I wanted to thank you for the excellent work you’re doing promoting the old car hobby with this web site, I look forward to it and have enjoy reading the articles. I bought an old car at the famous Hershey, PA swap meet this month. I wasn’t looking for a car and had no intentions of buying one, but this car spoke to me. It’s a 1936 Ford roadster, a very pretty and rare model. It seemed in very good and mostly original condition. Basically a well taken care of old car, it was repainted and had some minor repairs here and there, but never taken all apart or crashed. The body looked excellent, no rust at all and the floors (under the front mats) were clean. Most interesting was the car had a vintage McCullough supercharger and a Columbia 2-speed rear end. I looked it over and thought it was the most interesting car I’d seen all day. The price seemed a little high, so I walked away. I left and walked a few booths down where I ran into a friend from R.I. I mentioned the ’36 and he asked if I knew who’s car that was? I said no, then he said it belonged to Gil Stafford, he asked did I know Gil? Yes indeed, he was a college professor of mine and during one of his first classes he mentioned that he was a car collector. After class I asked him about his cars and told him how I loved them. Gil invited me to his house to see his cars and he was quite a collector. I think he kept every car he ever bought, from his first a ’32 Ford roadster. Gil always bought Fords every few years, never trading or selling them. In a big barn behind his house were all his cars, an amazing collection. He told me stories about each one, but I remember him showing me his ’36 Ford. Gil explained that he travelled to Dearborn to watch this car being built, then drove it home to R.I. Gil installed the supercharger which added 40-hp, from 85 to 125-hp., he was very proud of this car – it was one of his favorites. Gil had a lot of automotive memorabilia too. I remember he had a framed display showing every one of his R.I. driver’s licenses, beginning in 1928! It’s funny what you remember. While I was looking at the ’36 I noticed the license plate was S-100, I thought that was a cool license plate and said “Gil I like that license plate, if you ever want to get rid of it, I’d like it”. Gils said, Jeff, I would never get rid of that plate, the Governor gave it to me and besides, you need a plate that starts with “G” for Goldstein. All this happened 40-years ago! Gil passed away in the late 90’s and he was quite elderly by that time and we had lost touch after college.
Back to Hershey, after my friend tells me it was Gil’s car all these memories come rushing back to me. Now, I’m more interested in the car and I go back and start looking it over more carefully. I’m looking under the seat and all around it. In the glove box I find a bunch of keys on a key chain, one of the keys is a R.I. DAV key chain tag, I’m not sure if you know about these. But, as a fund raiser the DAV would mail a pair of key chains with your state license plate number printed on them. They were exactly 1/12 scale and were quite accurate, they even had a chrome frame. The key chain had S-100 on it, but I already knew the car was Gil Stafford’s. So I negotiated the price and bought the car after hearing it run. I broke my own personal rule of driving the car first, the car’s been delivered and I still haven’t driven it. With it now in my garage, I’ve taken a really good look at it. Yikes, the wiring is a mess, brittle, cracked and patched her and there, it didn’t look safe. Also, lifting the rear mats, the floors have rust holes and will need patches. I don’t regret buying the car, but I might have negotiated harder if I knew about these issues.
Now I’m learning all about ’36 Ford’s and having a great time taking this one apart. I’ve taken out the entire interior, patched the floor and removed the complete old wiring harness. The new harness arrived yesterday and I’ve laid old and new side by side, they seem to match. I’ll be installing the new harness this week. So far, no other surprises with the car. I’m trying to decide how far to go with it, should I restore the gauges and paint the dash while its apart? The whole car has a charming patina, a little worn, but not worn out. I’m afraid if I start painting and restoring I’ll wind up doing the whole car or some sections will look out of place all restored and make other areas look bad. At this point, I think I’d rather have everything working properly and safely, then drive it a bit and then decide how far I want to go.
If any of your readers knew Gil Stafford, I’d love to hear their stories about him. I remember his as a great teacher, a real car guy and a mentor.