The Restoration From Hell Part Four
THE WALLY SAGA BEGINS
Crank invited another guy to the party-his name was Wally.
Wally had lost a business to a nasty divorce and that, combined with his natural aversion to being a warm and fuzzy human being set alarm bells off that you could hear in space.
Worse yet, Wally was another biker.
He dressed like one 24-7,he wasn’t thrilled with mainstream society, he rode the wheels off his Harley and above all he wasn’t a 9-5 guy.
More about that later.
What sold me on Wally was his game plan. He had the project mapped out pretty fast .He had a great portfolio of his work and the one that sold me was a ground up restoration on a 57 Chevy. He’d done that car for a very well known multi-millionaire owner of a major cable company so if he was good enough for that guy…
Crank pitched this guy pretty hard too so the deal was done. Like Right-on John, Wally liked to be paid in cash. These guys are really allergic to paper trails-they treat customers like 2 legged ATMs but in Wally’s case he actually got things done so the withdrawals weren’t so painful. It was like playing a card game-all Jokers in Johnny’s deck but Wally threw the odd ace in.
Personality-wise, Wally was consistent the whole time. He despised everybody. Wally made Right-on John (a man with an extensive history of serious jail time) look like a game show host. But Wally had one major advantage-he actually worked on the car so I was pressed into a hurry-up on parts.
LOOKING FOR PARTS-MORE FUN.
Suppliers take center stage
The search for vintage car parts takes you into yet another murky world. Suppliers run from morally bankrupt, crabby, ethically challenged scum of the earth to helpful, honest highly skilled professionals. My job was to sort them out-that experience, like everything else came at a cost.
The only consistency throughout all suppliers was that they never give anything away. No throw something in for return business or anything close-everything from tiny screws to doors came at a price.
Be happy they give you a box for the parts.
You have entered the crack cocaine world of restoration and if you learn anything here, it’s that you will pay and pay and pay.
A cocaine dealer will show you more compassion than some nut in Wyoming with 23 1961 Chevy doors will show you. A lot more.
WALLY QUITS WORKING
Wally had a hard and fast rule right from that start-keep the parts and supplies coming or he quit working. No exceptions, no negotiation. I would have seen more flexibility getting caught with a drunken semi-clothed babe in Taliban Afghanistan.
Anyhow, Wally took one look at the front fenders and pronounced them unfixable. I didn’t see that coming so after he put his tools away, crossed his arms and said goodbye I knew that the fender search had moved up to number one. It’s amazing how many lessons I had to learn the hard way.
New fenders-the hard way
By a stroke of luck I’d just met a guy who had a pipeline to very dry Arizona car parts. He wanted to establish a market in my area so he assured me that he could get the fenders at a great rock-bottom price in return for my connections in the area. He was true to his word and within days I had the fenders but the price was astronomically higher than my new buddy had quoted. He claimed his connection had upped the price. When he said he’d cut his throat on the deal I was really hoping for more than superficial scratches.
What do you do?
You do what you always do-you pay the guy with the mask and the gun.
Later on I found out that this weasel had tried to recruit the attractive daughter of a large local car dealership to become his partner in the rust free car parts world. She was great looking but the closest she’d been to a 52 Ford is when somebody parked one next to the 75,000 SUV she’s taken off her dad’s lot. She did confirm my suspicions on this weasel-he’d bumped the price on the fenders a mere 800%.
I think this would-be Romeo was trying to literally do to her what he’d figuratively done to me on the sale of the parts.
Wally’s Next Problem… and the solution
Wally was pretty disappointed with the floors in the car. It was more like he was wondering where they were since Right-On John had cut out 90% of the existing floors and trunk. Nobody really knows whether that was necessary. I like to believe that it was drug-fueled because nature would never pump out somebody who was that incompetent with a clear head.
The where, why and how didn’t matter-Wally quit working again and this time to make his point he shoved the car so far back and behind so many cars in the shop you’d need GPS, a flashlight and a good map to find it. The point was taken and this time the search was going to take a long time.
Wally didn’t just quit working-he closed his argument with a barrage anti-car, anti-me and anti-society hatred that would have intimidated the worst prison cell block on the planet. He was a genius in the world of “lash out at the human race”.
Wally did lighten up though when he showed me how any other projects my car was buried behind now.
I’m pretty sure I saw a smile.
That took me to my next hurdle-finding a complete floor plan for a 59 Plymouth as soon as possible.
The search took months and I ended up dealing with the last guy I wanted to deal with. In a car parts world full of bitter obnoxious, surly snakes with the morality of a 20-buck hooker he was “man of the year” for many years running. The problem was that I couldn’t find one so supply and demand kicked in and like so many things in the project you swallow your pride and cut a check to a misfit like this guy I didn’t want to support.
Lesson # 112 in a series.
This guy graduated from a Bizarro-World public relations course. When I told him that it might take some time to pick up the floor pan in his hometown of Next to the Edge of the Universe Montana he threatened me with storage fees. I guess the brutal rape I’d taken on the price wasn’t enough for this monster but in a once in a lifetime acknowledgement of his thread-like connection to human lineage, he agreed to store it for awhile. He agreed that the 3 feet of Montana snow on top of the criminally over-priced chunk of rusty metal gave me a little leeway.
That’s a huge victory-you celebrate those kind in this amusement park of the damned.
PICKING IT UP
I won’t bore you with the details of the long marathon drive to Montana. Nice state, great highways, friendly people but you get an edge after 30 hours straight and that’s where I was physically when I finally met this guy. He was one of those guys who looked exactly like he sounded on the phone, kind of a weasely, hillbilly look. His yard was huge but he sure wasn’t offering tours. I got the feeling that if you broke away in a sprint towards the main yard the dust from automatic rifle fire would be kicking up around you before you hit the gate.
Mr. Personality refused to help my brother and I load this giant bulky unwieldy piece of automotive part extortion into the truck until I started picking out a good camping spot. That got this joker moving. He turned into a combination of Superman and the Flash.
There is some justice in the world. The 21st century is full of Internet suppliers so great communication killed this guy’s business. Now you can buy clean functional reproduction floor and trunk pans without having the unpleasant experience that I had. Not only that, we can talk amongst ourselves on a global scale so you find more sources and you don’t have to kiss some misfit’s ass. In fact, Mr. PR is officially out of the ransom business due to the major flaws in his perception of the customer-seller relationship. Who says karma isn’t real?
The car scene is a far better place with one less larcenous flake like Montana Slim in the world. Nature does correct itself-eventually.
A Rare Break
By now it might seem like I never really won a battle but during a rare lucky moment in the early 90’s I’d picked up 2 NOS (new old stock) quarter panels and 2 NOS rocker panels from a great supplier in the New England area. He was fair, friendly and professional plus his price didn’t make you think about a brutal prison rape scene when the check was cut.
The parts were delivered ahead of schedule-no I’m not making this up. I like to see it as a mathematical “law of averages” thing.
WALLY PICKS UP THE PACE
With all this new metal on hand Wally dragged the big finned Plymouth back into the center stage spotlight. He was like a man possessed.
Most of the time.
Like I said earlier Wally wasn’t a 9-5 guy. He was more like me. I worked in the bar business so I was a night owl. Wally was more like a really early morning owl. He pushed that nighttime envelope into the brunch hour. I actually had to wake this guy up at 3 in the afternoon many times because he was either (a) working all night on the car or (b) working on copious amounts of alcohol and various non-prescription stimulants.
You could always tell the difference. If you woke him up after a night of work you were only called an f…. for a minute or 2.If he was partying and you woke him up Wally would unleash venom that ultimately guaranteed you’d give up and leave. The next day it was like throwing every depraved insult your way didn’t happen and he was back to being what he considered a nice guy.
It sounds like a cumbersome employee-employer relationship but it worked in its own way.
Between the partying bouts Wally made some of the best progress in the history of the project. The car had a complete floor and the shell was taking from. The only problem came from Right-on John.Yup, he never really left the car in spirit so when Wally wanted to put on those great quarter panels he found out that Johnny Genius had cut them way too high. It was probably the only time I’d heard Wally get riled up about somebody else’s lifestyle weaknesses when he hung the blame for Johnny’s horrible work on drug use.
Anyhow, that little error cost Wally a lot more time and naturally me a lot more money. That’s when Wally gave me the only personal advice Id ever hear from the guy that really made sense. After so much personal and financial abuse on this project I really wanted somebody to pay so I told Wally that I wanted to go right over and knock Right-On John “right out”. I’d had enough but Wally was the voice of reason.
Because Johnny was so well connected in biker world I could never hang a licking on this guy and expect to walk away so like everything else so far I swallowed my pride took his advice and let it go. What are a few thousand bucks compared to the prospect of a funny-looking walk for the rest of your life?
Thank you Wally, to this day for pointing out the obvious.