In the decades following the war, people who bought new cars and trucks opted to drive them home from the factory. This practice, for a time, saved the cost of shipping the vehicles and offered the new owner an opportunity to see some other parts of the country; take a vacation if you will. JC's dad brought a couple of new three-ton farm trucks home that way, and even piggybacked a couple of new pickups home for the dealer in the process. JC's Uncle Woodie, who ran a thriving dealership in the home town, and a good friend, Ronnie, took the train out and drove a couple of new cars home. That particular event could almost make a story in itself. Suffice it to say that there were a couple of days when progress was rather slowed because of those buildings conveniently situated at the side of the road with numerous neon signs in the windows. JC's Uncle Alonzo, who could compete directly with Jack Benny for being frugal (to downright cheap), decided to save some money and made arrangements to pick up his new car at the factory.
It was in the late forties, somewhere around 1948, and Lonnie received word that his new car was on the immediate schedule to go down the assembly line. Lonnie took the train to Detroit, stayed overnight and visited the factory the next morning. He even managed to wrangle a factory tour in the process. Even for a cattleman, Lonnie was fascinated with how quickly a car went from the bare frame to an actual vehicle being driven off the line fully assembled two hours later. He was a little disappointed not to actually see his car being put together but he was able to see a lot just like it so that part of the trip was worthwhile.
Lonnie's car was processed, he was handed an envelope which contained all the necessary documents and, the most important thing of all, the keys to his new pride and joy. All formalities out of the way, he happily slid in behind the wheel of his new acquisition and headed for the highway.
Lonnie had never been to New York City and since Detroit was a lot closer to the Big Apple than the sun bleached prairies of home, he thought he might just as well take the time and see what NYC had to offer. He made the trip in good time, the new car purring right along, running better and better with each passing mile. A couple of days on the road and he was in the famous city.
It was after dark and Lonnie got a room in a hotel just off a rather narrow street near the top of a steep hill. He had no choice but to park his car in the street, facing downhill. Taking the necessary precautions, like leaving the transmission in low gear and turning the front wheels into the curb, he locked the car and went into his room to retire for the night.
Being an early riser, Lonnie was up and ready to face the day. He was one of the first to enter the coffee shop where he was shown to a table near the windows. Out of habit he picked up a copy of one of the local newspapers and took it to the table with him. He was always one who wanted to be kept informed on current events, even the local ones. Who knew, there might even be something to take home to Coffee Row.
Apparently there had been a car accident on one of the city's streets the night before and the paper had the full story plastered across the front page. The driver of a small delivery truck had misjudged the corner as he turned down a steep hill. He was unable to avoid bumping into a car that was parked at the curb. The report mentioned that it was merely a bump, which didn't inflict any initial damage but still exerted enough force to cause the car's front wheels to jump up and over the curb.
Back in those days, car engines didn't have a lot of compression so it didn't take much to get them spinning over. Add to that the steep hill, and even a dead vehicle could get rolling at a fair rate of speed.
Well, here it was, a car innocently bumped from behind, jumped the curb and rolled for a short distance down the sidewalk. Since the wheels were turned to the right, the car tended to continue in that direction, eventually veering right over and crashing through the front window of a store. By the time it came to a stop, the car was completely inside the premises with only the rear bumper and the taillights sticking out.
Lonnie read the article and shook his head in sympathy for the victim. 'Poor bugger,' he thought, 'one helluva way to start his day; somebody crashing into his car and wrecking it.' He studied the picture some more and to his mild surprise, he noticed that the license plate was from out of state; in fact the car was registered in Lonnie's stomping grounds. 'Coincidence,' he thought as he read on, 'I'd hate to be in that guy's shoes, this far away from home and somebody wrecks his car.'
He finished his breakfast and checked out of the hotel. Bags in hand, he proceeded outside into the late fall weather. As he walked down the hotel's wide sidewalk, he glanced over to the curb where he thought he'd parked his car. He was sure that he'd left it up the street from the hotel's entrance but not that far away. But then, it was fairly late, so it could've been further away.
Too bad remote keyless entry hadn't been invented yet.
Down the street, three or four places down from the hotel, there was quite a commotion. A couple of police officers were directing traffic while a tow truck was dragging a late model sedan, glass shards littering its roof, out of a building. 'Must be the car from the paper,' Lonnie thought as he watched the progress. He was surprised that he didn't hear the racket from the accident the night before as his room faced the street.
The tow truck finally had the car clear from the building. 'Damn! That's the same model as my new car,' Lonnie thought. He then gazed at the empty space at the curb where he had thought he'd parked his car. It was then that he noticed black tire tracks on the sidewalk. They continued over to the yard of a neighboring building. Ruts in the yard formed a trail into the next yard, through a low hedge and into the fourth yard where they headed right up to the front of that store. A sickening feeling began to take over as Lonnie realized what had just happened.
'Damn! That's my car!'
Yes it was Lonnie's new car that had been the victim of last night's accident. Fortunately the damage was mostly superficial and, with the exception of having to get a wheel alignment, the car was driveable. It would later be fixed in a shop at home. The company that owned the delivery truck assumed responsibility so at least Lonnie wasn't out of pocket for the damages. Unfortunately he had to stay in town for a couple more days than he'd planned to, but he was able to make the trip home without any more collisions.
And Lonnie, he opted to pay the freight charges on his next new car and stay home.