. Dad, you may have fooled everyone else (and maybe yourself, too), but you didn’t fool me!

1969 Beechcraft 19A

Left to Right: Mom, Dad, me, and my brother.

Ok, this one is a little bit of a stretch, since it is not a car, and for that matter, it is not technically my father’s. Back in the early ’70s, my mom was a licensed pilot, and for a brief period of time, we owned a Beechcraft 19A, pictured above and below. I don’t have any photos, but I was able to take a couple of screen grabs from some VHS transfers of old 8mm home movies, so I apologize in advance for the poor quality.

I don’t actually remember much about this plane, other than throwing up in the back. To this day I am fascinated with flying, so maybe this is where it all started.

The tail number (N6144N) is clearly visible in the video, so just for grins I looked it up on the FAA’s website (this, by the way, is how I was able to determine the year, make, and model). Apparently, the plane still exists, is still airworthy (last certified in 2018), and is currently located in Louisiana. So to whoever owns N6144N now, here are some vintage pictures of it from around 1974.

1977 Ford Ranchero

Internet photo, since I couldn’t find a photo of actual vehicle.

I believe I talked about it in some of my previous COALs, but when I was growing up, my dad owned a small roofing company. As part of this business, he had a fleet of pickup and stake body trucks, which heavily influenced me early on, and formed a lot of my current attitudes towards pickup trucks.

Dad regularly drove a truck himself: Despite being the owner of the company, he frequently had to make job site visits for inspections or to deliver needed equipment and supplies. For those not familiar, roofing supplies are messy: Asphalt shingles, rolls of felt, and heavy cans of sticky, gooey, messy tar that gets on everything and never comes off. I ruined more clothes than I care to count coming into contact with that stuff as a kid. Anyways, there are two trucks that stand out in my memory from this time: A mid-70’s Dodge Adventurer, which I mostly remember for being tall, loud, bouncy, and for having a cool name.

The other truck that I distinctly remember is a 1977 Ford Ranchero. Even my nine-year-old self recognized what an upgrade this odd-looking half-Ford LTD II with a bed was over his other trucks. It was a regular car height, so 9-year old me could easily get in. Inside were actual cloth seats, full carpeting, and even air conditioning! As long as you didn’t look over your shoulder, you could almost imagine being in an actual car.

Unfortunately, my strongest memory of the Ranchero is not so positive. Dad and I were going somewhere on an overnight trip (I don’t remember where). There was no room in the cab, so our suitcases had to go back in the bed. It was dirty back there and I was afraid they would blow out, but Dad put them up close to the front and said that the cab would deflect the airflow around our bags. Then it started to rain, and Dad said that our bags would stay somewhat dry for the same reason.

I remember when we finally got to our hotel, it was pouring down rain. When I got to our room and opened my suitcase, my clothes were cold and damp (but luckily not soaked – So I guess my dad was right). I silently swore right then and there that I would never own such a stupid and impractical vehicle with no enclosed, heated storage space to keep your things warm, clean and dry.

I have honored that pledge all these years: I’ve never owned a pickup truck, and likely never will.