Hot Rodding, Then and Now
Rumbleseat's East Coast Run 2003 Part Five
PART FIVE. Tuesday, May 27. Stopped in a breakfast diner in Gainesville, FL for breakfast. Thought they could help me with directions to Garlits' museum. None of the three teenager waitresses had ever heard of Don Garlits or his museum! But they did provide me three phone books of the area. Took me 30 minutes to locate it using the phone books. JWL had told me there were signs along the highway, but I didn't know which highway he was talking about. He probably said I-75, but it didn't penetrate this sludge thickened old mind. Gainesville is about 30 miles north of Ocala. I-75 ran directly by it. It was early so I elected to drive two lane roads. Picked up a side road running parallel to I-75. Passed through High Springs and spied a fifties type diner. It was quite busy. But what caught my eye was a maroon '34 Terraplane cabriolet parked on the grassy area out front. The top was down too. Stopped and backed up on the shoulder. Nice original car. Got my camera and took some pics of it. One shot has my roadster in it too. Pretty neat seeing these two old timers together. There was a lot of similarity between them. Several people crossed the grass to check out my '34. I was there answering questions for about 30 minutes.
As I neared Garlits' museum south of Ocala, there were several billboards with the exit number and directions. No way could I have missed them. Looking through the phone books had been a waste of time. Oh well.
There are two museum buildings besides his home and shops. One houses drag racers and the other collector and antique cars. I was getting my entrance ticket when I saw The Man looking at my roadster. Went back out and we talked for a few minutes. He was interested more in the engine than anything else. Opened the hood. He immediately noticed the current ballast on the firewall. He'd never seen one. Explained it was made by Echlin and replaced the stock resistor on the firewall to prevent burning up coils and points. Around the top it says "CURRENT BALLAST". CB-1. For Ford V-8. All 6V models. Echlin Mfg. Co. Use no.1116 bulb." It also says "Mount under dash in place of resistence unit." Pretty cool old time item. Least he must have thought so too since he asked if I was interested in selling it to add to his collection. Told him no. It's as old timey as my roadster. He had to leave for a car function. He's not as tall as I remembered him from back in the fifties. Went back into the museum. I asked the counter woman if she'd check with the guys in their shop and see if they knew where I could get an Optima 6V battery.
Went into the drag building. What a museum. I usually don't spend much more than an hour in car museums. Not the case here. Too much to see. Not only were there most of his Swamp Rat dragsters, but there were a lot of other famous drag cars. Very impressive. Went to the other museum. Lots of eye candy there too. Lots and lots of memorabilia. Quite a few very low mileage original cars. One caught my eye.... a '40 convert with a Columbia Overdrive. Nothing unusual about this except it had a factory tachometer with shift points for engaging the overdrive! I'd never seen one. The woman in charge said the Columbia and tachometer came with the car directly from the factory. Got a pic or two after she permitted me to drop the rope and open the door. Very nice people throughout. Lots of semi-famous cars from Don's past too. I'm sure most of you guys have been through it, so won't go on.
On the way out, the counter woman (Don's wife?) said she had called the Optima distributor about a 6V battery. He didn't have one in stock, but could have one delivered in about 7-8 days. I declined ordering it. Adding in motel and eating costs for 7 days would have made it nearly $1000! I had been in the museums for nearly 5 hours! Some kind of record for me, but I could have easily spent another 4 hours.
Hot and dry. Headed down I-75 through Tampa and into Sarasota to meet LHead8. It was afternoon when I called Gillette and told him what motel I was in. He soon drove up in his original '33-5 window. He'd finally acquired it after bird-dogging it for a lot of years. His dream come true. Has original interior and paint. The red spoke wheels and whitewalls set it off. Followed him to his home and met Barbara, his wife. Very nice lady and interested in his hobby. I won't tell you about his door handle..... ask him, not me. We were there about a half hour when a couple of his best buds pulled up. Mike was driving a '34 pickup with a 350/350/9" setup. Nice pick-em-up. Dale drove his '32 hi-boy roadster. It had a 302Ford/C-4/9" combo. Super car. Seems he was leaving the next day for the LA Roadster show. Says he goes every year. That's an impressive distance in an open wheeled car.... especially considering the very wet spring this year. After kicking tires for a spell, I said I had to eat. We all drove our rods to a place they frequent. Kind of a mini-cruise and car show. Ate a sandwich on the sidewalk part of the place and talked cars for quite a while. It was soon well past bedtime for this old codger. Gillette said he'd meet me for breakfast. Got directions and followed Dale back to the motel. Good thing... I'd still be trying to find it.
Next morning, Wednesday, I met Gillette for breakfast. I had called Butch11443 on Tuesday to set up a meet in Englewood the next day. He had a doctor's appointment Wednesday morning and couldn't meet me. Gillette called him later. Seems the appointment was in Sarasota! So he drove his '31 pickup with a dual 94 carb 8BA from Englewood and met us at the Sun Rise Cafe. Nice pickup with solid construction. The three of us had breakfast and talked. Nice visit. Gillette is going to have a super car when he's done. An original '33- 5 window.... pretty rare find today.
Headed south on state highway 41. Map shows this as "other multi-lane highway". What a zoo... too many long (over 4 minutes) traffic lights and too many of them (about every eighth mile). Stuck it out while I watched the flathead temperature gauge climb. I was heading down to the Everglades........ rumble seat