Editors Note: This is the fifth article in a series written by longtime XKs Unlimited customer Lois Knudsen of Nevada, who completely restored a 1963 E-Type -- by herself. But lets let Lois tell the story
OK, so time to really think hard and fast. All of the rolling and rocking of the car (thinking that maybe it was stuck in gear) had landed the beast smack up against the back wall of the garage. Now what? The tow truck was going to arrive at any moment. The agreement with the landlord was that the garage had to be emptied that day, but there was nothing said about not having the car out in the driveway! (Not exactly noble, to be sure, but I was desperate.) I would drop the rear end and use my pathetic little floor jack to roll the car out of the garage. At this point, I could drop that rear end almost faster than a VW engine. (My fastest time on a Bug motor was well under thirty minutes). I am not sure how far into it I had gotten before our next-door neighbors, Hilda and Willie, came over to see what the fuss (and probably all the cursing) was all about. They were a gregarious, older, German couple who loved to share their Polka music with the entire neighborhood. (I cant tell you how many hours I stood at the parts washer doing subconscious knee bends to the oom-pah-pah sounds.) Needless to say, the tow truck was already en route and Hilda and Willie jumped right in with their big floor jack to help out.
I am certain the tow-truck driver was scratching his head at what he was seeing as he pulled into the driveway. To him, it could have easily been the birthplace of the saying about three monkeys and a football. I explained what was going on to the bemused driver and he offered a solution: He would use his boom to lift the rear suspension unit into the back of Hildas truck then use the cradle attachment to suspend the back half of the car and tow it to the storage unit. Given my severe cash- and time and constraints, I had to swallow the fears that the knock-offs would spin right off the front wheels, and just go for it.
The driver artfully maneuvered what looked like a small gray whale in a fishing net through the streets of Simi Valley and into the narrow storage unit. We propped up her hind end with jack stands and rolled the storage door down. Problem One: Get the Jag out of the garage. Solved.
Problem Two: What to do with the dysfunctional rear end and an immobile car? Pending. I would be lying if I said that I didnt think of depositing the whole thing on Pumpkin Guys porch. I would also be lying if I said I didnt fantasize about slamming one of his appendages in a car door. Repeatedly. Though Hilda tried to act like it would be perfectly OK to leave the E-Types entire rear suspension lolling about in the back of her truck as long I would like, I knew I had to get it taken care of promptly -- and taken care of right. The name came into my head like a wrecking ball. I held my head in my hands as I drooped forward in defeat and uttered his name: John. I would have to take it to him.
Whos John? Whats the deal with John? Originally, I came across John via an advertisement in the EJag News Magazine. He sold parts and services and his shop was only about an hours drive away. He was a red-headed, fireplug of a man full of piss and vinegar and wholly unaccustomed (and fully opposed) to the idea that a female may want to pick up a wrench. The trouble was, not only did he know E-Types in and out (that is all he had done for most of his life was work on Jags especially Es) but he also had the most impressive collection of parts you could imagine. Any time I needed some weird fiddly-bit part that I could not describe well enough to the bigger, more well-known parts suppliers, I had to turn to John. This was always an ordeal because it meant having to suffer through Johns seemingly endless supply of blonde jokes and non-stop sexual innuendoes. Oddly enough, the part that I needed almost always seemed to be on the shelf right next to the most graphic Hustler pin up. I swear he delighted in being intentionally disgusting and was on a scientific mission to learn just how much of it I would take in order to get the part I needed. So I called John, endured the fully anticipated, So yer rear-ends stuck (heh, heh); Oh Ill fix yer rear-end up alright (yuk, yuk); Is yer boyfriend OK with me fiddling with yer rear-end? (HA! HA! HA!). God took pity on me the day I drove Hildas truck over to Johns shop to drop the unit off. As luck would have it, John was out to lunch. Whew!
With the rental house all sewn up, the Jag in storage and the rear end with John, I could now focus on making the move to N. Nevada. Oh, wait a minute. How on earth am I going to move the Jag out of the storage unit, let alone trailer it to Nevada sans rear end? This was clearly a job for the super hero known by call-sign Daddy. It wasnt because my father put himself through college by working at his fathers Standard/Chevron station and therefore knew more than a thing or two about cars, it wasnt because he became an electrical engineer for some of JPLs space projects, and ultimately helped advance satellite technology for Hughes well, OK, maybe it was because of those things. You see, my dad is the ultimate solutions designer. He is scary smart and loves puzzles. Boy, did I have one for him: How do I make a non-running car with no rear suspension fully mobile? In no time he fashioned an inexpensive, near mil-spec dolly out of lumber and big steel casters. I drove out to his house on the coast and we lashed the wooden contraption to the top of my 67 VW Bug with what seemed like 300 yards of poly cord. Only in Southern California can you drive around with something like that perched on the egg-shaped roof of a VW and not get so much as a second glance. It even seemed invisible even to the CHP, thank God. The dolly was later transformed into a mondo rolling workbench and still holds a place of honor in our garage.
I figured I was doing a pretty good job of juggling my life. Got the house packed up and in storage, I was living with my soon-to-be mother-in-law (that, in itself, held many challenges), I was dealing with intricacies going to work at a salt mine of a job where I hadnt given notice quite yet, and I was scarcely a month into quitting a three-pack-a-day smoking habit, and my fianc was already starting to live our new life an eight-hour drive away in a new state. Truthfully, it was all incredibly stressful. And now I had to add to that stress by calling John to check on the status of the rear end. This time there were no jokes, no innuendoes. John was just down-right grumpy when he told me that there was a lot of work to do and that I would have to bring some money by in order for him to get started. The only time I could drop off money was after work and by that hour, Johns shop was closed. He told me I would have to bring the money by his house. (Yeah, dont even say it. I was thinking that too. What was I supposed to do? What choice did I have?). Unbelievably, I agreed to go to his house. I remember that it was raining cats and dogs.
I cannot tell you the ultra-relief that washed over me when a woman answered the door. It was his wife. She was a gracious, sweet lady and she introduced me to their young son. She led me downstairs to Johns home shop where he kept most of his Jag parts inventory. She left us there and closed the door behind her. John was busy filling a box with parts and began grumbling about the rear end. He started in by saying it would be a lot of work to untangle the mess I had made. His voice got louder and his face turned red as he went on to ask, What were you thinking? Women have no business getting into such things I was completely dumbfounded. By the time he got to the part where his seven-year-old son COULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB!!!! REALLY, JUST WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!??!!? YOU HAD NO BUSINESS he was full-on yelling at me. Veins were popping out on his neck and forehead as he peppered his tirade with obscenities. He truly behaved as if I had done something to him personally. With no words able to come out of my gaping mouth, I felt my face get hot as the huge rush of tears consumed me. I was cornered in the basement by this troll of a person. My tears turned to sobbing. I began to bawl so hard I started to hyper-ventilate. I am not sure how long it was before I noticed that he had stopped ranting and his face was turning pale. He looked genuinely concerned as he opened the door and gestured for me to go up the stairs. He urged his wife to get me a glass of water and a handful of Kleenex as she sat me down at the kitchen table. I could almost see the lasers shooting out of her eyes as she glared at him. For the first time he looked sheepish and humble. He kept patting my shoulder and apologizing for his actions. He assured me that the rear end could be fixed and that he would make sure everything was perfect and I could take as long as I needed to come back from Nevada to pick it up. They wouldnt let me leave until I had completely regained my composure.
I was numb as I pulled away from the curb; I remember asking myself, What the ever-loving hell just happened? Why was he so mean? Why didnt you throw Pumpkin Guy under the bus? Why did you stand there and take the blame? To this day I am not really sure. From that point on, John was as much of a gentleman as he could muster and quite professional in all his future dealings with me. Perhaps all of the laser holes in his head tempered him a bit.
The plan was that I would stay in California for six months to build up the savings account. It was a good plan on paper. Three months into it, we couldnt take the reality of the separation any longer. Paul took time off from his new job and drove the U-Haul truck down to come and get me and all of our earthly possessions. With the help of friends, a van, and a car trailer, the Jag and our motorcycles were on their way to Nevada. As we wound our way through the streets of our new neighbor hood I couldnt help but notice that the same car had been behind us for several miles. Behind isnt quite the right word; tailgating is more like it. As we approached our new rental home, the car was flashing its lights and the driver was waving frantically out their window. What happened next will forever mark the Jags entrance to Nevada.
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