Author: Judd, Brooks

Express Lane: Ten Items or Less Roll Up, Roll Up for the Manteca Magical Mystery Tour

Item 1: I didn’t have a car in high school. Luckily my sister, Maria Nadauld, President and CEO of Above the Bay Booking, mother to fiddle star Megan Lynch, and big sister to hermit b.judd, loved sports cars. Big sister Maria saw to it that her little brother was able to borrow whatever sports car she was driving at time, her MG, Triumph, or Austin Healy. Once in a blue moon my father would lend me his car. The rest of the time I relied on the kindness of friends or my thumb.

Shortly after my 18th birthday my father felt it was time for me to get my first used car. So on a rainy Saturday morning we made the short trip to a rather seedy looking used car lot in a not so good part of downtown Hayward. My father wheeled and dealed with the salesman for quite some time and was quite proud of the fact that for a mere $500 we were able to purchase and drive home in a 1958 blue and white Chevy Bel Air equipped with a monstrous 348 engine, a steering wheel the size of a small ice rink, and a body just a shade smaller than the Queen Mary. Within the first week I had added 3 quarts of oil and refilled the radiator twice. It nearly got –5 miles a gallon and the car lasted about 180 days before perishing.

A few months after the 1958 behemoth was taken away and put to rest by Uncle Artie’s Towing and Salvaging Service my father surprised me again. One winter Saturday morning he came downstairs and knocked on my bedroom door. (I had quite a nice room in the basement). My father asked if I wanted to take a drive with him to Manteca to visit his brother Leroy, who sold cars at Manteca Ford. I thought it would be fun to get away for a couple of hours and off we went.

You see, a few years earlier my father thought it time to teach his 13 year old son the fine art of buying a used car. So off we went to downtown Hayward on south Mission Blvd. the Mecca that housed new and used car lots. My father told me to watch carefully as he would use his magical Texan powers to negotiate a deal with the salesman. Three hours later the paper work was signed and my father and I drove home in a used 1960 grey four door Chevy Corvair, with the motor in the back and just a tad larger than a small Roi Tan cigar box.

My father was smiling and quite happy with himself as we drove into our driveway with the newly negotiated grey Chevy. He told me to go get my mother. I ran up stairs and told her to come outside. When my mother saw this tiny, tinny, grey gopher sized poor excuse of an automobile she gave my father an icy stare that could have frozen every grain of sand on the Sahara. My father’s grin turned into a look of concern and suddenly beads of sweat began forming on his furrowed brow. But, my father was a tough customer and not one to give in so easy. He hitched up his pants and somehow manufactured an even wider smile than before and boasted loudly, “You should have seen what the salesman wanted for this beauty! But I wouldn’t take his price, no, not me. I took him at his own game. Brooks saw a master negotiator today.” My mother continued to stare at the tiny excuse of a car. She gave my dad one last icy stare and went back into the house. It was at that time my father realized that maybe he had made a mistake.

The Corvair wasn’t a total disaster. It was a four speed stick and my father took me to the country roads of Tracy and taught me to drive it. We kept the Corvair for less than a year when my father realized it was time to atone for the Corvair debacle and get rid of the white elephant. So one day he drove the Corvair to Manteca Ford and came back to Hayward sitting proudly behind the wheel of a sleek albeit huge 1962 jet black Thunderbird. My mother surveyed the T-Bird and smiled at my father. The legacy of the Corvair disaster seemed to be over and my father continued to swap in his car every two years or so in Manteca for something a bit newer and a little more acceptable for my mother’s tastes.

I thought that today was going to be one of the swap days. We pulled into Manteca Ford and saw my Uncle Leroy walking around the car lot carrying a clip board and writing down information on the cars he was looking at. My father and I got out of the car and walked over to Leroy. We chatted a bit and he told us he would be done in a few minutes.

We followed him as we approached a beautiful blue 1966 Mustang. My uncle stopped by the drivers door and began writing information down on his clip board. I reached out and stroked the blue beauty. (To be honest with you cars to me were mere pieces of machinery to get from point A to point B. Nothing more, nothing less. But this car did arouse some emotions in me that were in fact scarily primal.) My uncle said, “Brooks, would you like to sit in a real car?” I nodded and climbed in. It was beautiful. The car’s interior was exorbitant in its simplicity. I liked that. I rolled down the window and looked at my father and Leroy. They were talking in animated but hushed tones. My father kept taking long drags of his Camel and Leroy kept writing stuff down on the clipboard, erasing, and then writing again. Leroy stuck his head in the window and said, “The key is in the ignition. Start her up.” I turned the key. It sounded like the purring of a sleeping lion. Leroy stuck in his head again and said, “This baby’s got a lot of horses under the hood. Rev it up.” I placed my right foot on the gas pedal and slowly pushed the pedal down. The sleeping lion came to life with a loud roar with such force it caught my father temporarily off guard causing him to take a quick step back from the beast.

I lifted my foot off the gas and the lion once again began purring. I slowly rubbed my hands over the beautiful steering wheel, closed my eyes for a second and actually saw myself driving this beauty but then realizing it was all a pipe dream, I slowly and quietly turned the key and shut the magnificent beast down and with a deep sense of sadness opened the door and stepped out into the harsh winter glare of a “no car for you today, Brooks” reality. I looked over to my father. He patted Leroy on his arm and walked over to me.

I thought to myself here it comes. The “You know Brooks if you didn’t waste all your money on rock shows in the city, drinking wine and hanging out with all those long haired hippie friends of yours, you might be able to buy a nice machine like this” speech. Instead he said, “Brooks, I want you to listen to me. I’ve talked to your uncle and we’ve worked out a deal on a down payment.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a payment book and handed it to me. My father continued. “I’ll make the down payment and keep you on my insurance policy. You make the monthly payments and pay for all the upkeep. Can you do that?” I leafed through the payment book and quickly replied, “Yes.” My father took a drag off of his Camel and replied,”OK let’s go inside and we’ll sign the paper work.”
Driving home from Manteca that day was something I will never forget. My father had this all set up and he didn’t let on. I guess this is one of those things that make dads so special. This Saturday was Magical, a bit Mysterious and now I could do a bit of “paradin” while I Tour from point A to point B in my newly purchased beautiful 1966 Ford Mustang (machine).

Post Script:
It wasn’t but a few months later on a summer afternoon I was mowing my parent’s lawn. I heard the sound of a car horn and saw my father behind the wheel of a beautiful 1968 British Racing Green Ford Mach 1 Mustang Fastback equipped with big tires, mags, the whole package. My father was wearing the same grin he had on the day of the Corvair purchase. He pulled into our driveway. The Mustang looked like it had just come from the Fremont Drag Strip. The only thing missing was a racing helmet, gloves and goggles. My father had been to Manteca again. My mother isn’t going to like this one bit I thought to myself. My father said, “Go get your mother.” I set the lawn<
Posted:  1/1/2010

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