Sunday, February 24, 2008

Red 1964 Corvair Monza Convertible, updated 2:12 pm


Back in 1966, my Dad bought my Mom a 1964 Red Corvair Monza convertible with a white interior and white roof. The car had been bought new by a Navy pilot named Rausch(er)(?), can't remember his first name, whose family sold it to my Dad.
That was the car I drove in high school and to my summer job of driving a water truck for the Greene County Road and Bridge Department. That water truck was a 1953 GMC tanker truck. My job was to water down the gravel roads. Sort of looked like this: Rokey Langsford worked with me. I drove the truck and Rokey sati on top of the tank part and he sprayed the roads with a fire hose. We would fill the truck up from the James or Finley Rivers.

Fred Schaeffer was the county judge who got us the jobs. When I was assigned the job of driving the water truck, I was told to just pull up to a stream and fill it up. The pump had lawn mower type motor. One hose went into the river, the other went into the opening at the top of the tank. When the tank was full, the hoses were reversed to spray the roads. I think all the Greene County roads are now paved, but that wasn't so back in 1966. Rokey passed away some years ago. His father was Les Langsford, a Springfield State Representative who also owned several trade publications. His family owns the Community Free Press. They used to publish Undercar Digest which I always thought was a keen name for a trade publication. Rokey and I did our share of swimming in rivers that summer when it was hot.

Looking back, the county road overseer, Marion Osborne, let two teenaged boys take a tank truck and told us to go out and water roads. Those were our instructions. When the crew would "athey" roads, we would go all over the county and water the piles of dirt in the middle of the roads. Graders would pull the ditches and scrape all the gravel into a long row in the middle of the road. The athey would scope up the row of gravel and dump it into the dump trucks that were backing at the same speed as the athey, so that the gravel would dump into the bed of the truck. It was an experience, lots of heavy equipment, flag men, pick up trucks, dump trucks and Rokey and I in the tank truck! Gosh, those were good times. Just driving around in a big old truck, drinking pop and stopping at rivers and creeks to fill up the truck.

Back to the car: I would put a blanket over the seats so I wouldn't get them dirty from my work clothes. I liked how it looked with the rear windown unzipped and folded in the storage area. The top was manual. These photos aren't the actual car, but look just like it. Yep, I really liked that car. Remember when "Unsafe At Any Speed" came out and slammed the car.

Oh, BTW, look who's running for president again. He's a year older than McCain and arguably cost Gore the election in 2000. Time to pack it up Ralph.

There's a Corvair Convertible on Ebay right now.I need to visit with my Mom about this car. When my Dad first started editing The Mirror, he used a Glendale high school student as a free-lance photographer. The photographer's name was Ron Rauscher, I think. He owned a cream colored 1965 Plymouth Barracuda. His older brother was a pilot, I always thought a Navy Pilot, who was shot down during the Vietnam war. Ron's brother had bought the Corvair new and had it garaged while he was overseas. I seem to recall that the brother died in the crash and the parents wanted to get rid of the car, it just held too many memories of the son for the family. (I understand that perfectly. After my wife's mother died, my wife and I moved into her house while rehabing our house. We couldn't get her mother out of the house.)

I decided to track down the family. If he died in Vietnam, he would be on the Wall. I found this:

ROBERT ERNEST RAUSCH
Air Force - MAJ - O4
Age: 35
Race: Caucasian
Sex: Male
Date of Birth May 22, 1938
From: HICKSVILLE, NY
Religion: ROMAN CATHOLIC
Marital Status: Married

His tour began on Apr 16, 1970
Casualty was on Oct 9, 1973
In , SOUTH VIETNAM
Hostile, died while missing, FIXED WING - CREW
AIR LOSS, CRASH ON LAND
Body was not recovered

The dates and my memories don't jive. I'll have to talk to my Mother and get more information. She hasn't been feeling too good lately, so it may be a while before I update this post. She did think that Ralph is out of touch to run for president again.

4 comments:

johninocala said...

Jim:

i remember this car. It was red with a white interior and top. Three speed on the floor. I thought it was a '63 but could be wrong there but I do remember it had white wall tires. There is a photo of Alphonse standing next too it with Mom in the drivers seat somewhere. Our sister, Mary, was driving this sweet convertible with her friend, Robin Honest, a big guy and was going thru the intersection of Campbell and Sunshine, heading north on Campbell. Someone ran a red light heading west on Sunshine and Mary T-boned the other car. Robin's knees hit the dashboard and bent it out of shape. The convertible was totalled. I remember seeing this wrecked car, I was about 8 or 9 and the front was shaped as a big "V", almost as if she hit a pole instead of another car. Must have been the manner of impact. I do remember the dash being "warped" on the passenger side from Robin's knees. It was a sad day for me as I was hoping this little car would be around for me. I also remember Joe and Sue Lauber, Ed's Godparents, had the same body style but the colors were reversed, white exterior, red interior but I don't remember the color of the top on that one. They sold that and bought a yellow 67 camaro. Hope this helps jog some memories.

Busplunge said...

It was a four-speed, reason I remember, I was heading north at National, crossing Grand, when I shifted from first to second and back to first instead of third.
Tom also wrecked this car, snuck out one night and clipped a car at Grant and State, the car he clipped ran into the front porch of the house at SW corner of the intersection.

Anonymous said...

I am Rokey Langsford's younger sister. I enjoyed reading a little about him, thanks for the trip down memory lane. We still publish Undercar Digest!
Michelle D

Kelly Trimble said...

We had several Corvairs when I was growing up. They were dirt cheap, and they would go anywhere in the snow or even the ice, as long as it wasn't more than about five or six inches deep. We had several convertibles, both square-vairs and flair-vairs, and I remember a turbocharged Monza Spyder that we hopped up that would out-drag-race almost anything in town. I remember you had to change the camshaft, and to do that you had to pull the engine and transaxle, pull all the jugs, split the case, remove all the seals, and when you had the engine completely torn apart and tipped the left half case up on its side, the very last part that came out was the camshaft. Anyway, that spyder would supposedly put out around 250 hp in a light little tinny Naderesque death trap. It wouldn't burn the tires very well, but when the engine hit about 4,000 you would almost break the frame on your seat. I remember at the time one of the problems with getting a decent engine core at the time was that a lot of people were pulling them to use in hopped up dune buggies, but I have never seen a corvair-engined dune buggy in my life.

Anyway, the story of the family selling the son's car after he got croaked in Vietnam is surprisingly common. If they didn't sell it right away, they would stick it in a barn on the back forty somewhere and forget about it, and then when the parents died in their eighties or nineties thirty years later, the grandkids would discover the car and try to sell it. That is where a lot of the muscle-car and hot eurotrash barn finds came from. Usually it was a pilot or a spook or a sniper or an academy grad or something like that who got the special bonus money when they completed their training and instead of saving it, they would blow it on a new hot car, a corvette, super bee, 100-4, 3000, a dino or whatever, and after six weeks of leave, they would leave the car with their parents and report, and then about half the time the guys with the special training would get their ass shot off. It's a surprisingly common story. We've bought several cars like that.