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My Jalopy in 1949

Updated on January 8, 2011

The way it was in 1949

I remember my jalopy

I was just 15 when I got my first car, and it was a real jalopy. It was a 1931 Chevrolet that barely ran. I traded a Whizzer motorbike for it - and my friend probably got the best of the deal..

The year was 1949, and the place was Miami, Florida, a much quieter, gentler time and place than now. It was a time when a kid could have fun with an old junker and nobody cared.

It had mechanical brakes that you pushed all the way to the floor board and waited for the car to stop. The gear selector was wasted, so you had to shove the floor shifter in a number of directions, kind of stabbing around, until you found a gear. That situation was aggravated by the fact that once you let the foot-operated clutch out about a quarter inch, it was out.

The steering was pretty loose, and the ignition was a real piece of work. There was a frayed wire that you stuck in a clamp - while sparks flew.

The battery was dead - probably had been for a long time - so my buddies and I always pushed it up the gentle incline that we called a hill in Miami, got it rolling and jumped in, stabbing the gear lever and hoping for the best.

Sometimes the engine started and we could have a joy ride around the neighborhood. Usually, we had to push if back up the “hill” a few times before we got it going. Once going, we didn’t dare turn the engine off for fear we would be stranded somewhere. But in those days it didn't take much for a few teenage boys to have fun. Riding around the neighborhood was a ball!

Speaking of the engine, it had a very loud rod knock - which I didn’t worry about.

It didn’t look like much, either. Somebody had taken the fenders and running boards off. The roof was made of tar paper and not much else, so I decided to make a “convertible” out of it. I got a hatchet and chopped the top out.

Then one day when I was in school, my little sister who was 4 or 5 at the time, filled the gas tank with sand. That was the final blow for that old Chevy.

I figure, if I learned to drive in that beat up old rattletrap, I could drive anything. In fact, I remember thinking when automatic transmissions first came out that anyone too lazy to shift gears didn't even deserve to drive.

After that old Chevy died, I soon had me a ‘36 Plymouth coupe, a big step up. But that’s another story

If you enjoy nostalgia, and especially if you like old motorcycles, you may want to read my book, OVER THE HANDLEBARS. It is a collection of 24 short stories and articles, most of which were first published in motorcycle magazines in the 1960s. It is available through I also have written two other books about motorcycling availalbe from  You can read all 3 of them on your computer for just $2.99 each. Go to


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