6750 Rattalee Lake Road Clarkston, Michigan 48348
Sometimes certain events weave in and out of our lives and we
aren’t even aware of them until the last piece of the puzzle
falls into place. Such is the case with this story.
Back in the forties, when I was in high school, my good friend
Larry had a 1931 American Austin coupe. It was a cute little
vehicle and all the girls liked it, especially Robert’s
girlfriend. One day Larry gave Robert’s girlfriend a ride,
which made Robert furious. Robert was driving his father’s 1940
Ford and intended to scare Larry by cutting him off the road. Well,
Larry didn’t scare and he tried to return the favor with the
Austin, and the Austin lost. The Ford hit the Austin almost square
in the front wheel, bending it and the fender in at the top.
We opened up the shop and pulled the fender back to its original
shape, to our surprise, quite easily. The front axle was another
story: it not only was bent in, it was also bent rearward.
With the little car up on stands, we heated the axle real red
and both of us grabbed the wheel and bent it back to where it
‘looked’ about right. During the road test, Larry drove and
I rode passenger in the almost cramped little coupe. Larry was
saying the car drove a little odd as he started his usual big loop
U-turn on the concrete apron in front of the lumber yard at the
edge of town. Halfway through the turn, the front wheels flopped
hard into the turn and the Austin rolled over on my side. We got
ourselves out and without saying a word, just tipped the Austin
back on its wheels, got back in and drove to the shop. After we
stopped shaking, we noticed the front axle was bent back, so we
repeated the heating-bending process, only this time we bent it
forward. With some trial and error we got the damaged side to match
the wheel on the other side. Another road test, another U-turn at
the lumber yard, somewhat slower, and we knew success was ours.
Another lesson of life learned.
Fast forward to 1993: I found and purchased a doodle-bug made
from an Austin front frame, radiator, engine transmission, steering
and Model T truck rear axle. A Chevy truck transmission was
sandwiched between the Austin transmission and the Ford rear axle.
I located an Austin collector who identified that part of the
doodle-bug as 1931 American Austin. As I walked around the Austin
in my shop, I got to thinking about Larry’s Austin. Then I
started to wonder what ever happened to Larry. Wonder where he is
right now. Larry and his family had moved away from our small
Michigan town shortly after the Austin incident and folks up there
had lost track of him. Looked like the end of this story.
Then, just the other day, another piece of the puzzle arrived in
our mailbox, a letter postmarked Fremont, California. The letter
was from Larry. How in the world had he found me? Larry explained
in the letter that he is a Briggs & Stratton collector and a
subscriber to GEM. Larry had read in the October issue letter
column about my unstyled John Deere Model L serial number search.
Larry wondered if I was the same guy he knew in high school. Well,
now you and Larry know that it is and you also now know a little
bit about Larry and his American Austin.