The Traveler was a Windsor model that had become near and dear to us. Just a year before we'd hauled one, san engine, back from Illinois. Intended as a parts car for our '48 New Yorker, we'd come to love its "Elmer Fudd" look as we stared at it in the rear view mirror all the way. We never dreamed we'd see another one for sale let alone one in decent shape. So, when we saw another one on ebay, we knew this Traveler was ours.
The problem with ebay is that although what you buy may be a bargain, that bargain could be located anywhere across the country. In our case, it was Ohio. For small items, that's no problem. Getting a piece of post-war heavy metal from Ohio to Denver is a problem. After multiple conversations with a mechanic that had recently worked on our new acquisition, Chris was pretty well convinced that with a new set of tires he could drive it home from Ohio. So the weekend before Thanksgiving with a suitcase full of 6 volt car parts that threw up every red flag passing through airport security, Chris flew to Toledo and headed to Fremont for the car.
As you've probably guessed, the mechanic wasn't entirely accurate on a few points, the brakes being one of them. The brake pedal had good pressure even though the wheel cylinders were leaking. And that's what made two mechanics and Chris believe the brakes were fine. In actual fact the brakes were frozen in place with enough corrosion between the shoes and the drums to cause the brakes to continually engage. The engine over powered the friction that this caused. Because the brake pedal had good pressure, it seemed as though the brakes were stopping the car. This was the case test driving it around the block anyway. But a mile down the road the friction heated up the drums causing them to expand giving them enough clearance to let the wheels roll freely. No matter how hard the brake pedal was pushed at this point, they weren't going to stop the car. This all came to light as Chris drove up to a line of cars at an intersection just over a steep bridge on the main street in town at 4 O'clock in the afternoon. It was at that moment he performed what I call "The Chris Emergency Maneuver". It involves crossing oncoming traffic as the light is turning green, taking a sharp ninety degree turn, briefly riding up railroad tracks before jumping a curb and making "donuts" in a vacant lot until the car comes to a stop. He had tried pulling the parking brake first but knew that was wishful thinking. The parking brake pad was non-existent.
Twelve hours of two mechanics trying to remove the rear wheel drums and still they weren't moving. No one in Northern Ohio knew what a brake drum puller was. (We educated them later.) And Chris was running out of time. We were going to have to make arrangements to pick the car up at a different date. This time using a trailer.
When that would be was a dilemma made more complicated by lack of time and other commitments both family and Chrysler related. Chris' father was ill in Florida, and there were New Yorker parts, bought and paid for, that had been waiting for us in San Diego for months. We had time Thanksgiving week. Which direction should we go? Chris' brother and sisters had decided to move his dad back to Colorado via rented RV that week. We planned to meet them when they arrived. Worried about our Traveler now sitting uncovered in a driveway in Northern Ohio, we decided this was the time to get it. We'd be back in time to meet the RV.
There was no way we were going to trailer this car back without a trailer brake controller. We learned that little lesson hauling the first Traveler back from Illinois. But first we had to pick up the car trailer from our dear friend John Tutthill. John and his wife, Julia, had been out of town. And although John had offered the use of the trailer, as far as they knew, the Traveler was being driven back. So, when Chris went to get the trailer, it was hooked up to an old pick-up and had a Charger sitting on it. In his determination, Chris towed the truck out far enough so that he could push the Charger off the trailer. Then he unhitched the trailer from John's pick-up and pulled it over to hitch it to mine. Chris got the controller working, then pulled more spare parts off the first Traveler, which by this time had officially become "the parts car". We left at midnight the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. And at 4 O'clock on Friday morning, we finally rolled into Fremont, Ohio, got a room and slept until noon. Overcast and ready to snow at any moment, there was a bone deep chill in the air when we pulled up the drive to our Traveler. This was my first look at "Elmer". We had done the right thing. I couldn't wait to get it home.
Chris immediately set to work replacing parts he'd brought with him. The first thing was a new parking brake. A great deal on a new set of tires had been worked out with the local Goodyear dealer that we didn't want to pass up. So, with only a parking brake, Chris slowly drove down to the Goodyear dealer as I followed in the pick-up. I knew everything was under control when Chris was able to actually stop the car at the same light where he'd lost the brakes only a week before. There was the little incident with the battery falling into the fan as he turned to pull into the Goodyear parking lot. But there was no serious damage and it started right up again.
The guys at the Goodyear were great and happy to be able to see such a car. They got us in before they closed and even let Chris change the oil while it was on the lift. One tire actually still had the orange innertube in it. Yes, it needed a new set of tires.
We got it on the trailer just after dark, grabbed a sandwich and headed south out of town hoping to beat the approaching weather. For the most part, we did. There was rain through Indiana and some clearing in Missouri and Kansas. But we caught up with the snow at the Kansas/Colorado boarder. It is this type of weather that makes you glad you have 4-wheel drive and working trailer brakes. We made it back to Denver before they closed I-70.
Our Traveler now has working brakes and holds a prominent place in our driveway. We drive it around town and WPC club events often and the parts car is coming in handy. You would think it would get pretty bad gas mileage, but on a recent trip from Denver to Colorado Springs we were surprised to get 18 mpg. Pretty good when you consider that my 2000 Dodge Dakota pick-up averages 13 mpg. The engine rebuild for the New Yorker will soon be complete and we will have it running again too.
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