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A lifetime of automobiles


This car had been owned by Mrs. Boaz, a lady in Frederick who had only driven it a few miles and had taken immaculate care of it. She had traded it for a 1955 model and my dad snapped up the trade-in. This was probably the best car our family had ever owned. It was very large, very powerful, quite luxurious and boasted a Hemi V8 engine and power steering. The only downside was the well known “klunkamatic transmission,” which was Chrysler’s first step toward automatic transmissions.

One of the things I remember which show the durability of this car was the time that the whole family had gone to our other farm many miles from where we lived. We had taken the car, and Dad had no plans for doing any farm work. However, he discovered some small job he needed to do with the tractor. When he tried to start the tractor, he discovered that the battery was dead. Undaunted, he merely hooked a chain to the rear bumper of the Chrysler and to the front of the John Deere Model 70 and had Mom pull him down the driveway to start the tractor. The major event in our family during the 1952 Chrysler era was our move in the fall of 1956 from the farm East of Davidson to a smaller farm just west of Frederick. In the fall of 1955, our family made a trip to the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. This stands out as a significant event in my childhood, as I was allowed to spend several hours in the new auto display building, just admiring all the new 1956 models.

I collected a large armload of new car brochures, which I maintained as prized possessions until about the time I left home. Man, I wish I had them today, as they would truly be collector’s trove. Because of the good experience with the Saratoga, Dad developed a pattern of purchasing used Chryslers, and it proved quite successful over the years. The next car, purchased in 1959, was a 1955 Chrysler Windsor, which had low miles and had been pampered by its previous owner, an elderly gentleman named Mr. Garton. This was one of the prettiest cars our family had owned, and even today, one of my favorite body styles of the era. One of its most fascinating features was a fully automatic transmission with a shift lever mounted on the dash. Like the Saratoga, the Windsor was roomy, powerful, and very reliable. One of the crises we faced in the Windsor occurred on a trip my mother, little brother Stanley and I made to Burkburnett, Texas, to visit my sister Wilma. On the way home we encountered a flash flood and drove through many miles of water covered roadways. My Mom was hesitant to drive through the water, so even though I was only about 15 years old, she had me drive through the floodwaters. I am sure it was more due to the stability of the car than to the expertise of the young driver, but we made it through the floodwaters without a problem.

In about 1962, Mr. Garton traded his 1959 Chrysler Windsor for a new one, and my Dad traded the 1955 Windsor for the 1959 Windsor, which was even more pristine than the 1955, since much of its life had been spent being stored by Ralph Heap, the local Chrysler dealer. This was the car that was entrusted to me from time to time after I got a driver’s license. It was big, comfortable, powerful, and saved my life on at least one occasion. For a short time during the 1959 Windsor era, I was dating a girl from Grandfield. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember the girl at all, but I remember the car very well. On one occasion, I was late for our date, and since this was before the age of cell phones, I couldn’t call and tell her I’d be late, so I responded in the classic manner of a stupid kid. I drove very fast. I remember driving over 100 miles per hour and having a blowout on the right front tire. Some people have not believed this story as I related it, but the Old Chrysler came to a stop without a wiggle. After changing the tire, I went on to Grandfield for my date, very late but very much alive.

To be continued.

David Barnett Contributing Columnist Barnett Contributing Columnist

By David Barnett


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