Thursday, August 30, 2012

Off Time

To start a 1930 Ford Model A Tudor (mine at least) you must do the following:  Push spark advance lever to its top position; push fuel lever down one third of the way; turn fuel valve down; pull the choke out all the way; turn on ignition; press starter button on floorboard after turning my foot to avoid pressing the gas button or brake pedal; hope and pray the old girl starts up; and wonder what you did wrong after the third or fourth try.  When the car starts, happy begins!
The job of crime scene photographer means I am exposed to the worst in life, at least the worst there is in a big city.  Los Angeles ranks as the 10th largest city in the world with all factors added and its size and population taken into account.  It took a long time to get used to all of the issues associated with this job.  My Model A has really helped alleviate a lot of the stress.
To say I love the old girl is a bit much.  I am, however, ecstatic every time she starts.  Why?  I don’t know.  The output from the four cylinders is about 38 hp on a good day.  It might go 60 mph on the freeway without a headwind.  Going downhill, you would avoid going any faster because the roof is made of cloth and the aerodynamics are just slightly better than a shoe box.  I did, in fact, get her going rather quickly once.  Ever been in a car that swirled and danced?  Not fun.  Well, maybe just a smidge.
For about 60 years, my car was not maintained to the highest standards.  Now then, 60 years is about 45 past the longest time anyone expects to drive any car today.  As of 2012, the year this missive was penned, the old girl turned 82.  She is entitled to a creak or two.  A rattle or several is charming.  Get that?  
Slowly but surely, I have traced down her major ‘health issues’, working my way around each window, the mounting of the windshield, the stops on all the doors, and welting for the fenders.  The more I fix, however, the more I find.  I hate the thought that one day I will accidently massage all of the charm out of her.

The history of my car, both as a production line Ford and her journey through time and into my life, is unique.  The Model A was an advanced car.  I know the starting procedures described above make her sound like an antique.  Although she definitely is, at least I don’t have to get out and turn a crank.  Yes, there is a place where you can do that, and yes, I carry a spare hand crank.  
She was like new to me and had only been owned by one family her entire life.  The man who sold her to me did so for far less than what he could have profited for one reason only.  I would never make a hot rod out of her.  I had been telling him how hot rods ruin an antique car.  The body is taken, the roof cut off, and most of the rest thrown away.  I just don’t like it. 

The owner took me to see a lonely, blue car tucked away in a garage, which was needed for more valuable things.  No one in his family could take her.  His grandkids were uninterested and he despised the idea that she would be chopped up and lost into the yester world of custom like everyone else’s world of hot rodding.  His father had given him the car.  I am now her third owner.  I like the idea that she is as classic as her previous owners.  
As I paid for her and made arrangements to take her home, I found out that the man who sold her to me was instrumental in raising the funds to build Parker Center, the building I now work in.
Personally, I don’t have anything against hot rodders.  I just do not want it done to mine.  As I get older, the slower I go, the faster she catches up with me, creaks and all.  My job is forgotten as we put-put down the road, feeling every pothole, turn, and wind gust.

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