A few days ago, I stopped by the office of the Comstock Chronicle in Virginia City to visit with Editor Angela Mann and to pick up an award I had won from the Nevada Press Association for articles I had written for the Chronicle. When I walked into the office, I was greeted by Jim Clark, Manager of James Clark & Co. Railroad Motion Picture Services. I had not seen Jim for over 30 years and our short visit brought back memories of a used car I had bought from him many years ago.
In the early 1980s, Jim and his wife hired our landscape company to do some work in his yard at the old Governor Sadler Mansion he owned in Carson City. While I was working there, I noticed Jim had a garage full of antique cars he used in some of the movies where he was providing equipment. I noticed a well restored 1926 Dodge Sedan that caught my eye. I asked Jim if he would consider selling it or trading for some of the work we were doing in his yard. Soon a deal was struck, and I proudly drove away with the antique car I had always dreamed of owning.
Like locomotives, antique cars always have a personality of their own, and mine was no exception. It was a big Al Capone-type sedan with a tall square dark blue body, black fenders, wood spoke wheels and a black leather trunk behind the cab. I quickly found it was not a car made for freeway traffic, since the wood spoke wheels would not tolerate speeds over 30 mph. It had a habit of not pumping enough gas to the engine from the rear mounted fuel tank when traveling uphill. (This was why Model A Fords had their fuel tanks mounted in front of the windshield.) Sometimes, if it got mad at me, it would not start until I got out, said a few magic words, and hand-cranked the engine.
One year, I drove the Dodge in the Nevada Day Parade with son John as my co-pilot. When son Tim and wife Tina got married, I drove them from the church at Stewart to their reception on the north side of Carson City. Another time, an unrelated couple heard about the car and wanted me to drive them to their wedding reception. I picked them up at the church in my chauffeur costume and loaded them in the back seat. As we headed off to the reception, the bride started questioning whether or not the old car was going to make it all the way across town.
About half way there, I got tired of listening to the doubting diva, so I pulled the choke out which caused the car to stall out and die. While she was chewing out the groom for hiring me for the job, I went out and cranked the old machine back to life. I climbed back in and we successfully made it to the reception without a further word from the bride. When we stopped at the reception place, the couple handed me a hundred dollar bill and thanked me for the most memorable ride of their life.
When we performed the landscape maintenance and installation work at the community of Glenbrook at Lake Tahoe, I brought the Dodge up there where I could keep it in our maintenance shed. Whenever I had to give someone an estimate or perform a repair, I would show up in the beautiful old Dodge. This was a real attention getter, and the wealthy homeowners were always glad to see me driving it around their elite private community.
One summer, several of the Glenbrook homeowners who owned vintage automobiles decided to hold an antique car show and contest in front of the Glenbrook Inn and combine it with a picnic and art show. Just for grins and giggles, I entered my old Dodge in the contest and won an award for best of show. This miffed a few wealthy homeowners when a common slave won the prize.
In 1982, the movie Honkytonk Man was filmed in Genoa and Dayton, Nevada. Jim Clark was procuring vintage automobiles to appear in the sets of the movie. He asked me if I could haul the old Dodge out to Genoa for the shoot. Son John and I loaded the car on a trailer and took it to Genoa. As we arrived, we saw Clint Eastwood and the film crew pulling in to town. When we were unloading the car, members of the crew came and asked my 13-year-old son, John, to work with them during the day to help with chores and serving lunch.
I had other work to do that day, so I left him there and picked him up late in the afternoon. When I picked him up, he told me he had served drinks and lunch to Clint Eastwood and other members of the film crew.
The day finally came when I moved out to Dayton and no longer had room in the garage for a big old sedan that was not really capable of highway travel. I sold the old Dodge to the owner of Bodine’s Casino for less than I had paid for it, but the memories and the fun I had with it were well worthwhile.
Copyright © 2014 by Dennis Cassinelli
This article originally appeared in The Comstock Chronicle