We were traveling home with our family in the back seat, down old Highway 30. We had agreed to do that instead of speeding down Interstate 80 as a result of a deal I had made with our 14-year-old son, Dan. He wanted to find a classic car to fix up and we were both pretty sure that Highway 30 would be the place to look.
We hadn't traveled many miles when I spotted something that changed the direction of our family forever. Right in the middle of Gibbon, Neb., sitting in all of its faded out glory, was a black 1957 Ford Fairlane. I slowed quickly, circled the block and stopped to examine the old car with a 'For Sale' sign in the left driver's window. The car was mostly intact, had a little rust along the bottom edges but we deemed it to be perfect.
We went home, discussed the purchase amongst the family, also with some local experts as well as a body shop, and I decided that the deal was going to be too expensive to bring to a conclusion. Dan had 4-H calf money and was going forward with or without me. I decided that 'with me' was better so we contacted the owner, reached an agreement on price, hooked on to a flatbed and on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, we brought the old Ford home.
The Corned Beef and Cabbage was ready on our arrival at the farm, but what to do with the old Ford weighed heavy on our minds. We had much to try to learn in the next few years.
We learned that black was the color of choice for old car enthusiasts. Their body lines are straighter because the factories in the '50s would search for the cars on the assembly line with the most correct lines to paint black. Black paint, we found out, will show the slightest imperfections in detail.
Dan and I started on the project. We farmed out the body work and we took the Y block 292 V-8 out and had it rebuilt. Slowly but surely it came together. We did the interior work ourselves as well as the trunk and mechanical.
By June, two years later, he was ready to drive his Fairlane. It turned out very well and looked great but more than that it was one of the biggest influences to have ever hit that young boy. It took a lad who wasn't terribly interested in farming and who was pretty clumsy around an end wrench to someone who found they had real talent and a burning desire to be in the collision repair business. During high school, he began working for the body shop that had worked on his car. He graduated and attended auto collision repair school.
Now, 20 years later, it has led to marriage, building his own collision repair business in Lincoln, Neb., and hiring his brother as the shop manager. The place supports those families plus two others and, most importantly, helps support six of our grandchildren the boys are raising for us.
Spotting an old car back in 1991, in the middle of a small town, led to quite an adventure.
I often find myself listening to some parent talk about their son or daughter and the wild off the wall thing their offspring is involved with. It might be a part-time job, paid or volunteer, or a hobby that has them completely enthralled, or a group performing a song or a play or a speech they've been working on for weeks. I usually say, "That's good because, well, you never know."
I seldom can think about St. Patty's Day without corned beef and cabbage crossing my mind as well as a '57 Fairlane rolling off a flatbed into our shed.
I now know that when children ask questions or permission to do something that is out of the ordinary, "No," shouldn't automatically roll off your tongue because, "Well, you never know."
Dan's Fairlane left--On the right his award winning Probe he built and painted in his College years. The Dupont Paint Company featured it in their company publication.The paint process took 27 hours of non-stop work before he could stop.