The Coolest Car I Ever Owned

From the Old Box of Photos 

I owned a 1965 Pontiac Lemans, and drove it like a kid might do. I was 18 when I bought it.  I had traded that junk of a motorcycle plus some cash for the car. It was an okay car, but nothing special. 

Reading the classified ads one day, I spotted a 1956 Chevrolet Nomad for sale in the town near my home. I asked my dad about it and we agreed to go take a look to see what kind of shape it was in, and more importantly, how much. I never dreamed that I would soon own it. After all, it’s a NOMAD.  The seller said he needed a more reliable car because his wife was pregnant and due soon. My dad asked if he would be interested in a trade for the Pontiac, and he said yes. After he gave the Pontiac a test drive, we settled down to terms. How much?  

I was ready to trade even up. My dad boldly said, how about the Nomad and some cash for the Pontiac. He agreed, and I drove the Nomad home! All it needed was an adjustment to the timing! 

1956 Chevy Nomad
1956 Chevy Nomad

The Nomad needed a little TLC, a good wash and polish. It was all original, which was something of a rarity. The Nomad was Chevrolet’s two-door sports station wagon. Very distinguishable by that slanted pillar behind the door. Lots of chrome strips inside and out. It had a 265 V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor. Power Glide automatic transmission. Even the clock and radio worked. 

I spent a lot of time cleaning up and polishing all the chrome that distinguishes the Nomad from the two and four-door station wagons that Chevrolet was also selling. It was my pride and joy. The coolest car.

In December, 1969, the U.S. Department of Defense conducted the first draft lottery. I sat with my mom, glued to the television watching them pull birthdays from the container. Then it came. Number 51 is November 7. My birthday. In January, I was called up for a physical, notified of being drafted in February, and on a bus to the induction center in Chicago in March, 1970. All the while, the war in Vietnam is raging on.

What to do with the car? What to do with the horse I also owned, which will be a future story from the old box of photos? The uncertainty of my future was foremost on my mind. I decided to sell the car, and it did not take long to sell.

Jumping ahead to my return from Vietnam and the U.S. Army, I went back to the guy who bought my Nomad. “Would you sell it back to me?” The answer was quick. “No!”

So, I bought a 1968 Ford Fairlane, and then a couple of months later, a 1972 Honda CL350 Scrambler motorcycle. At least I had wheels. 

Of all the cars I have owned, and miles driven. That Nomad is still my favorite. When I attend a classic car show, I am always looking for a Nomad to remind me of what I once had. 

See you on the highway.



My First Motorcycle

From the old box of photos.

Finding that old box of photos was like discovering presents under the Christmas Tree. I thought these images of my early motorcycles, horses and cars were gone, lost to history. Merry Christmas in June!

My senior year of high school (Class of 1968), I tried to buy a motorcycle that I saw for sale along the street I took to go to work. As far as I could tell, it needed a little TLC. I told the guy I would buy it. I don’t remember how much. When I arrived home, my mom told me that the guy had called to see if it was okay to sell me the bike. Her response to him was, “He is still in high school and he is not buying a motorcycle!” I was mad. Very mad. Not destructive mad, just mad.

1963 Harley-Davidson Sprint 250cc Scrambler

I had always understood that us boys were not allowed to own a car while we were in high school, but this was a motorcycle and I had been riding the Lambretta scooter that Dad bought. After I graduated, I went back to see if the bike was still was available. It was, and I bought it! It was a 1963 Harley-Davidson Sprint 250cc Scrambler. It was made in Italy by Aermacchi for Harley-Davidson. Yes, one of those. It had a kick start on the left and gear selector on the right–a four speed transmission. 

I don’t think mom was very happy with that, but I had a part-time job, and paid with my own money. So, it was now acceptable. Dad was okay with it, I think, but I am sure there were discussions.

Immediately, I started giving that bike a little TLC, but it needed more than that. It needed a mechanic. Off it went to the Harley dealer. Upon its return, I gave it a paint job–cans of automotive spray paint from the hardware store. It looked reasonably good. 

Even after “fixing it up,” the bike was still a piece of junk. Over the years, and after numerous purchases of motorcycles, I still think of that Sprint as the worst motorcycle I ever owned. Eventually, I traded it for a car, a 1965 Pontiac Lemans four-door sedan with a three-speed on the column. 

Today, that Sprint is a collector’s item. I wish I still had it. 

See you on the highway.



The Box of Old Photos

My wife and I were searching through our very unorganized boxes of photos recently, and at the bottom of one of those boxes was a shoebox of old Polaroid photos taken by me as a teenager. That Polaroid was my birthday present from Mom and Dad for my 13th birthday. I still have that camera. 

I thought I had lost these to time. They are photos of the horses, motorcycles and cars that I owned as a teenager. I see plenty of stories coming, walking down memory lane. Stay tuned.

See you on the highway.