The 11 Street Mechanics
Setting: A Saturday Morning in Early May Jacques, James and I headed
to the Corral to work on and wash the New Yorker hoping that after
we were done it would magically turn into a new car!
There is nothing more important to a young man than to tend to
his car. Washing is the first ingredient to make your car bond to
your persona-- to get acquainted with all the surface of the sheet
metal and bright work. You get sort of the feel of the shape of
what the guys designing the sculpture of this machine felt.
As all fifties car, the New Yorker was sculptured with smooth rounded
curves, not one square corner to be found anywhere on it’s
Should I say: Voluptuous and Sexual best describes it.
Each one of us wore my father’s Tuscan hip high boots and
applying tons of soapy suds and stream of water hoping to see that
"New car finish" resurface again. Squirting each other
and getting tagged from a soapy sponge for a brief moment we felt
that we were in suburbia. The aroma of car wax lingered in the fresh
spring air. Fantastic spray cleaner was a brand new product that
year and we used it to clean the dash board area. To this day when
I smell the fragrance of Fantastic I recall the first time I used
it which was this day.
The Car’s radio was tuned to a New York Top 40 station, it’s
a Saturday, Pop Music was at it’s best, Cokes are plentiful
so were the butts.
Three guys paying homage to their new prize.
Jacques gunk/cleaned the entire Engine – till it looked ""sparkling""
new. It was the first time I studied it massive size and stature,
what was most impressive were the top of the cylinder heads. Crowning
the block was the Hemispherical combustion chambers valve covers
with the “Chrysler Fire Power” Embossed in Red lettering,
this truly was saying a statement that “Power” is produced
This engine looked like it was juiced with extra dosage of steroids.
The entire engine looked like it was formed from a solid block of
aluminum alloy. The top had the appearance like a broad shoulder
Muscle Man = Massively proportion and immensely strong looking.
In between the two large valve covers sat this humongous four chambered
nozzle piece of equipment that would have looked proper on a Saturn
V moon rocket as one of its main fuel supply pumps.
I ask Jacques what was that? That my boy! Is the Hemi’s Lungs,
an AFB Carter 4 Barrel Carburetor designed to gulp "High Octane
fuel" at a furious pace.
There were Heavy Plug Wires that looked like they could be used
as Electros in a 1950’s B movie going right through the cylinders
Then there was the power brake booster unit hanging on the firewall
that was beyond heavy duty looking. It had a large ribbed diaphragm
that went in and out each time the brakes were applied and asked
Unlike other engine bays that I had seen, this one was free of
hanging wires/ hoses that looked like a tangled up spaghetti mess.
You can see that it was very well thought out and purposely designed.
Everything under the hood looked Over- Engineered. Real eye candy
for a kid that appreciated Form- Follows- Function philosophy. Nothing
like my fathers chicken ribbed Chevy engine that suddenly was deranked
to puny status.
Jacques had James and I going to Strauss the auto store on South
Orange Ave getting various doodad’s Pine Air Fresher –
Oil/Filter, Champion Spark Plugs and the most important item was
a can of STP oil treatment which came with a red and white Decal
with the leaning STP emblem on it. We ran back to the lot with all
the parts but most important to us, was that we had an STP sticker!
Jacques proudly stuck it on the back side glass – Now we were
We talked and hyped all the adventures we were going to experience
with this new escape machine, no more walking the antagonizing sidewalks
of South Orange Ave for us, we were going to fly! – Just like
most of the flybys going to and from downtown to their safe places
west of the city.
After all the parts that we bought were installed, the big test
on our skills was about to be graded! Jacques jumped into the cockpit
and turned on the ignition and hit START button from the command
Like the song “Feels Like The First Time” it was climactic
to hear an engine that you had worked on come to life!
Jacques jumped out and shouted “It’s Alive” “It’s
Alive” in a quivering voice grabbing me and saying “Look
at It” “ Just Look at It!”
I could hear huge volumes of air being sucked through the big AFB
carburetor (the air cleaner/silencer was off). Man! This thing takes
heavy gulps of air like an inlet of a Jet Aircraft that’s
idling on a runway waiting for take off……..
Jacques then looked at me in a prosperous way, like a Magician,
just about to pull off a sensational trick. I hadn’t the foggiest
idea what he was up too! He then stuck his hand under the hood,
stared at me as he grabbed the throttle linkage and yanked it fully
back. Whaaaaummmmmmmmh the big heavy body of the New Yorker rocked
and swayed up and down like it was just probed with a hot branding
iron, the sound emanating sounded liked King Kong himself! The twin
back pipes exploded with thunderous blasts and spewed out hot exhaust
that bounced off the back wall of the garage and I could feel the
thrush of hot air rush by me behind my head!
Definitely powerfully sounding!!!!! The Engine lived up to its
Name Fire Power! The ground rumbled under my feet.
Gazing at the Hemi I was Awe Struck ----- Wow! ---- This beast
wants to be set free.
Jacques coolly Click Flicked his Zippo Lighter, producing a torch
like six inch flame lighting his newly hanging Winston from his
lips and taking a long drag and letting out a small puff of smoke,
then that devilish grin appeared,,,,,, He was happy.
This made us all smile with pride “We did it”
We broke a small Glass coke bottle to christen the New King.
So that ended the first acquaintance when boy meets car, a passion
that stay with you forever…….. keeping you forever young
in that aspect. After that day my Mattey Mattel Hot Wheel car collection
was given to my younger siblings.
The Boys had their New Big Bad TOY now.
Just like a ship that gets christened and slides down the slip,
there was still a lot of outfitting to be done.
For the next several weeks Jacques poured in every one of his Tuscan
pay checks into his dream machine. 1st was the interior. It was
discovered that the floorboards were in bad shape. My father always
believed in industrial strength when having to redo something, so
he got several sheet of stainless steel 1/8” thick star plates
that was used for truck dock platforms. Jacques and he fabricated
new flooring from this bullet proof material. Nothing except maybe
a Mack Truck had better flooring.
Next all new carpets were professional installed. I insisted that
seat belts be installed at this time.
Then came the reupholstering of the seats. Jacques had great taste
in the selection of material and looks. The seats were decked out
in white leatherette with blue iridescent seating area which had
silver threads as accent in the blue material. The seats really
looked rich when it came back from the shop. My mother was employed
upholstering the door side panels - Jacques again picked the material.
Together the interior really fitted the name New Yorker with Class.
New transparent crystal blue mats that had French lions in the
center finished the opus look. Stepping into it the first time it
surely smelled like a new Car.
It had the type of feel to it that went along with the popular
song “Crystal Blue Persuasion” By Tommy James &
Jacques covered the steering wheel with a blue turquoise wrapping
and finished it off with a suicide knob that had scantly dressed
women on it.
New Mufflers and Tail Pipes
Now AAMCO Transmission performed the surgery in rebuilding the
Torque Flight Transmission
New Firestone tires were fitted on each wheel.
It was ready now for its street debut and trials.
Next Chapter ---- The Night Prowl
John Desranlesu is a Car Show Photographer.
You can view his work at: