Jolene, 1970 Plymouth Cuda’

Jolene and I go back, way back. In fact, this year it will be 31 years since I first laid eyes on her. I was 15 and looking for my first car. A friend of mine and my parents, Art, asked me to come over and look at a car he thought might be a good car for me. We walked into his garage and there on the left, was a 55 Ford Victoria, 4 door. It was a neat looking car. However, on the right, was something I had never seen before. She was sitting very low to the ground, mag wheels, hood with two scoops, just looked fast. Now to be honest, she was also, dirty, and had bags of stuff piled in her, and on top of her. Writing this, I can almost remember the smell of her inside. I sat in her that day, as Art told me a little about her.

She didnt have a name then, just the Cuda’. I was hooked from then on. This was Arts high school graduation present. He had sat in a Hemi cuda’ and started it, but that was to much. So he came home with this one. 383′ 4 barrel, console shift auto, a/c, Ralley gauges, the list goes on. He talked about driving her to Salt Lake City from Fresno and back on a regular basis to see a girl he was dating. That out there, on the open road, she really came to life.But she wasn’t alive. She was in deep hibernation, hidden away in his garage.

That first day not much was done, other to listen while Art talked about the car. Art was going to get her back running some day. I hoped to see that, and now my interest in the 55 was gone, so I went back home without a vehicle.

Over the next 5 years, at least once a year, I would go by and see Art and visit with him and the car. The first several times went something like this. Uncover and empty the car. Then push the car out of the garage and into the sun. Wash the car completely while listening to Art tell me of her glory days. On some occasions his two daughters would come out and help. Then, as the sun would set, I would reluctantly push the car back into the garage.

By the time I was 19, I was on my second car. Both cars were 63′ Ford Falcons. I learned much of my mechanical skills on those two. So as my 20th birthday approached, I made another trip to Art’s place. Once again the Cuda’ was given her yearly bath, tires aired back up and we discussed her future. This time there was a change. Art said he would be willing to sell her to me. Needless to say I was overjoyed.

That week I went home and sold my car, the second 63′ Falcon.  The following Saturday I walked over to Arts house with the money for my down payment. However, things did not go as planned. Art let me know he had a change of heart, and couldn’t let her go. I was angry, said some really terrible things and left on foot.

A couple of weeks went by. I realized what an ass I had been and called and apologized. I then asked if I could come over the following weekend, he agreed. I walked the couple of blocks over, pulling my wagon with a battery, jack, toolbox and stands and went to see him. I first apologized. Then I told him that it was his car, and his decision as to what to do with her. But in the almost 5 years I had known about her, I have never even heard her cough. I was there to donate my time and tools to see if I could bring her back to life. Happily, Art agreed.

We spent the day going over the engine, changing a fuel pump, new plugs, oil, turning it over by hand.  Then came the moment that changed my life forever. After giving her some fresh gas and priming the carb, I sat down in her and turned the key. She really likes her sleep and it took several tries, but she finally coughed. Then, on the next turn of the key she roared to life. It had been over 13 years since that motor had breathed, and she need to clear her lungs. Smoke bellowed from each of the exhaust tips as she found her breath once again.  Art and his family came out to see what all the noise was about. Neighbors came out to see what all the noise and smoke was about.

Finally she settled down to a nice throaty idle, the smoke cleared and she was alive again. I asked Art if I could take her around the block. He agreed and we made our first journey onto the asphalt together. Keeping her just off idle I made the circuit around his block and back to his house. I was in love. The wait was all worth while and more surprises awaited.

I got out and went to hand the keys to Art. Instead he handed me the pink slip. I hung my head, and let him know I no longer had the down payment, and really couldn’t pay him for the car. We talked about the car for quite awhile. He could see that I really cared for the cuda’ and that it would be a good home. That night I loaded up my tools and wagon in the cuda’ and drove her home.

Every car needs a name, and the cuda’ was no different. For the next several weeks as I worked on her and got to know her, a name finally came. Jolene. Yes, the Dolly Parton hit song. It really did fit. Jolene would be my number one love, taking me away from time with other girls. That was 26 years ago, and we are still together today.


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