Friday, August 11, 2017

I was emailed by a car model maker who wanted to know about the Howard Hughes Duesenburg he modified to tow gliders, and learned he has the only 1958 Moskvitch in the USA, and wow, what a story

a retiring sea captain bought a 1958 Moskvitch in Amsterdam, and had it shipped to Los Angeles, where the customs guys bounced it right back... nothing was SAE approved... no lights, electrical, or glass.

But when some Mongo went to forklift it back onto the ship, both forks went into the doors.

Maybe it was a reaction to the Sputnik fear. Who knows.

But the car was taken to a repair shop in Ensenada before the ship headed back to return the car to point of origin, and was going to get the doors fixed.

But it was stolen, and driven into LA. Yeah, complete opposite of what happens to cars in LA, when stolen, and taken to Tijuana.

It was stripped and abandoned in LA, and the cops impounded the hulk, and it went to a junkyard. The junkyard operator thought it was kinda neat, got it running (remember, it was barely ever used since being bought) and when some DMV employee friend asked to borrow a car, and this was the best option in the junkyard, the DMV guy got some paperwork to make the car legal.

Later, another acquaintence in AAA did a paperwork trick to make the car legal, and the Moskvitch was suddenly a legit California titled car.

So it was occassionally used as a backup or loaner car, but as years passed, it sat in the junkyard and rusted. Just hanging out in a corner. Until the junkyard was finally closed as the operator retired, and moved to Hemet (between Riverside and San Diego on the I 15) when it was finally put up for sale in the newspaper.

Then it was finally acquired by Gary, who took it with him when transferred to a new job in Texas, and diligently restored it, even when it was part of a sudden disappearance of all the cars in the paint shop as the owner went out of business, and was found miles away in a barn... and then finally Gary took it to car shows. Such as the one on an Air Force base... where someone freaked out that Gary may have mentioned he was in frequent contact with a parts supplier of communist political affiliation (this was the 80s and cold war paranoia was nuts, just look at the goofy movies we made about that whole era) and the FBI stopped by to ask some questions.

Obviously, the FBI agents realized what a gaffe had been made, laughed it off, and Gary has continued to bring his 1958 Russian car to concours condition the hard way in the many years since 1981.

The Duesenberg that kicked off this correspondence:

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