Sunday, November 24, 2013

My New Affair!

Susan and I took a deviation from our regular mode of travel this month.  We flew American Airlines to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and purchased a used car, sight unseen, which we have previously done only with new vehicles.  Fortunately, there were no disappointments and the 700-mile road trip was uneventful.

Why the fascination with this car?  Well, the explanation begins in March 1975.  As a young private investigator, I was assigned a case in search of two missing children.  My client lived in Maryland and recently divorced.  The court granted him custody of his children, but the ex-wife took the children and fled to Oklahoma.  After several days of surveillance, I located my client’s children in Duncan, where they were attending school.  They were living in nearby Marlow with their mother and her acquaintance. 

Upon confirming the identity of the children and their mother, I accompanied my client’s attorney back to Duncan to gain the district court’s issue of a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which would allow my client to regain custody of his children.  The attorney owned a “1975 Lincoln Continental Mark IV,” and the trip to Duncan was my first experience in riding in such a beautiful vehicle. 

I never was before, nor am I now, a “Ford man,” as I have always favored General Motors products.  But the Mark IV engraved itself in my mind and heart as the most luxurious and strikingly beautiful automobile ever made, foreign or domestic. 

My client was reunited with his children, and I’m happy to say that he and I stay in touch today.  In fact, Susan and I visited him and his lovely wife on our way home from an RV trip to Washington, D.C. in 2012. 

As for my newly acquired interest in the Mark IV, I bought a new “Cartier Designer Series” in March 1976 (similar to the car pictured below) . . . .


My new Lincoln was purchased from Marion Davidson Lincoln-Mercury in Weatherford, Oklahoma, at a cost of $12,888 (roughly $65,000 today).  It was triple Dove Grey (body, seats, and landau top).  I drove the car for about three years, and have missed it ever since.  I later purchased a new 1981 Lincoln Mark VI, which was also a “Cartier Designer Series,” but it simply didn’t compare to the 1976 model.  The ‘81 Mark VI was shorter in length, lighter in weight, and underpowered (302 cubic inch V8).  Whereas, the ‘76 Mark IV is 19’1” in length, weighs over 5200 lbs, and is powered by a 7.5L 460 cubic inch V8. 

RVing keeps me occupied during the warm seasons, but retirement doesn’t bode well for me during the winter.  As a result, I easily get bored and find myself looking for new projects.  I’ve looked for a project car for several years.  Susan and I have owned a T-Bird and Corvette, and although we liked them both very much, neither fulfilled my interests.  I knew I wanted a classic luxury car to tinker with, and I’ve always been a fan of the early 1960’s Cadillacs.  But when comparing the architecture of the Cadillac to the Lincoln, I was always drawn back to the Mark IV. 

While doing my weekly Internet search I came across this “1976 Pucci Designer Series” with 36,001 actual miles.  The vehicle was originally sold by Antietam Motors, Inc. in Hagerstown, MD in July 1976.  The car was built at the Ford Wixom Plant on May 7, 1976.  The following are actual photos of my car: 


In the 1976 model year, Lincoln commissioned four internationally known designers to choose color combinations and accents for specially labeled models of the Mark IV.  They included the “Cartier,” “Bill Blass,” “Givenchy,” and “Emilio Pucci.”  All carried the designer’s signature in the opera windows in 22 Karat gold . . . .


The “Designer Series” added a $2,000 premium to the window sticker, but was worth every dollar in increased elegance to an already luxurious car. 


As you can see in the photos, this car has a white landau half-top with white body side-moldings.  The original issue “Pucci” came with a silver “Normande Grain” top and matching body side-moldings.  In my opinion, the original silver top and moldings appeared dull and lackluster.  Apparently, the previous owner agreed and dyed the top and moldings white.  I plan to replace the dyed vinyl top with new fabric, but I will retain the white color scheme as I think it better accents the Moondust Metallic paint. 

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Seating options for the 1976 “Pucci” were leather or dark red Majestic cloth.  This car came with cloth, which was a $2000 upgrade.  Note the factory plastic still intact on the rear seatbelts in the following picture . . . .


The car was previously owned by a collector who sold it at auction with over 150 other vehicles, none of which had been started or driven in over twenty years.  The ash trays and cigar lighters show no sign of use.  The seating areas, carpet, headliner and dash are in original condition.  And, the original Michelin spare tire is in the trunk and has never been on the ground. 

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The engine and chassis are as clean as the body and interior . . . .

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There is no sign of body damage or repaint, but the original paint does show a light patina . . . .

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The present tires are not original, but have excellent tread and appear new.  However, I can’t get them to balance properly and I believe they may have flat spots from sitting in one position for an extended period of time.  The only option may be to replace them. 


The engine has a slight miss, but after replacing the base carburetor gasket, installing new spark plugs, and using a can of Chem-tool gasoline additive, it’s improving.  Below, I’m changing out the electric seat controls on the passenger door.


Like I said, I’ve been looking for a project to keep me busy during my idol months.  What could be better? 


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Modern Wagoneers Visit Van Buren/Fort Smith, Arkansas!

The August campout was hosted by David and Wilma Adams & Gary Tidball and Rosie Wagner.  For the first time that I can remember, our chapter finally made a trip out-of-state!  Van Buren may be only seven miles east of the Oklahoma border, but at least we’re venturing out. 

A total of nine rigs met in Van Buren, with four arriving on Wednesday and five more caravaning in on Thursday.  The wagonmasters reserved several tree-covered sites at “Park Ridge RV Park” in Van Buren.

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This is a beautiful park!  My only reservation is that when it rains the grounds are rather messy.  But it’s nestled in the trees along a tributary of the Arkansas River, and provides a peaceful and relaxing setting for the outing. 


I noticed the trailer brakes were fading during a rest break on our way to Van Buren.  Upon our arrival at the RV park, I manually activated the trailer brakes and they did not engage at all.  Obviously, the trip home will be slow and cautious.

The coach has traveled approximately 22K miles since new in August 2011.  I can’t imagine that the brakes have worn out so soon.  I wish all travel trailers and 5th wheels were sold with hydraulic brake systems, which I truly believe are much safer and reliable!

The RV park has a very nice club room, and our hosts provided a taco/nacho supper on the night of arrival, followed by breakfasts the next two mornings.


Below is a picture of Gary Tidball’s “Banana Walnut Upside-Down French Toast.”


Way too sweet for me!  But, Gary, the fine man that he is, made me a special order of plain French toast to accompany my sugar-free syrup. 

Van Buren, Arkansas, is a quaint little town founded in 1831.  The town’s name is derived from former Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren, and it is near the 1862 Civil War battle site that ended in a defeat for the Confederate Army. 


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I usually throw in a picture or two of a law office or courthouse (below left), and at the right is two familiar fellows I like to refer to as “two old men on the street,” otherwise known as Gary Tidball and David Adams. 

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If you visit Van Buren, a good restaurant to keep in mind is “Big Jake’s Cattle Co.”  Not only was the food and service excellent, but the wait staff put up with all of us!   

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Another point of interest in Van Buren is the “King Opera Theater.”  It’s located at 427 Main Street and features live entertainment.  The theater is a 19th Century Victorian performance hall, which was restored in 1979 and now listed on the “National Register of Historic Places” and is part of the “Van Buren Historic District.”

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Van Buren, Arkansas is a great place for Oklahoma RVers to visit!  It’s only 190 miles from Oklahoma City (3 hrs. 15 min.), has a great RV park, good food, and historic charm. 


We also toured Fort Smith, Arkansas, which highlighted two historical sites.  “Miss Laura’s Social Club” was first and foremost on my list of things to see!  

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Sometime around the turn of the century (early 1900s), Laura Zeigler transformed a river-front hotel into one of the “most refined and healthiest” bordellos in the area.  At a time when a “lady of the evening” generally charged $1.00 for her services, Miss Laura’s ladies earned $3.00.

Carolyn Joyce, the beautiful lady pictured above, portrays Laura Zeigler as she conducts personalized tours of the well-preserved brothel house.  Carolyn became associated with “Miss Laura’s” in 1992 when the building reopened as the Fort Smith Visitor Center.

Below, Carolyn Joyce leads our group on a tour of “Miss Laura’s.”

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It’s said that champagne, chilled in a bathtub similar to the one pictured below, was served to Miss Laura’s customers at no charge.


“Miss Laura’s” is a “must see” if you visit Fort Smith!  Below, the Modern Wagoneers pose for a group picture outside my favorite bordello . . . .


The other highlight on our Fort Smith tour was the “Fort Smith National Historic Site,” which among other things, was the courthouse, jail, and gallows of “hanging judge,” Isaac C. Parker. 


Known as the “Hell-on-the-Border” jail, the Barracks-Courthouse-Jail has a very rich and colorful history.  For more information, go to

Judge Parker, who previously served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri, served as District Judge for the U.S. Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas for 21 years.  Though most federal district judges hear civil cases, Judge Parker heard thousands of criminal cases and sentenced over 150 people to death, of which 79 were executed during his tenure as federal judge.  When Congress created the Western District of Arkansas in 1851, it failed to provide an appeals process.  As a result, convicted felons had no recourse other than seeking a presidential pardon, which was rarely granted.  This process continued for fourteen years before Congress established a Circuit Court of Appeals for the District. 

Judge Parker’s desk and chair used in Washington during his congressional term, 1871-1875 (lower left).  Judge Parker’s walking sticks (lower right).

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The courtroom from where justice was served, or was it?


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Judge Parker is pictured above at work from the bench sometime between 1890-1896.  With over 50 prisoners locked in one of two cells, the basement of Judge Parker’s courthouse became known as the “Hell-on-the-Border” jail (pictured below).


Before sending a group of prisoners to their death at the gallows, Judge Parker once said, “I do not desire to hang you men, it is the law.” 


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Looking up from below the spring door of the gallows (top left).  George Maledon, known as “Prince of Hangmen,” served as executioner at over half of the Fort Smith hangings (top right). 


Pictured above is David and Kristi Cline (left), with Susan and me (right) on the grounds of the National Historic Site. 

A great way to finish a morning of touring is with a good hamburger.  We recommend “The Hamburger Barn” at 317 Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, AR.  Good food and service! 

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They have a very interesting decor, especially all the OSU memorabilia (considering it’s located in the State of Arkansas and we saw very little Razorback recognition!).   

“Hats Off” to the Adams, Gary and Rosie for a great outing.  And thanks for taking us out-of-state for a change!  How about Colorado next time?