Forty-four years of grunge and grease would soon be a goner. While I was at work, my son Drew gave the outside of the van its first bath in two decades. What that bath revealed is that the body is in remarkably good shape for a vehicle that has never had a stitch of body work and was still wearing its original paint. And rust is almost non-existant. The passenger footwell has the only rust I've found and will be an easy fix. Next we'll be degreasing the engine and scrubbing the entire interior. Over and out.
Getting "Clementine" off of the trailer once we got home to Austin was tricky, but not as tricky as digging her out of her garage. I ended up jacking the rear end up and pulling the drums off, but only after coating both rear drums in WD-40. Turns out the right rear was the culprit. It seems that when the emergency brake was applied in 86, the right rear brake decided it was going to do its damdest to stay locked. Nothing half a can of WD-40 and a mallet and a crow bar couldn't fix.
The next step is to determine what its going to take to get this old girl running again. But first, a thorough cleaning is in order.
I'd never been to Brownwood, Texas. And to be honest, I probably would never have a reason to go there. Until one day a writer my dad worked with mentioned his family had a van that needed a new home. "What year?", he asked. "a 1964 Econoline", he answered. Little did his colleauge know he had owned one during the "van craze" of the 80's. "How much you want for it?", he asked. "You can have it, as long as you are willing to come get from my family's lake house. "Done deal", he responded. Fast forward a week later and him and i were standing in front of a seafoam green 64 Econoline with a small garage crumbling all around it. And that's where things got tricky. We'd brought a trailer, four 14" tires, a tool box, an air compressor, four jack stands, WD-40, and an extension cord. Turns out the garage had other plans. We started by airing up the tires, and surprisingly, the back two, although dry rotted from years of inactivity, held air. Now for the bad news. The wheels were 13's, not 14's, like the tires We'd brought with us. So it was off to find two 13's. As it turns out, finding 13" tires in Brownwood, Texas on the day after Christmas was a fool's errand. So instead, we tracked down a wrecking yard and purchased two 14" rims with the correct 4.5"X 5-bolt Ford pattern. Returning to the garage, we popped the 14's on the front and lowered the van onto fully inflated rubber for the first time in decades. Then the plot thickened. Turned out the garage was so deteriorated that the front entry's warp prevented the van from coming more than halfway out due to the garage's badly warped front entry. Given that the Econline looked infinitely salavagable, We were reluctant to cause any damage to it during removal. Fortunately, we were as determined to get her out as she was to stay where she'd been parked twenty-one years earlier. Despite the fact that the rear wheels wouldn't roll, we dragged her halfway out. Then, we dropped the air in the rear tires and dug trenches in front of the van's front tires to lower the van enough to drag her the rest of the way out. Now for the next dilmna, getting a van with locked rear wheels up a pair of fairly steep trailer ramps? After diliberating, we decided to jack the front end of the van as high as possible, put it on a pair of stands, then back the trailer ramps under the front end. Once the front tires were touching the ramps, we re-raised the jack, removed the stands and then lowered the vans front tires down halfway up the ramps. Next we hooked up a come-along and winched the reluctant van onto the trailer an inch at a time until she was all the way on. Only then did I see for the first time just what nice shape she was in. Before hauling her home to Austin, we took a quick trip over to the original owners' home so that the entire family could say a last farewell to a van that had been in their family since 1964. As it turned out, they were as excited to see it go to someone who'd love it as much as their dearly departed grandfather did. I promised to send photos of the van's progress and thanked them for given me the opportunity to give some new memories to a van that had already given so many to them. The trip to Austin was uneventful, bringing a close to a long, but satisfying day. On the ride home, Drew and I talked about how neat it would be to honor of the original owner, Earl Clements.