DOUG BAXTER’S STORY

I was not a gear-head growing up in the 1950’s, but I liked cars and enjoyed working on them.  In 1964, I graduated from college and began my work career at a company in north central Pennsylvania.  There was a small restaurant across the street from my work facility where I and some co-workers would go every day for a short coffee break.  Parked next to the restaurant almost every day was a 1933 Ford coupe that belonged to the husband of one of the waitresses.  As I entered the restaurant one day, I noticed that written on the menu board was “1933 Ford coupe for sale – $500”.  I immediately inquired about the car, and a couple days later, I purchased it.

The Ford was mostly original, and had been repainted using 1960 Lincoln gold paint.  The bench seat had been recovered in a blue fabric by the owner’s daughter and the floor of the trunk was badly rusted out due to water from the rear window channel.  The rubber hose to route the water out of the car had long since rotted away.  There were also a few dents and scratches to add to the patina. I soon replaced the rubber covering on the running boards, replaced the exterior door handles, and began to drive it as my second car.  I then took it on a 300-mile round-trip business trip to one of my employer’s manufacturing locations, and experienced no issues.

About a year later, I accepted a job with another employer requiring me to relocate to central Ohio.  The movers packed up my stuff and I set out for Ohio in my ’33.  It was a trip of about 200 miles.  Again, a non-eventful journey.

In November, 1969, my employer transferred me to a facility in north central Pennsylvania.  When the movers had me all packed up, I set out in late afternoon for Pennsylvania in my faithful 1933 Ford coupe.  It was a cloudy mid-November day.  I drove for about an hour on local roads to Zanesville, Ohio, where I entered Interstate 70.  As I drove, it had gotten darker and was beginning to snow rather heavily.  Proceeding East on I-70, the highway had about three to four inches of snow on the roadway, and the only way to know that I was on the highway surface was to follow the tire tracks of the traffic ahead of me.

The ’33, being original, had no heater or defroster, one vacuum wiper on the driver’s side, a six-volt electrical system (meaning dim lights), mechanical brakes, and regular tires with some wear.  I’m not sure how any of the traffic was able to see me.  God was definitely watching over me.  The snow would build up on the windshield and the ark of the vacuum wiper would get smaller and smaller to the point where I was looking through a tiny slit.  I would then pull off the road and clear the windshield and headlights of snow and also scrape the ice from the inside of the windshield.  I have no idea how many times I had to do that during my journey on I-70.

Amazingly, I made it to my destination in the Pittsburgh area where I spent the night at my parents’ home before leaving on the final leg of my trip the next day.  Again, the ’33 performed flawlessly.  When I think about that trip today, I have a hard time believing that I actually did that. There is no understanding how the mind works when you are 26 years old!

A couple years later, I was transferred once again to the company headquarters in Pittsburgh, still owning the ’33.  Over the years, I had received countless inquiries about whether I wanted to sell the car.  My response was always “no, I am going to fix it up some day”.  Does that sound familiar?  

Finally, in 1977, a persistent guy who really wanted the ‘33 to restore, wore me down.  I came to the realization that I was never going to get the ‘33 restored so I worked out a deal with him on Halloween night.  I traded the ’33 coupe and some cash for a restored (decent amateur restoration) 1937 Ford Tudor sedan.  Over 43 years later, I still have the ’37, and have driven it on many trips and V-8 club tours over the years. 

In 1990, I was reunited with the ’33 at a local car show.  It had been restored, but was easily recognizable because before I had purchased it, the owner had replaced the fabric roof insert with a metal patch.  The new owner and I became good friends over the years and were both long time members of GPRG #48.

That ’33 coupe was an amazing car.  It just ran and performed, and I guess I was naïve and took it for granted at the time.  During the 12 years that I owned it, I never had to replace any mechanical parts.  When I sold it in 1977, it had the same fuel pump, push rod, carburetor, generator, points, and other equipment it had when I bought it, and they were all still functioning.

The ’33 has changed hands a couple times since then, and I have heard that it is now the property of the Early Ford V-8 Foundation.  

What an interesting journey the old ’33 has traveled.

~ Doug Baxter