Back in around June '62 a buddy and I were laid off from work. I had an aunt and uncle who had a ranch in Montana. I talked him into going with me in the Corvette to Montana. I had bought the '60 Corvette brand new with fuel injection and four speed for $4217 and paid it off in two years. It was solid Honduras Maroon, only 700 and some fuel injection Corvettes were built that year. It only had 22,000 miles on it when we started our trip in perfect condition.
We were taking the northern route through northern Michigan across the bridge take a left on Route 2 and heading west, like the two guys on the tv show "Route 66." This was before I-75. It was mostly two lane roads. I don't remember the route number.
We were near Alger, Michigan and all of a sudden the car quit running. Couldn't get it restarted. My friend Jerry hiked to the nearest house and called a Chevrolet dealer who was in West Branch. They sent a tow truck out to tow us in. Fuel injection was new then and not many mechanics knew much about it. They said it was something in the fuel injection and we would have to be towed back to Saginaw, 71 miles! An older guy was driving part time, was retired. We got to the dealer late and the dealer was closed, but they had a guard there to let us in. Jerry and I got out of the tow truck to back him up into the garage. He is backing and jack knifing the car. I yelled and beat on his window and he would not stop! The front fiberglass fenders were pointing straight down before they snapped! I couldn't believe it! I pounded on his window to stop and he wouldn't! I had murder in my heart and a cussing for him! It didn't bother him at all! He just said stop by my dealer and report it.
The guard told us there was a hotel near by for five dollars a night. Not a nice place! I couldn't sleep and feel safe! We went down to the dealer in the morning. A rear tire was flat! They told us an injector pump cable was broke in two. They sold their last one the day before! But they could get one made. We got the flat fixed also and were on our way about noon.
Stopped at the dealer in West Branch to complain about their tow truck driver and the damage he had done. They said when you get it fixed send us the bill. I told Jerry you can drive. We went a few miles and came to another town and Jerry pulled over and let the car stall. I said, "What is wrong?" He said the brake pedal went to the floor! We sat there a few minutes and the pedal came back up. When I got in the driver's seat I discovered I had left the emergency brake partly on. When I let Jerry drive he wasn't used to the car and didn't know. But as soon as I drove forward I could feel it.
I was driving across the Mackinac Bridge and approaching a toll booth. No brakes! Somehow I got around the gate and a post and missed hitting them! I let the car chug to a stop. Jerry and I got out and walked back to the toll booth. The man there is on the phone and I heard him saying, "Yeah, a Corvette just went through without paying!" I said, "I will be glad to pay!" "But I had no brakes!" He said, "You will have to push the car back through so it will register at the booth." So we did.
We drove slow into St. Ignace and found a gas station open. They were getting ready to close. But after we told them our sob story they agreed to stay open and fix our brakes. They had to go to a parts store for the brakes. They didn't have the return springs! The brakes had got so hot you could drop the springs on the floor and they would just lay there! So they shortened the springs. It felt okay, but not great pushing the pedal. We pushed on until 1:30 a.m. driving in fog and stopped at a motel at Crystal Falls.
The next day we drove into Superior, Wisconsin, the brakes went out again! Pulled into a gas station and they said they could fix the brakes. They did! We drove across to Duluth, Minnesota going down a hill coming to a stop sign. The car grinded to a halt! The hubcaps were so hot I think you could have lit a cigarette off of them. The last gas station after fixing the brakes and adjusting them didn't back off on the adjustment! They were ruined again!
We went around the corner into another gas station. The guy said you can use any equipment I have, but I am not a mechanic. There was teenage guy hanging out there he heard our sob story and said I will drive you to the parts store. Jerry went with him and got the parts, we put the car on the lift and rebuilt them ourselves. That was the end of the brake problem! But not our road troubles!
Another friend had talked me into letting him put homemade exhaust cutouts on the exhaust pipes. They were old Ford gas filler necks with gas caps on them. Take them off and the car really roared! One of the caps was always blowing off and we were losing it. Found out every gas station then had shoe boxes of gas caps people had left. They always said take what you need no charge! Another time I stopped for gas in Montana and found my rear license plate was hanging by one bolt, barely! Somewhere along the way someone had sliced two tires had to get them fixed or replaced, don't remember now.
Got to my aunt and uncles ranch in four or five days, should have been three days. Jerry's unemployment office told him he would have to check in with the Montana unemployment office. I said my unemployment office didn't tell me that. They just said come back in two weeks. So anyway we drove the 35 miles to Helena, Montana. Pulled into the parking lot and a guy backed into my rear fender! I left home with four good ones. Now I only had one good one. He was shookup about it and seemed like a nice guy. He gave me his business card and said send me the bill. I did and it was on $16 and he paid it. The unemployment office told Jerry he didn't have to report to them from Michigan!
My uncles place was only a hundred miles north of Yellowstone Park. So we drove down there. We lost one of the gas caps on the exhaust. We got to the Park entrance and the Ranger there said, "I can't let you in the park with this loud car!" "You will scare the animals out of the park." We said, "Okay, we will be back in a little while, we know how to fix it." Found a gas station in the town of West Yellowstone and got a gas cap or two, put it on and he let us into the park. Should have got gas while there. The gas stations were not open in the Park yet, they had just opened the Park for the season. So we took the inner shorter circular route through the Park and coasted down mountains and hills to save gas. It worked, we made it back to town.
We had seen signs advertising Virginia City, Montana old western town. Never could find it! Maybe it was a ghost town that disappeared on certain days. I thought Montana at that time had the worst marked routes, you couldn't find a road number forever! They must have figured if you weren't born here, you didn't need to know where you were going! We ran right off an unmarked road into a field with boulders! Lucky nothing was hurt. Went back a few miles and took the other fork in the road!
After a few days at my aunt and uncles we headed back to Michigan. Southern route this time, down through Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa, Ilinois and Ohio. In Iowa, the car started running bad again. Pulled into a garage and we had about four busted pushrods! Going through Ohio we lost another gas cap off of the exhaust and a Ohio State Trooper pulled us over on the expressway for excessive noise out in the country! We explained about the cutoff cap flying off. He said, "Well, rather than ticket you I will take you back to a gas station to get a gas cap for your exhaust. He did and we fixed it again!
We got home about 11 p.m. that night. My dad let me in and I said, "I am never leaving home again! The next year I was drafted and then enlisted in the Army. My travels had just begun! Ft. Knox, Kentucky, Ft. Gordon, Georgia, Ft. Lewis, Washington, Desert Strike in California, Arizona and Nevada. Then 21 days by troopship to Vietnam in '65 and back home in '66. With vacations and Army 13 different countries, some twice and many other states!