“Get some 15-inch Cragars for her, man.”
That’s what Joe said to me one fine winter afternoon. I was contemplating wheel choices for the wagon for the upcoming season, awaiting the time when she would shed her studded winter tires and don some smooth rubber to cruise around on the roads of the Third.
Joe, a die-hard fan of the classic Cragar SS-look, which graced almost every self-respecting Hot Rodders machine at some point in the ‘70s, is quite an avid automotive enthusiast. His passion for the machine is unparalleled and like me, he is a firm believer of the adage, ‘the machine embodies a soul’.
Today, Joe takes care of his friends and neighbours by working on their cars late into the night in his little backyard garage and barely accepts a tuppence for his extensive efforts. But he reminisces about the days when cars had fewer electronics and were much easier on the eyes than the jelly-bean shapes of today. “I’m always happy when the wagon comes in for some regular maintenance,” Joe says, “It’s a much more rewarding vehicle to work on.” I have a feeling it reminds him of his old ‘72 Dodge Duster, which Joe raced on the backroads of the Third in the ‘80s.
Since he had the old Dodge, Joe has squirreled away a lot of odd parts and pieces like every good mechanic does. This 40-year-old stock of parts has helped keep ‘the Mothership’ going on more than one occasion. Just the other day he fished out an old Dodge ballast resistor, a part which is extremely hard to acquire these days, from his parts hoard and got the wagon back up and running in a jiffy!
Joes’ passion for automobiles has been inherited by his son Tj. The young rodder has recently procured quite an original third-generation ’85 z28 Camaro, which he plans on cramming a hot 350 small block v8 into. Joe and Tj have been on the hunt for an ideal machine to put this built-up motor in since quite a while now, and although the Camaro would be an ideal platform for it, the originality of the vehicle has been giving Joe second thoughts about performing the engine swap. “We’ll find something for it eventually,” Joe says, until then Tj is driving the Camaro as his daily drive for the summer.
“$1000 dollars for a clean set of Cragars?!” I gawk after seeing a set listed on the Facebook marketplace in Texas somewhere, Joe just shrugs his shoulders. It is crazy to see the prices old automotive stuff is going for these days. Designs have appreciated and people are painfully aware that the best days of automotive enlightenment are done and gone. “I'll get a set someday,” and Joe beams in his usual shy and appreciative manner. All for the love of the machine.