MARCH 11, 2014: TWILIGHT ZONE LESSON–HOW TO TOUGHEN UP THE LOOK OF YOUR OLD RIDE

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I caught an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ called ‘You Drive’ on YouTube; an episode where a haunted car with a conscience reminded me of one feature that enhanced the tough look on a 1956 Ford.

 

Its owner was a hit-and-run driver piloting the 1956 Ford when he ran over a neighborhood kid on a bike.

 

He did not stop to offer any help to the kid, even though he was not impaired and it was simply a case of momentarily poor driving by a guy with job pressures.

 

He concealed the car in his garage and the car began to have episodes of unexplained horn, loud radio and flashing light activity.

 

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The car was taken to a repair shop and returned home without a driver. Eventually it spooked the owner enough for him to jump in the passenger side and let himself get driven to the police station so he could confess his crime.

 

It was a good episode in a Christine-with-a-conscience kind of way but, more importantly, the car looked pretty cool in a retro way when it dropped its front bumper during the process of scaring the living hell out of its guilty owner.

 

One of the cheapest ways to add some flair to a car in the 60s was to subtract the front bumper from the car. A lot of ¼ mile track cars dumped front bumpers so they could lose some weight on the cars, particularly the gassers.

 

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They also raised the front clips so the weight could be transferred to the back wheels on the track cars. The street car guys noticed how cool the cars looked and imitation became the most sincere form of flattery when they copied the bumper-less drag strip look.

 

The idea of a car without a front bumper was very popular in car guy circles in the 60s, but it was less enthusiastically embraced by people who make and enforce traffic laws at the time.

 

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Quite the contrary-some jurisdictions were very eager to issue safety equipment violations when the local hot rod culture took off the bumpers on their cars.

 

However this style was still a popular street choice because just about any car from the 50s looked cooler jacked and without a front bumper to me as an impressible kid in the 60s.

 

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I saw these cars on the street and liked what I saw at the time. Willys gasser style rides with no front bumpers were even cooler, but less common on the street by comparison because a Willys gasser was typically found on a drag strip.

 

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The only downside to the bumper-less ride was more of a practical one: You could not push start your buddies if you owned with a car with no bumpers when the need arose on the road.

 

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Plus any car guy from that era has plenty of stories about road-side mechanical adventures and how to rope-tow a car with no bumpers back to town.

 

These were the moments that tapped into the creative side of old school car guys.

 

Jim Sutherland

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