My first car – the 1950 Chevrolet

The year would have been 1972, and I was living off-campus for the first time. A buddy of mine offered to sell me his car for $75.00, and wheels sounded like a great idea.
1950 Chevrolet Foldout-03


1950 Chevrolet flyer



Mine was a dark green, about the same color as the top of this one. Sadly, I never had the presence of mind to take any photos of it.



The interior dashboard; three on the tree. Notice the starter button to the left of the speedometer, with the choke just below it.



The straight six left enough room under the hood to house the entire Green Bay Packers starting lineup, along with your tools to boot; it was a joy to work on. A simpler engine I have never seen.

Sadly, the car was not in the best of shape… but I was young and very naïve. I ended up spending about $600.00 on brake work and front suspension (the kingpins were bad and had to be replaced, among other things); after that it ran OK, but had some compression issues. I decided to use the beast as a teaching machine, found a manual, and ripped the engine apart. I took the head down to a machine shop and had it re-worked, along with the valves – replaced a few worn-out parts, and put the thing back together again. It ran… sort of.

Life moved on, I stored it in various places and was later given a 1963 Ranchero by my dad… the Chevy ended up being towed to a junk yard where I bid it a fond farewell.

My Ranchero, 1972


1963 Ranchero with 260 V8. I loved this car too.

If I had it to do over again, I would have done many things differently… but I wish I had that car today. It was like driving a battleship, and had enough room inside for a whole lot of people.

Reminiscing, nothing more.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Barbie would feel right at home

My wife, not so much; pink is anathema to her. But back in the day, things like this were (tragically) not so uncommon.


Pink mini-car and mini-trailer


Pink Kitchen


Pink Kitchen, version 2.

We bought a home in 1992 that had been built in the early 50’s and updated slightly in the 70’s. The two upstairs bathrooms were, respectively, avocado green and fluorescent orange. What about that decade that brought out the Colors of Cthulhu I’ll never know, but I’m glad the madness passed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Auto Repair: It pays to shop around

We recently took my wife’s good old 97 Tercel, “Jack”, in for his yearly emissions test. Sadly, he failed – it seems that his catalytic converter had gracefully given up the ghost. After 15 years, that’s not unexpected. So we began to check local repair shops for a replacement. What I found was a real eye-opener.  Here are the quotes I was given from local service people. Prices reflect parts and labor.

Brent Brown Toyota, Orem, UT $1078.59
Larry Miller Toyota, Salt Lake City $973.00
Midas Salt Lake $300.00 to $350.00
Exhaust Unlimited $220.00 to $1000.00
Auto Performance Napa Autocare, Provo, UT $350.00
Autoworks Car Care, Payson, UT $220.00

Most places quoted me based on some ultra-special converter they said the car needed, which in itself cost around $800.00. We ended up going through Autoworks in Payson; they did a fine job, Jack passed his test, and off we went, happy at having saved significant money.

I have nothing against a business model based on honest markup for a fair profit, but some of these places definitely don’t have the customer’s best interest in mind.

Another story that I just happened to recall, since I’m on the subject.  Years ago, my first wife and our children took a trip to SoCal in our 1983 Buick Skylark. We had a wonderful time, and about 15 minute after we had gotten on the freeway in San Diego to head home, our transmission went out. I arranged a tow truck, and not knowing anyone in the area, had our car taken to AAMCO.

Big mistake.

They hauled our car in, took the transmission off, quoted us $1875 to repair it, and refused to put it back in unless we paid them to do it. Bastards. I later found out that nationwide, AAMCO is known for meaning “All Automatics Must Come Out.” I told them where they could stick their scam, and arranged for Interstate Transmissions to come get our car (and the tranny in a box). I sent my family home by air, rented a vehicle and stayed with my brother-in-law for a few days until the car was done, and Interstate charged me something like $1175, which included a lifetime warranty. And a good thing, too – because the transmission did go out again a year later, and they honored their warranty and fixed it at no additional cost.

Never take the first quote you get on something; always check around; and remember, a big name doesn’t guarantee honest or fair service. Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

1956: The Oldsmobile Golden Rocket


I love concept cars. I don’t care how impractical they are, they fire the imagination. I remember going to a car show at the New York coliseum in 1962 or thereabouts and seeing one of these:

1963 Chrysler turbine car

It’s a crime that experimental runs of cars like this and the EV1 have been recalled and scrapped. I think it’s a gross disservice to the industry and the public. For an informative experience, watch “Who Killed the Electric Car.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Raymond Loewy

Thanks to the power of the internet (not the least of whose forces of awesomeness is Matt Inman of The Oatmeal), more and more people are becoming acquainted with Nikola Tesla, and realizing that he was one of the most gifted, visonary and unsung scientists to ever walk the earth.

Inman just ran an indiegogo campaign to raise $850,000 toward purchasing Tesla’s last lab im Shoreham, New York, and converting it into a Tesla museum; he actually raised $1,370,511.00.

Yeah, Tesla is awesome, and Edison, who boinked Tesla in the bung, laughed about it, and took all the credit for alternating current, is somewhere on the awesomeness scale right next to Christopher Columbus, who boinked an entire population into the grave (with due respect to all my Italian relatives who still love him.)

But there are other awesome people in the world whom we also haven’t heard much about unless we happen to be internet addicts, and Stumble across an interesting fact at 3:00 AM because we can’t sleep.

Raymond Loewy is just one such engineering wonder.

Loewy’s designs are everywhere, and when you see them, they’re unlike anything else in their field. In the 1930’s, he designed the PRR S1 steam locomotive that looks like it came out of the year 2155;

Found at Frog Blog

He designed pencil sharpeners that look like TOS Phasers:

CocaCola dispensing machines upon which 1960’s toys were modeled:

And more cool stuff than you could shake a stick at.

Although the 1953 Studebaker Starliner designed by Loewy’s firm (which was the inspiration for later Mustangs) was largely designed by Robert Bourke, Loewy was later called back to Studebaker to supervise and inspire the team that designed the 1963 Avanti.

This particular model was spotted at a Mobil station at 236 Route 15 in Sturbridge, MA on June 20, 2012. It caught my eye even before I even knew who Loewy was.

Read about him here; you can see more pictures of Loewy’s swooshy stuff at SuperRadNow.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

ZCMI Parking Lot, 1950’s (and more)

ZCMI (Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institute) self-parking garage at night, Salt Lake City, Utah. Image from Georges Blond: J’ai vu vivre l’Amerique, Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1957

Capacity: 542 vehicles. Designed by L. G. Farrant

Both the garage and ZCMI, long a beloved and favorite department store, are now gone, but the store’s fabled cast-iron façade has been removed, renewed, and replaced several times as it remains a Salt Lake City landmark. Its first facelift took place when the ZCMI Center Mall was built in 1975.

An early ZCMI marquee.

ZCMI, 1910

The ZCMI Center exterior, 1975-2007

ZCMI Center interior, looking west – 1970’s

ZCMI was popular for good-quality merchandise at reasonable prices, paired with knowledgeable and competent sales help. Sadly, competing businesses in the area resulted in declining revenues, and the store was sold to May Stores (Now Macy’s, Inc.) It operated under the ZCMI name for two years before becoming Meier and Frank. in 2007, the ZCMI mall and the Crossroads Mall across the way were demolished as part of a 1.5 billion-dollar project co-sponsored by Salt Lake City and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which opened in March of 2012 as a multi-use center including retail, restaurants, business, entertainment and residential areas. City Creek itself, the original source of water for the 1947 Pioneers, was brought back to the surface and channeled through the development. The ZCMI façade was restored once more and now serves as a front for Macy’s.

ZCMI façade in its final completion stages, City Creek sky bridge behind.

Façade close-up

Façade detail

City Creek parking is now underground and includes capacity for 5,000 cars. You’ve come a long way, baby.

The Old Wolf has spoken.