Keith was an airplane mechanic but that also extended to auto repair, actually anything that was an engine including outboard motors like Evinrude.
To repair the boat motors he would attach the boat motor to the top rim of a barrel, fill with water and test the motor, make repairs or do maintenance.
In April of 1949 he purchased the 1940 Chevy from his sister Miriam. This was a cool car with running boards on the sides. On occasion a member of the family would stop the Old Chevy at the intersection south of our house and me and the neighborhood kids would climb onto the running board. We would hold onto the open window area and ride up the street for about half a block. It was brief but fun.
Keith had to make modifications to the Chevy. It had a switch on the dashboard to turn it on and the choke was involved, it was a step-by-step process to turn it on. It was a manual meaning you used the clutch pedal. It sat high up so the headlights would shine into the interior of the newer cars and their mirror and they would get a little unhappy. Oh yes, he years later he painted it with a brush. He chose navy blue on the bottom with yellow on the upper area. It wasn’t fancy but it worked and prevented rust. He had his paint can collection in his basement workshop. This area had a table saw, drill press, a workbench, glass jars with screws and nails, his tools and more.
Keith liked to name his toys and he called this car the Lumberwagon.
He would maintain a car log on the details of his cars lives such as when he would buy gas, make a repair, what parts he bought, and a description of the service he did to the automobile.
Here is an example of his devotion to his craft, the Lumberwagon auto log, which appears to be the only surviving auto log?
The page above reads: Preface: This log is dedicated to the Lumberwagon. This car was named by a studie champ salesman when Mam (sister Miriam) announced to him her choice, 1940. However, no car will ever take the place of “Priscilla.” In the following pages – the Log of the Lumberwagon begins…
On another page not shown: Chapter 1 See Miriam A. McDonald, Only Mam knows what happened? (He was referring to the auto accident in the photo above.)
In the photo below is a picture of a page from the log book, you can see how precise he was in keeping track of the maintenance of a car. I have a similar car log but not quite as detailed. There were 64 pages in this 2.5 x 5 inch booklet.
Here is the page at the back of the book about his design for the Elephant Pit. It was a structure he built so he could work on his cars from underneath.
He writes and draws plans for the Elephant Pit probably about 1957. At the east (back) end of the garage he had doors where he could open them out and drive a car over an area that he dug where he could work on the cars from underneath. It was cemented to hold the weight of the car with an alley way dug in the center and covered with boards to close it up when not in use. For years he parked the Dutchman Camper Trailer (teardrop style) that he refurnished and I used as a play house on the platform. Who knows what it is filled with now?
Because he was a mechanic he would buy used cars and fix them up. So over the years he had several different cars. I remember a Nash about 1955 that was several colors with brown, beige and a slight dark red? The next car was the Dreamboat a 1957 Nash Embassador Country Club which was an automatic. It was dark blue on top, with a lighter blue on the body and white side panels. He then bought a Ford Fairlane which was totally white. He made modifications to the foot pedal so those who were small could drive it. Any mirrors on the car would be modified with bigger mirrors because it would pull a trailer.
He purchased a 1956 Ford (from sister Vivian) with green and white to be used by me his daughter to drive to school. It was a manual shift and so I had to learn to drive it after learning in the Dreamboat (automatic) from my Dad. I would drive the side streets to school learning how to coordinate the shifting. As you can see the Ford doesn’t look to good. I think this was taken when we sold it because the clutch had worn out and it was not worth it to repair.
He would write letters to me at college in the late sixty’s and some topics were about car stuff:
The stuff you buy for the Ford is 1 head lamp for a 1956 Ford 12 Volts system. Windshield de-icer spray (about 59 cents). Engine Start spray fluid $1.00. Starting fluid has ether in it. Spray it in the air cleaner on top of the carb. Jan. 29, 1969.