So, what did this Guinness World Record holder drive way back in his university days?
Oh those crazy university years.
Well before my exploits trying to have others fund my way around the planet to break various records, I had to pay my own way. And that meant some cool cars and some equally strange ones, usually owned at the same time.
My identical-twin brother Larry was one of my roommates through university, so we decided to go splits on any vehicles we bought. If we had more than one, then I owned half of each of them. The concept of splitting ownership on more than one car seemed rather exotic with the option to change units daily. It also meant paying half the repair bills on twice as many cars.
We arrived at the hallowed halls of higher learning in an immaculate gunmetal gray 1961 Mercury Monterey that had belonged to my father. We picked it up for $600 after the second owner traded it at the car dealership where we had part time jobs as lot boys and car cleaners. Six years earlier, as a 12-yearold, I learned to detail cars to full nerd level on that Mercury. I steel-wooled the white wall tires and spent hours getting at interior bits with a toothbrush. The engine compartment was spotless.
The next summer we sold the Monterey for 1,000 to use toward the purchase of a two-year-old 1967 Mustang Fastback. The GT 390 four-speed, sporting 335 horsepower and steep 4.11:1 gears, is still a favorite of the 60 or so cars I’ve owned.
The Mustang was a great ride but all those horses and wide oval tires were not conducive to harsh northern winters. So the Mustang went into storage while Larry and I went in search of a winter drift-jumper.
We found it on Thanksgiving weekend during a visit home for the turkey feed. Larry spotted a 1961 Vauxhall Victor that was the absolute other end of the cool spectrum from the flashy Mustang. The faded gold heap had rear leaf springs from a 1958 Ford that jacked the rear an extra foot into the air. With plenty of rust and the skinniest tires we had ever seen, it was our new definition of ugly. Of course we had to have it and forked over the $135.
The Vauxhall turned out to be a campus hit as it deteriorated through the fall and winter. By February, the rocker panels had all but disintegrated and hole in the floor had grown to a point where small grocery items like a can of soup would drop onto the pavement below. One of the rear spring shackles got into the habit of flipping itself around throwing the right rear of the body so high into the air that the left front bumper would scrape on the pavement. No problem, we just removed the bumper and stuffed it under Larry’s bed. Ugly was getting reallllly ugly. But the Vauxhall never needed any other work.
One day our buddy Don-the-mechanic told me a compulsory government safety inspection system was being introduced and the Vauxhall would need one because the town cops had their eye on it. Don knew that mechanically it was OK but told me it needed rocker panels and a bumper. He thought a paint job wouldn’t hurt either.
I sacrificed the next weekend to work on the Vauxhall. The paint shop at the local Mercury Lincoln dealership offered the dregs of a half dozen cans of paint. I mixed the contents together resulting in a light florescent green colour that resembled badtasting medicine.
I bought galvanized eavestroughs and pot-riveted them into the place of rocker panels, duct taped the rust holes then hand brushed the gooey green mixture onto the Vauxhall from the bottom up. That way, if I ran out of paint, the worst of the lower body rust would be covered up.
I didn’t have enough for the roof so I painted it with red primer while everything but the glass, tires and lights got the green slime. It was a red-roofed, monochromatic masterpiece topped off with a 2x10-inch plank bolted to the front for a bumper.
Clearance lights from a transport truck were attached to the top of the front fenders for turn signals. A circuit connector switch “borrowed” from a physics lab was bolted to the dash as a horn button and we soon became adept at slapping the dashboard whenever a blow of the horn was necessary. Problem was that I slapped the dash on everything I drove after that looking for the horn, even my dad’s snazzy new Thunderbird.
In the spring we got the Mustang out of storage. The Vauxhall had done its job so it went up for sale. A young farmer from bought it for $90. His wife was in the last stages of pregnancy and he needed a car to get her to the hospital when the time came. We showed him the quick-draw horn button, how to flip the errant spring shackle back into position and warned him not to use the choke when the block heater was used since it would just flood the engine with fuel.
The following fall we put the Mustang away and picked up another Vauxhall Victor, but this one was in pristine shape. One afternoon I took a drive out to look for the Green Slime.
It wasn’t in the driveway but in the cornfield across the street I noticed an odd-looking rudimentary farm tractor. It was hooked up to a small utility trailer, had very skinny front tires and the back was jacked up to the point of ridiculousness.
Then I noticed the front bumper. It was made of wood and, although badly splintered and scratched, the fluorescent green colour was unmistakable.
Join Garry Sowerby, a four- time Guinness World Record holder for long-distance driving, on his tales of motoring mania.Follow his accounts of 30 years of global road adventures: out-driving the clock on a race around the world; narrowly escaping bandits’bullets in Kenya;and smuggling books behind the Iron Curtain. The master road tripper hasn’t slowed down yet.
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