The Rise and Demise of My First 4CV

by Clancy Menzel

  In the fifties I worked Christmas vacation in Michigan to make money for school clothes, books, etc. Any money left over was set aside and monitored by my parents. At age 15 I wanted a car even though I didn't have a driver's license. My parents found a green 1950 4CV in a neighboring town with a real estate sign on the doors. It went for all of $175. A friend and I painted the car black at his dad's body shop. At the time only three of my friends at school had cars. But then there were only 350 students altogether kindergarten through grade 12.

  In the summer of 1954 I worked for a farmer for $100 a month and a weeks vacation on the Au Sable River fishing. This farmer also had a pet raccoon. I'll get back to this shortly. When I got the car I was in the process of cutting a hole into the trunk up front by my left leg to accommodate a radio. In those days radios were vacuum tube and very large. My mother came and asked me what I was doing. I told her and she asked where I got the radio. "From a friend for $5." Her logical response was "Where did you get the $5?" I said that I still owed it to him. She replied to take the radio back until I earned the $5 to pay for it. Of course now I had a radio hole but no radio.

  Back to my vacation. I was loaded up and had a rowboat in tow. And guess who was up front in the trunk, my friend the pet raccoon. While driving down the gravel road toward the main paved one, he kept grabbing my clutch foot through the radio hole. I reached in back to get my light jacket and stuff the hole shut....bad idea. While stuffing the hole I drove off the road into a drainage ditch banging up the Renault and bending the front wheels (star wheels of course). The only injury I received was from the raccoon when he bit me after I caught him running in the wheat stubble. The farmer was ahead of me in his car and turned around and got his truck back at the farm and pulled me out. We towed my Renault back and soon left on our fishing trip with the rowboat tied to the roof of the farmer's car.

  My parents didn't know about the accident until I got back a week later. My friend and I banged out the body and painted it again. Of course the wheels didn't get straightened so I continued to drive it with bent wheels. This worked fine I thought until it took its toll on the left hand front axle. Parts were hard to find in the 50's (My friend Jacques wasn't in business yet), but I did locate one in New York. When it came it was the wrong one. There went $23, so I sold the car to a machinist for $50 including the new axle. Still, I had driven the car for three years.

Clancy Menzel

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