Chapter 1: THE MIDNIGHT BLUE 1964 FORD
Roosevelt worked the chrome Craftsmen ratchet rapidly back and forth over the top of the rusted bolt. Finally, the engine mount bolt eased out of the bracket to the useless motor in the tan 1964 Ford Mustang.
Earlier that day Jamal located an old truck at Ben Peeve's Savage Yard that he wanted to restore. Jamal wrung his hands and paced back and forth across the light gray concrete floor in the detached garage. With excitement in his eyes, he probed around the room as he searched for the right words.
‘Wait a minute, son. I thought we agreed.’
‘But, pop, you got to see it first before you pass judgment. Mr. Peeve said I could have it for one hundred and fifty dollars. It’s perfect for what I want to do.’
His father slipped the chrome socket over the other motor mount bolt and continued working. Roosevelt Walker served with the 11th Calvary and worked as a mechanic in the Army motor pool. He honorably discharged after sixteen years of duty and returned to Marion to marry Janie Carter. In 1960, the couple opened Walker Automotive on a small lot on State Road 14. Over time, Roosevelt’s tiny auto repair business rapidly grew from a mechanic shop into a tiny used car dealership. A few years later, he purchased some property on the corner of Washington and Green in Marion and opened the Walker Ford dealership. In 1982, Jamal, the couple’s youngest child turned seventeen and enlisted into the United States Army.
‘But Jamal, we’d agreed that you’d get one of the cars off the lot. Now you’re talking about completely rebuilding one from scratch. Come on now, son; you’re sure you want to do that.’
‘Yeah, pop…, besides Henry said he’ll put it together. The junk yard will be closing in a few minute. We got to go.’
Jamal paced the floor like a nervous father awaiting the birth of his first child. Roosevelt slowly pushed the wooden crawler from under the car, placed the engine mount bolts in the bucket of cleaner, and looked at his son. The old man stood up, felt the pain of his age, and the years of hard work course through the well-worn bones of his spine.
‘Who said you could use my shop and my workers anyway, boy? ‘
Roosevelt hobbled over to the off-white sink in the corner of the garage and squirted a large glob of hand cleaner into the palms of his oily hands from the orange container on the sink. Jamal trailed close behind, and grabbed some paper towels from the dispenser on the wall.
‘Nah, not here pops; Henry said he’s going to put it together at the dealership so it will be done before I leave Ranger School.’
‘What shop you think I’m talking about, boy? I hope you know you’re paying for it.’
‘Come on dad, you going to charge your own son. Anyway, Henry said he’ll do all the work for free.’
‘My men don’t work for you, son. I trying to make a living and I can’t do it by doing shit for free. You ain’t the boss of the place yet; but when you are I hope you remember that advice.’
Jamal searched the dirty floor with his eyes and shifted his size fourteen black Converse high top sneakers across the concrete. He hated when Roosevelt tried to play cheap and act tough. His father owned the shop; that meant; someday it would be his. However, right now Jamal just wanted his truck restored. His eyes grew wide as he timidly looked into his father’s stone cold stare. Jamal knew the right words to say and used them.
‘Ah, come on, pop; I’m your baby boy. Besides mom already asked Henry to do it.’
Jamal knew once he got his mom to okay it, his father would do whatever she said. Along with his timid hurt look, his move won the argument. Roosevelt finished washing his face and hands and Jamal handed the paper towels to him. His irritated father snatched them from his hand while he glared deeply into Jamal’s eyes.
‘Shit, Jamal, stop being a damn momma’s boy. You’re not my baby boy no more. Shit, son, you’re a man. In a few more months, you’ll be a ranger; neither your mom nor I will be there to help you then. And, it’s time you learned to stand on your own feet, son and be a man. The best I can do is let Henry send you a bill for the parts at cost and the labor. And, Jamal, I expect to be paid. You can make installments but I expect to be paid or I WILL REPO THE TRUCK. YOU GOT IT.’
He punched Jamal hard in the chest and stormed out of the shop. Seconds later, they climbed into Roosevelt’s Lincoln and drove to the junkyard. A few hours later, the dealership's black and blue wrecker towed the rusty truck to the dealership’s paint and body shop. The tow truck driver pulled the wrecker to the door of the shop and blew the loud horn. Moments later, a middle age pale colored man approached the driver-side door of the wrecker.
‘So, this is the truck. It doesn’t look too bad.’
‘Where do you want me to drop it, Henry?’
‘For now Bob put it by that green Mercury and we’ll move it later.’
Later that week, the body shop team started restoring the truck to factory specification. After taking a complete look at the truck, Henry walked into Roosevelt’s office.
‘Well boss, I recommend rebuilding the engine with newly remanufactured Ford parts because compared to used parts they’ll last a lot longer. The rusty bumpers and the grill, well, they’re something altogether different and it’s completely scary.
‘What do you mean different and scary?’
‘From my experience, Jamal, we can re-chrome the bumpers and grill until they shined like new, but the look will be deceiving. A few years from now, that bumper and grill going to rust and come apart. On the other hand, we can take ‘em off and replace ‘em. Plus, that truck will need a whole new suspension and brakes.’
‘Okay, what about the interior?’
‘I be honest, Jamal that is the easiest part of this whole job. The old torn bench seat can be removed and reupholstered in the original blue tweed fabric. But, we’ll have to replace the windows along with the inside floor and the rocker panels because they’ve rust completely through.’
Henry and three workers slowly labored to perfect the truck while Jamal attended basic training and ranger school. Instead of completely rebuilding the original engine and transmission, Henry decided to replace them with a chromed high performance 351 Cleveland engine with a 4 valve Edelbrock Performer Intake manifold, Holley carburetor and a new racing transmission. The suspension was upgraded and the old radio was replaced with a Pioneer sound system. Hank Sanders custom-made the treated dark brown oak boards for the bed of the truck. Other than that, the rust brown 1964 step-side Ford truck was original.
A week before Jamal graduated from the U. S. Army ranger school in 1984, Henry Reed, the supervisor of the paint shop finished painting the restored Ford midnight blue as Keith, Jamal’s oldest brother strolled into the spray room.
‘How are you doing, Keith? You’re coming to the Sunday school teacher’s meeting Thursday?’
‘Nah man, I can’t make it. I’ll be getting ready to take that long drive to Benning. You know Jamal’s graduation is next Friday.’
‘No shit, it’s been six-months already. Seem like just yesterday when he drugged this truck in here.’
Henry laughed and looked over at Hank as he worked under the hood of the truck. Seconds later, he followed Keith as he strolled towards the open overhead door.
‘I got some low profile racing tires and custom twenty-inch rims out here in the truck, could you have one of the boys get them and put them on.’
‘Sure. Where did you buy ‘em, over in B’ham?
‘Nah, I got Jessica to get them from the Burning Rubber speed shop in Long Beach, California. I had them shipped here last week. You know she’s going to college at UCLA.’
‘That’s good. I’m not a bit surprised. She sure does look like her mother though, but I wonder where she got the smarts from.’
‘Shit, man, from me.’
‘Hell nah, you were stupid as shit in high school. You got the lowest score on the SAT exam our senior year. Remember I was there.’
‘Yeah, I got it because you were there giving me all of the wrong answers. Remember, your score was the second lowest.’
© Reginald Levi Walker, 2018. All rights reserved.