COAL: Cars Of The Sneddon Family

The first car that shows up in my family photo collection is a panel truck outside the Livingstone Bakery in Cardenden Scotland.  I have no idea what kind of truck this was.   My Great Aunt Ruth is the girl in the black coat in front of the truck and her father owned the bakery.   She married Robert, my Great Uncle, who was the son of Jimmy Sneddon.  Jimmy was a coal miner in Cardenden at the Bowhill Colliery and my Great Grandfather.   Jimmy came to the US and settled in Marion IL in 1910.   He sailed on the Royal Mail Steamer “Parisian” and landed in Boston on July 4th.   He mentioned later that he was amazed at how much celebrating was going on and that everyone on the train to Detroit was drunk that day.

Eventually he was able to save enough money to bring over his wife and two sons (Robert and my Grandpa Davey) to be with him in 1911. He purchased his first car some time after that. I’m not sure what kind of car this is either but it would have been somewhere around 1913. I’m guessing a Dodge? Fords didn’t have the louvers on the hood I think. Jimmy didn’t drive so he let my Grandpa Davey drive the family at the ripe old age of 13.

My father, Dave Sneddon, like many boys from the 50’s read “The Red Car” and was hooked. As soon as he could save up enough cash he found the car he was looking for. Actually the 2nd car. The first car he found was a Jaquar XK120 on a used car lot. He had enough to buy it and he made the mistake of taking Grandpa David along for a test drive. Remember that the speedometer on the XK120 sat directly in front of the passenger. Dad took him around the big sweeping curve at the edge of town at 85mph and Grandpa Davey said “NOPE! Turn it around and go back to the lot”

So Dad bought a MGTD instead. He ran this one for a couple of years and then an ominous knocking started in the bottom end. He found a guy that would sell him a new motor and install it in the middle of rural Tennessee so he loaded up with Grandpa Davey following in what I’m sure was one of the long line of Nash’s Davey seemed to love. Dad figured the motor was cooked anyway so once he got into TN he pushed the motor to it’s limits for over an hour until he got to the mechanic (which turned out to just be a barn on a rural farm). That old XPAG motor just wouldn’t quit. After about another year with the new engine he fell in love with an MGA Coupe.

He traded in the TD and used the A for a couple years as he finished college and started teaching High School with his new wife (my mom). One day heading back to Goreville IL to where they were teaching they crested a hill and an IDOT dump truck was stopped in the middle of the road. Dad slammed into the back of the truck and somehow mom and dad walked away without a scratch.

To replace the MGA Coupe they got a Corvair. Not sure what year but probably a 1964? This would be the car I came home from the hospital from.

Dad and I in front of Dad’s VW Bus (Not sure what year it was but this photo is from 1968). Now we were a two-car family and at this point mom had a dark blue ’66 Mustang. I definitely remember the bus and I remember “helping” dad pull out the motor and rebuild it in this carport. I also remember driving in this to “Pop” Wilson Motors in Wentzville MO and dad traded the bus for a dark blue TR4. I cried that we were just leaving “our” car with this strange old guy with a nice warm pot-belly stove going inside his garage. But I quickly forgot about it as we drove home the 60 miles with the top down in the middle of winter! Dad and I were grinning ear-to-ear the entire trip.

Dad finally gave up on the TR4 and got a gold Corvair with an exhaust system he kept held together with baling wire. We’d always know when dad was almost home from work when we heard the roar of the Corvair making that sweet down hill right hander and climb back up to the house!

Things got rather boring on the auto front when Dad got a new job that came with a company car. It was a long train of boring malaise-era GM products including this 77 Buick LeSabre. Or was this the Delta 88? So many boring GM boats. He got a new one every year. Look at the size of that trunk though!

But Grandpa Davey picked up a MGTD on his own in the late 60’s which he proceeded to paint with rustoleum and a roller. After Grandpa passed away we got it running and brought it up to live in our garage. I learned as much as I could helping dad including carb rebuilding, generators, starters, brakes. One especially good lesson I learned from dad is to make sure you keep track of all the windshield frame screws as I watched him crack a chunk out of one corner of the brand new glass he bought by screwing in one of the longer screws in the wrong place. (I also learned many many new curse words)

This is during one of the planned attempts to do a restoration that never ended up going anywhere. We had pulled all the chrome handles and were getting ready to pull the bumpers. But it still ran and he’d load me and my sister in the back and we’d go down to the drive in and they could put the car tray on the laid-down windshield. Good times. I learned how to drive a stick on this car.

On a hot June day I took my driving test in this car. We were sitting in the waiting room and the inspector called my name and told me to go out and start the car and he’d be out in a few minutes. He thought i’d have the AC blowing nice and cold! He walked out, saw the car, and groaned. He sat down in the passenger seat and when his back hit the hot upholstery he yelped. We pulled out of the DMV, made 3 quick right turns and he said “That’s enough” and we pulled back into the parking lot and he passed me. And that leads to my first car.

Of course I had to have a British car! Nothing else would do. I looked at some very knackered Sprites, a couple of hopelessly rusty MGB’s, and then Dad was talking to one of his teacher friends who said “I’ve got a Triumph TR3 sitting in my barn but it doesn’t run”. WOW. So we trecked out to his farm about 75 miles from home. The friend was a auto-body teacher at a vocational school and he had used this as a project for the students back in ’73 or ’74. He drove it until it wouldn’t start and then he just parked it in his barn and it sat for 10 years.

Dad and I towed it home, changed the points and had it running within 2 hours. This lead to a long journey of teething problems but it was a blast. First day I drove it to school the front wheel fell off with the brake rotor attached but fortunately it didn’t do any damage to the body. The two girls riding with me were very nice about being stranded a mile from school during lunch period but it certainly didn’t do my ego any good. Eventually I rebuilt the entire wobbly front end and ended up using it as a daily driver for about 2 years. On days when something was wrong and I absolutely needed to get to work or school I’d borrow dad’s TD.