Enjoying a Double Automotive Fantasy
‘Tis a pity that the word “fantasy” has such a negative connotation for so many. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a fantasy, as long as you recognize it for what it is – something unlikely to ever happen.
In my case, my fantasies often revolve around motorcycles and vehicles I would like to own and operate. A deep-seated ineptitude with tools means I need to rely on a lottery ticket to fund my dreams.
I don’t expect to win the lottery, and spend my shekels for the simple enjoyment of playing “what if” in my head. This leads me to real estate listings as well. The current realty fave is a house near me for a paltry 2.2 million that features, among other delights, a 7-car garage. One slot would be taken up by two or three motorcycles, and another by a Jaguar XJS that belongs to a woman I think I can connive into living with me. That leaves 5 slots for cars and trucks. I can cope.
Today I indulged the fantasy side further by attending an open house at “Top Secret” customs in Arlington. This featured a live band, an astonishing show of customs and hot rods, fine food, and the opportunity to wander through a huge facility that houses separate areas for frame construction, metal work and fabrication, machining operations, and a modern paint booth and prep area – all of this with a few dozen vehicles in various stages of completion spread throughout. It was stunning.
Strictly for fantasy, I was also shopping for a shop to build a car for me. These folks could do it. Not just any car, – one I designed. For my novel “Triathlon Ride” I created a resto-mod International Harvester pick-up, created by a fictional Bartholomew Chance III in a fictional business in Cofus, a fictional small town in Kansas. How cool would it be to have created for me that vehicle, replete with the logo of the fictional shop on the doors? What a fun conversation piece that would be, as well as being an utterly usable machine.
“Daphne” also appears with Bartholomew in “Farrier Ride,” the 4th of my “Harrison Thomas” novels, all of which are available as e-readers or in paperback from Amazon. Cheap commercial plug, I know.
Anyway, here is the section of the novel that describes my truck.
“He gazed right, and the penny dropped. “Daphne” was a pick-up truck. An International Harvester long bed pick-up truck of early 1960’s vintage, if my store house of mental trivia could be relied upon.
Dark metallic green, with an oblate spherical cream area on the door with the company logo and Bartholomew’s name. On the hood, a reverse hood scoop from a Camaro drag racer from years back, and on each side of that the word “Daphne” in small but elegant pin-striped cream italics.
“Has to be a story with this one,” I offered.
“Well, I’d been thinking of doing a truck for some time. The ride to and from Oakland is getting a bit old for one thing. For another, been planning on expanding the business into customs of the four-wheel variety. They’re actually easier to create because you have more places to hide equipment you don’t want on view. They sell for more, too, which is nice.”
“So far I follow,” I interjected.
“Along the way I met a neighbor lady at church.”
At this I raised an eyebrow.
“Everybody goes to church in Kansas, Harrison. If you don’t, you’re suspected of all sorts of things, and with my great tan and artificial leg I’m already out of the ordinary. Doesn’t hurt me to talk to folks once in a while, either. Anyway, one day I was getting back on my bike – that burgundy bagger I had – and this elderly woman came up to me. She was about 85 years old, and all dressed up in her Sunday best, complete with hat. She walked up to me with pursed lips, staring at the bike, and I figured I was about to get some sort of lecture.
Instead she looked e me straight in the eye and said “My, what a lovely motorcycle.”
(This part, like many of the events in my novels, comes from real life. I met a lovely woman like this outside a diner one morning in Montana, 40 years ago on a motorcycle trip)
“Once I recovered from that we began to talk, and soon became good friends. Daphne was one of the purest souls I’ve ever met. She was still living on the wheat ranch she and her husband had built, although he’d passed away years ago. Kansas is not an easy place to live by yourself, especially in the winter, and especially if you’re over 80. I did some favors for her from time to time – putting up the screens when I arrived in the spring, prepping her house for the winter before I left, fixing this and that. I liked doing things for her, and we enjoyed each other’s company. She was a one hell of a cook as well.”
His voice slowed and his ebony face grew darker. “She passed away last year, and willed her truck to me. Been in the family for 40 years, after its first career with the Kansas State Agricultural Bureau. It’s a 1961 and it’s been around the block a time or two. Seemed like it was meant to be my first custom, and naming it for her was only right. I got it done just in time for the 4th of July parade.”
“Cofus has a parade?”
“Yeah. Goes back 50 years to when it was a real town. There’s no organization other than what a few volunteers from the church provide. It just sort of starts at the old school at about 11am and it’s all over by 1pm. Then most people go into Langford for the afternoon and then the evening fireworks, for those that enjoy that. I don’t. Anyone can enter anything in the parade, from a rusted 1965 Pontiac to dance groups, a combine or two for reasons I don’t understand, that sort of thing. We put some kids from the church youth program in the back of Daphne and used her in the parade, with kids tossing candy to the sides. You can still do that in parades in Kansas.”
(This is also real, based on a parade south of Pullman on July 4th at a grange in the middle of the wheat fields)
“That must have been fun.”
“Turned out to be more than that, Harrison. Daphne was very well known in the area, and when folks saw what I’d done to her truck, and how I’d named it for her – it was amazing. When a grizzled 70-year-old white Kansas wheat farmer comes up and puts his arms around an ugly big black man and then bursts into tears as he remembers Daphne… makes me think progress is possible.”
“Less so every day. I’ll tell you Harrison, I wasn’t too sure of the wisdom of spending 5 or 6 months a year here. Didn’t think I’d fit in very well, although Marilyn and her friends made every effort to blow me up as some sort of hero.”
“Ironic use of phrase, considering.”
“Oh yeah, that. In any case, Kansas votes in some of the most idiotic conservative politicians you can imagine, and proudly too. The current governor has pretty much bankrupted the state by slashing taxes to where even minimal services create massive deficits. People here also turn to froth if any mention is made of gun control. You know I’m familiar with guns, and never travel without one, but even the concept that a person who has been declared mentally disturbed and violent might be denied access to machines guns sends people off the deep end. And of course, almost all of them are white.
Against that, my experience has been that if you just don’t talk all that much, do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it and stick to the truth, people treat you like you’re the finest person they’ve ever met. In fact, I think I’ve run into less racism here than I deal with in California. It’s kind of confusing.”
For Bartholomew this pretty much amounted to a speech.
“What conclusions have you drawn?”
“You don’t really know people until you really know people.”
“That sounds like something I should write down.”
“Didn’t patent it. Be my guest.”
“Back to Daphne. Knowing you, I’m sure there’s more to this truck than meets the eye.”
“That’s a technique known as “Parkerizing,” named after a guy whose name you can guess. It’s sort of like black chrome, and you take care of the finish by oiling it once in a while. Used on a lot of antique guns and weapons, but I’d never seen it applied to a vehicle. It makes for a good starting point when talking to customers.”
(Parkerizing is also real)
“Oh yeah, the Parkerizing is just the beginning.” Bartholomew was not one to brag, but I could feel his enthusiasm for what he had created. It oozed out of him like fresh sweat. He pulled something that looked like a TV remote control from a front pocket of his coveralls. “We shall commence the tour.”
He pushed a button and Daphne’s engine rumbled to life, murmuring peacefully through big exhaust pipes.
“Chevy small block?”
“Excellent guess, Harrison.” He punched another button on the remote and the hood rose silently, revealing a modern fuel-injected engine with “Camaro” announced on the valve covers in red. A 3rd button push popped open the driver’s door to reveal the leather interior. Although the dash appeared stock, I could see that a lot of the more modern controls, such as cruise control and the stereo, were close to hand on the leather steering wheel. Daphne also sported power windows and door locks.
But wait, as they say, there’s more. Now we get to Daphne’s real party trick.”
We’d strolled to the back, where the extra length eight-foot bed glistened with varnished wood pieces separated by aluminum slats. The center slat was wider, with a slot running down the middle. It seemed to sit several inches higher than normal, so I asked about it. Bartholomew produced a wry smile and punched yet another button on the remote. The bed split in half and rose up vertically on each side, jutting above the original body sides. As this was going on, a second layer was exposed under the wood, this one all aluminum, but with rubber traction surface areas up and down both sides. A shallow notch ran down the middle, and as the sides raised a chock for the front wheel of a motorcycle popped up in place. The tailgate began to move to the rear an inch or so and then slid down until it was vertical behind the Parkerized rear bumper. The entire aluminum bed panel then began to slide backward. As it cleared the back of the truck it gradually leaned down until it rested on the cement floor. The last bit of it was beveled. When all was said and done Bartholomew hit the kill switch on the remote, and now he had a pickup ready to be loaded with his bike. He could easily ride the bike up and into the wheel chock, and then get off and walk back down to level ground. Then the remote would reverse the process. A couple of tie downs could be added for security, although they were probably not needed.
There was a soft click as the hood, released by the kill button, settled back into position.
I said as much, and Bartholomew responded “Getting a bike into a truck can be a bit dicey for a man with an artificial leg. For most of the people who want something like this, it’s just being able to show off. Whatever.”
I just stared at Daphne in silence. What a stunning vehicle, starting from an old farm truck.”
So, there you have it. I have the truck in my head, and I have found the shop to build it. Just need the correct lottery ticket!
Copyright 2019 David Preston
(for more, feel free to go to my web site at www.davidpreston.biz to peruse several years of my stuff – some of which you might like!