Manifold Destiny


So my dad informed me ruefully that my intake manifold is shot. This is some thing no woman of a certain age wants to hear, particularly from her father.

“See this corrosion here? It’s not going to get a good seal to the carburetor.”

Me too, intake manifold. Me too.

Anyway, this resulted in a frantic search for a new one which as it happened would take at least a week to get from any online source as no local parts outfit could even order one in for me. Damn supply chain issues. Is there nothing that Covid cannot mess up?

Finally somebody that I spoke to at one of the parts houses recommended that I call the imaginatively named Old Car Parts over in Portland, a place I’d been driving past for my entire life and always wondered about but never had occasion to visit before. I called them and the gruff voice that answered took down what I was looking for and my name and phone number. There was no indication in the seven words he spoke to me whether or not I would get a call back or what time frame I might expect one in. I didn’t hear back.

The next day we decided to just go down there since we weren’t having any luck anywhere else.

Friends, it was like stepping into the Ollivander’s of crusty old car parts. This place is jammed so full of bits and pieces of every antique car you can think of that it boggles the mind. Like, to the point of no return.

The fellow that was there turned out to be the guy I’d spoken to. I told him that we had called the day before but we didn’t hear back so we decided to just come on down. “Yeah, we’re not always great at calling people back,” he said. “There’s only a couple of us that are here most days and sometimes it’s only me and it can be a little bit much.” I told him I didn’t take it personally and he laughed.

We then embarked upon a mission to find the parts we came for. This took us through the store to the back, stopping along the way to check a couple of racks of manifolds and related parts. We had no luck finding what we were looking for so we returned to the front of the store and he made a phone call.

He then sent us to the owners house about 20 minutes away. “He’s pretty sure he’s got a couple of those hanging around over there,” he told us. My interest was definitely piqued by this time. There is literally almost nothing I enjoy more than poking around in piles of junk. I cannot explain it but there it is.

You guys. It was everything I could have imagined, and more.

We found the place tucked into a dead end gravel road up on a hill, a gated compound of modest design festooned with one or two tastefully decaying old cars parked out front. We parked tentatively to the side and wandered back to where we could see a couple of old duffers shooting the breeze in the back of the house. This turned out to be Joe, the owner, and a customer-turned-friend whose name I didn’t catch. Joe was expecting us and pretty soon we were off to ramble the property seeking our parts.

We started by exploring the shop building which was every bit as packed and jumbled as the store had been. No luck there.

Eventually we wandered outside where we found the manifold I needed rusting in a pile of brambles. Along the way we also found an air cleaner and a technical manual from 1965. My car came with the most ridiculous tiny air cleaner about the size of a can of deviled ham and I really wanted to return it to the type the car came with, which is bigger than a dinner plate and has a long snout off to one side. Dad spotted the manual on a shelf somewhere and wanted it for the various specs contained therein. I happily bought them all for less than a hundred dollars.

Joe turned out to be the most delightful guy. He’s 82 and opened the Old Car Parts store fifty years ago. He loves old cars and everything to do with them, and he’s living the best life doing what he loves. It was just a magical experience to meet him and see his shop.

As we packed up to go Joe offered to show us his pride and joy, a 1938 convertible Chevrolet that he’d tried for years to find. He told us he’d had a few leads on one over the years but it had never worked out, and when this one finally came along he was so excited his hands were shaking as he talked to the owner on the phone. The upholstery is original and the car has only been painted once since it was new. It has a rumble seat!

He also has a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville in original sunrise coral hiding in the shop. I would have purchased it on the spot if I could, it was that beautiful.

The green 1951 Chevy shown here was taken in as part of a trade and he said he doesn’t intend to keep it.

Miscellaneous shop and property pictures. His nest, a wall of hubcaps, etc.

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