The Rise and Demise of My First 4CV
by Clancy Menzel
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.