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A True Story: Part 2

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Sun Apr 12, 2020 4:30 pm
388 Posts
A True Story. Only the Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Guilty.


The Roll Cage


Well, I now had a stolen car that had been stripped and “repainted” with a massive sneaker painted on both sides of it. But it did sort of look like a race car, but it still needed one major component. A roll bar cage. Now money was a large factor in trying to get one installed. Not only was there the cost of the welding service, there was the cost of the pipe. I had taken a part time job at a local food market, but it wouldn't cover the cost of a cage. We had a dilemma.

Then one day while I was returning from a trip from a neighboring town, I drove (yep finally got the money to buy a 1963 Plymouth Belvedere) down East Fulton Street heading into town. And just on the outskirt of town, I saw a late model race car sitting in a yard. It looked rather old and forlorn, but what made this event notable to me, was that it was parked at a business that said “Ray's ( not his real name) Welding and Concrete Fabrication”. My eyes centered on the word welding. The outside of the shop did not scream out money. There was metal sheets and pipes laying all around, concrete bird baths and figurines scattered about, and some type of large metal pieces ( I would later learn that they were concrete step forms.). Not being bashful by any means, I pulled into the yard, and went over to look at the race car that was sitting there. It looked to be around a 54 or 55 Chevy that had made the transformation from street to track. The drivers name had faded out and there was a bunch of misc junk thrown about inside the car. As I was looking at the car, a sound caused me to look back, and here was the owner of the shop walking toward me. He was a tall lanky guy wearing jeans, work boots, and a t shirt that looked like it was a causality of WWII. His face, hands, and arms were a combination of brown and black. Brown from the deep tan, and black from all the oil on him. After a perfunctory (I am giving myself a bonus point for using that word!) greeting, he asked what did I want. I then went on to explain that I had a race car (thinking to myself that I using that word loosely) and needed to have a roll cage installed in it and wondered how much it would cost, and did he even do them.

“Put the cage in that car a few years ago” he said pointing at the car I was standing next to.

Guess that meant that he did do them.

“How much would it cost to put a cage in my car?” I asked.

“What kind of car?” he asked. I told him.

“No frame” he stated. I was picking up on the fact that he didn't like to use a lot of words.

Huh? What the hell was he talking about?

“Huh?” I quickly responded echoing what I was thinking.

“It's a Plymouth. They don't use a real frame. They use what is called uni-body construction.”.

“And that means what?” I queried. I didn't have a clue what the hell he was talking about.

He dragged a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and lit one up.

“What it means, is that you have no frame to weld to. You need to plate the sub frames, both front and rear, and have to tie those sub frames together. Takes more time, and that means more money”

Well shit.

Maybe it was the despondent look on my face that caused him to pause. He took a look at me, then at my 63 Plymouth (hey, I was proud of that car! At least the bank was also proud of it since they were financing it!). He looked about, went to a cooler that was sitting next to what to me appeared to be a pile of junk (which I later found out was indeed a pile of junk), and pulled out a can of beer. He popped the top, took a long slug from it, and then glared at me.

“200 dollars” he stated flatly.

I gulped. It was starting to appear that I was going to have to continue my search. Then an inspiration hit me!

“Would it be OK if I gave you $50.00 up front, and then paid it off each week?” My voice probably held a hopeful plea.

He looked at me, took another drag from his cigarette, followed by another hit from the beer can.

“Bring the car here and let me took at it” he finally said.

Well he didn't say no! So off to the car I went, drove to the car, and we got the mighty Imperial once again attached to “The Sneaker”, and off to the welding shop it went. Ray came out, took one long look at the car, noting its fancy paint job and the size of what I was now calling “The Titanic”. He shook his head, and looked at us standing there as we were shuffling from one foot to another.

“You need to help. Got other work I need to do. Don't have time to waste on this tom foolery”.

“I can help!” I responded eagerly! Those were words I would soon learn to regret. What help meant was that I was to do it. He had directed me to a pile of used galvanized water pipe (no chrome moly tubing here!), showed me how to use the chop saw, and set me to work cutting pipe to the lengths he wanted. He showed me how to use an acetylene torch to notch the pipe ends after he drew on them where he wanted them cut. He laid out a plate with 4 squares marked off and had me cut them. I started to wonder if he was ever going to start welding the pieces to the car. Well, he sort of did. He laid out the 4 plates on the sub frame and welded them into place. Must have taken him 15 minutes. He then told me to cut a piece of angle iron he gave me into two equal pieces, and to get the car jacked up into the air. He crawled under the car and less then another 15 minutes, the sub frames were tied together with the angle iron. At that point he decided it was beer time and another lesson for me to learn.

“Going to teach you now how to weld.”

And teach me he did. No fancy high tech welder here. Just a simple Lincoln Arc Welder. Using the remnant of the flat plate I had cut earlier, he had me practicing beading until he thought it look acceptable. Then he turned me loose on the car.

“By the way, try not to breathe the fumes from that pipe when you are welding. Galvanized pipe fumes are not good for you.”

Well great. And disaster after disaster mounted as I continually burned through the pipe as I went about my learning curve. That would lead me to cutting pieces of pipe so that I could use it to patch the burned through pipe and hoping I didn't burn through that! A few holes were covered by JBWeld, and when that ran out, well, bubblegum works just as well.  And there were no “rounded” or “bent” pipe on this cage. It was straight across on the top and to make the drivers sidebars more distant, there were 3 single pipes notched in two places, hammered closed in the vise, then welded where the pipe was notched. It made a basically a elongated u shape. And I won't go into detail how I sent my pant leg on fire with an errant spark. Nope, not going there.

Three weeks later the cage was finished. I had burned through more clothes then I even knew I owned.My burnt pants were now cutoff shorts. My arms had various small burns all over them as well. But my cage was complete, and I told Ray I would come up on Saturday to get the car. He nodded and went about his business.

I had been salting away each week money from my part time job to have the $50.00 I had promised him up front. So I had the up front money, and when Saturday came around, the mighty Imperial once again headed out to play tow truck. On the way to Ray's I decided to stop at a local convenience store, and picked up a 6 pack of Genesee beer for Ray as a way of thanking him. When we got to his place, I climbed out and handed him the 6 pack of beer and said that it was thanks for his working with me on the cost of the cage, and then handed him the fifty dollars I had with me.

“How do you want me to pay off the balance?” I inquired.

He took the ice cold 6 pack and removed a can and chugged it right down, then opened another.

“Consider it paid in full.” he laughed, and turned around and went back to his work. Little did I know that I would later see much, much, more of Ray. My mother met him one day several months later, and a couple years later they married.

But as I looked at “The Sneaker” it came to mind that I had a race car! And so far it had cost me $50.00 and a six pack of beer!

Now the next quandary came. Who was going to drive it?!

To be continued.


Handle every stressful situation like a dog.
If you can't eat it or play with it, piss on it and walk way
Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:05 pm
Driver
152 Posts
Keep it going Larry


Thanks
Richard Hildebrandt
AKA Corvette-fan
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Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:06 pm
Driver
152 Posts
You were too young to race but able to buy a six pack of Beer?


Thanks
Richard Hildebrandt
AKA Corvette-fan
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Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:06 pm
388 Posts
Drinking age was 18 then, and I knew people Smile


Handle every stressful situation like a dog.
If you can't eat it or play with it, piss on it and walk way
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