Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Seeing is believing...
I immediately phoned the Milwaukee, Wisconsin number found on the web-page where the car was being advertised. The lady who answered the phone told me the car was not located in Milwaukee, but rather just outside of Dallas, Texas. She explained that her company (Camelot) was consigning the car for an elderly gentleman who was liquidating his entire collection. Previously, she facilitated the transport of his other vehicles, including several Excaliburs, a Maserati and a stunning early 60's Caddy.
Their web-site displayed about twelve pics of the car and gave a brief history of the Clenet Coachworks company. What I didn't believe was that the car had a mere 1,427 miles on the odometer or never driven by the owner.
I gave her my contact info and asked for the owner to contact me. About two days later I received a call at my office from Texas, I immediately knew it was the owner of this Clenet. We had a 45-minute conversation and just as we were about to hang up, he wanted to fax the original title and bill of sale to me. Of course I said yes...and within minutes the pages appeared on my computer. Again, I couldn't forward those documents to my brother fast enough...who called me immediately and exclaimed that we needed to buy this car.
I phoned the seller and told him that I needed to see the car and how soon could I fly down to the Dallas area. I was on the Orbitz web-site making reservations while confirming the date we could meet at his estate. Nine days later on May 29th, my flight for Dallas departed Chicago. I would spend that evening at the Super 8 hotel near DFW on the outskirts of Dallas.
Early Friday morning I got into my rental PT Cruiser and drove 130+ miles eastward to finally see the car at his home. He met me at the front of his one-thousand acre estate and took me to a series of out-buildings where the family business had been run over forty years. What an interesting man. My mind kept saying "take me to the car," but my heart told me to be patient and let him show his life-long passion. After an hour passed, we finally drove up to the house where his stable of cars once resided.
There it was, Clenet number 229 of 250 seeming a bit lonely in a building that once housed at least five other cars. Memories hung on the walls where his other trophies of success were once proudly displayed. The car never moved from that spot after being transported from the selling dealer in Dallas since the Spring of 1989. He said they hadn't started it in over six years and it obviously needed some freshening and a battery. He put his best men to the task as I said, "hey, let's see if we can get her running." John with his son Paul and I jumped to action, somewhat like a pit-crew; Paul found fresh gasoline on the estate while John drove away to purchase a new battery.
I was now alone with the car. Seeing is believing and from what I observed, yes...this car traveled just 1,427 miles its whole life! What a shame that he never truly enjoyed this vehicle from behind the wheel.
I took in the immaculate red leather interior with grey lambswool carpets and burl wood accents. This car reminded me of how a Rolls Royce smells! I raised the trunk lid and found the same luxurious wool carpets. "Is this for real and what's the catch" kept running through my mind. I'm alone, my brother Mario could not join me on this expedition. We agreed that I had ultimate authority to back out of the purchase if the car didn't meet my expectations. I'm questioning myself...am I making the right decision? If I back out, will he be angry?
This car had not seen the light of day since 1989. The exterior wood accents are perfect. The paint has one minor stone chip. The exterior chrome and stainless trim are slightly discolored from the Texas humidity. I know it will come back to its full potential with chrome polish and lots of elbow grease. Then we raised the hood and there it was...an engine that hadn't been run in years. Oh my...what now...
I pulled the dipstick and noted full oil, slightly discolored. The radiator was half-full so we chose to top it off with just water. John returned with the fresh battery and we installed it. The car came to life with the ignition buzzer sounding and all of the lights were functioning. We pulled the distributor wire and turned the key. Hail Mary...the car turned over and sounded like any other Ford V8 from the 70's! We chose to turn it over for a few seconds at a time. After several tries, we decided to prime the carb and give it a go...it started and ran for all of 6 seconds. The small amount of gasoline quickly burned out and we added more. Again, Paul added a bit more gasoline and I turned the key...it restarted. We repeated this process several times without any knocks, clangs, pings or chatter. Just a solid rumble and a gasping carburetor wanting more fuel.
It wants to live...