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A man and his car ...



Published: Sun, February 19, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


I am not a car guy.

I grew up around them with my dad, who has four classics: a 1950 Mercury, a 1951 Mercury, a 1963 Chevy Impala SS and a 1971 Pontiac Grand Ville convertible — his “parade car.”

Despite that, I never got the bug.

My car passion is pretty much exhausted with: Cars get me from point A to point B; they store hockey gear pretty well; and I must check the oil and the tire pressure on a regular basis.

But from being around my dad and his friends, I know Americans love their cars. For many of us, there’s a connection, a story. And often, it’s an American tale.

Like John and Doris Woodall’s.

They’re looking for a car — a 1941 Ford Deluxe Business Coupe.

John, of Tennessee, isn’t looking for just any 1941 Ford; just a specific one.

His car.

“This car was the first street rod my wife and I purchased when we first got married. We were young and didn’t have much money, just out of college ...”

But when you’re a young couple, John said, you realize when the bills start coming in that what you want is not always what you can afford.

With a new child, they decided to sell the car after just two years of ownership.

“In 1975, we drove the car to a show in Hershey, Pa., with no heater or windshield wipers. The sale of the car would pay off the loan and give us a little extra money to help us with some added expenses in our young, married life.”

After sitting there all day, no buyer came forward.

With just 15 minutes left in the show, a Youngstown guy stopped at the car.

In 1975, the Youngstown guy was 41 and wanted a 1941 car to drive away in on his wedding day.

He bought the car.

John only remembers that the man was pretty well-off and owned a tool-and-die business back in Youngstown.

He remembers the well-off part because the guy bought so much at the Hershey show that there was no room left on his trailer to haul the 1941 Ford. So, John agreed to drive it back to Youngstown for him.

“He gave me directions to the Youngstown airport and asked that I leave the car in his airport hangar,” John said.

He did, and the car was out of John’s life. It came back into his life about 10 years after he sold it, when a man from Canfield, he thinks, bought the car. John’s original “for sale” sign from the Hershey show was still in the car with his phone number on it. The new owner tracked down John for just a little bit more history.

And with that, the story of the car ended.

Except — that we love our cars.

The Woodalls moved a couple of times, changed phone numbers, had children, had grandchildren, etc.

All the while, the 1941 Ford Deluxe Business Coupe never left John’s soul.

“It had blue exterior and black diamond pleated interior, and had an automatic transmission with a 302 V8 Ford engine,” John remembers with the ease only a car guy could muster after some 37 years.

He just retired after 39 years as a teacher. The child he had when he sold the 1941 Ford now has nine kids of his own as part of the Woodalls’ flock of 13 grandchildren. And this year is his 41st year married to his college sweetheart.

The 1941 Ford, he thinks, would be great to bring back to the family as a retirement present, an anniversary gift and a treasure for his 13 grandkids.

If you think you can help the Woodalls find their car, email me.

He never kept the VIN number. But under one of the dashboards, he placed his name and phone number on a metal plate.

With John’s letter, he sent a photo of the car. It’s the last one he took — in Hershey — as he let his car become some other car guy’s car.

In the reflection off the shiny blue side panels, you can see John on his knee shooting the photo. Doris is in the background wearing white leggings.

And behind them is what looks like an American flag.

If not an American flag, it’s very much an American tale.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.


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