Friday, November 10, 2017

The Rest Of Ken Szekretar's Cars (from the '60s)


Although one of Ken Szekretar's cars has been previously
featured on this blog (his '51 Ford, on the Dec. 5, 2010 post),
he had several other notable drives back in the day.
Of particular interest was this 1958 Chevy Impala 2-door hardtop.
The car was nosed and decked, painted a metallic silver-blue,
wore '57 Plymouth wheel covers, and sat on a "rake."



The engine was production 348 cuber with
three carbs, a mild cam and solid lifters.


A year or so later, Ken bought a 1960 Corvette;
it was basically pretty stock when he got it.



 Ken added a Fuelie cam and solid lifters, four-barrel carb, and
Fuelie heads to the engine. Power went through a 4-speed tranny


Ken next worked on the body, shaving unnecessary chrome,
removing the front bumpers, and reworking the grille opening
into a rolled pan effect. New paint was a dark metallic blue.


Frosted white plexigrass lenses were used in the opening
under the headlights for the parking lights and turn signals.









Doug's Wheels in the 1960s


While in high school, one of the other gear heads I met
was Doug Maloney, from Glendale, Queens.
He had been building a '32 Ford coupe during the same time
I had been working on my '50 Merc (see the first post on this blog).
Around the time we graduated, I stopped over to his
house to see his car and grabbed some photos.

Still a work-in-progress when I visited,
the five-window coupe had been channeled 11-inches;
juice brakes and a '56 Ford steering box were installed,
along with a dago-ed front axle.



The engine was a completely rebuilt '56 Olds,
running nearly stock, with lots of chrome;
transmission was from a '39 Ford and the rear from a '40.


I was with Doug the first night he took the car out on the road;
among the first destinations was the White Castle on
Union Turnpike, in Fresh Meadows (that place no longer exists).

 After selling the '32, Doug bought a '41 Ford coupe
and started working on that. He showed up at
my house one day and I got a few photos of it.



 The body was basically stock but he installed
high-compression heads and a Mallory ignition on the engine.


Before he could complete any other modifications to the '41,
he blew the clutch,  sold the car, and bought a '57 Chevy convertible.
(All photos were shot in front of my old Richmond Hill home.)


The Chevy ran a stock six (in spite of a "V"
on the continental kit spare cover).


Doug's next car was another '57 Chevy;
this one was equipped with the 283 V8 "Power Pack"
(four-barrel carb and dual exhausts)
and a Turbo-Hydromatic transmission.






Thursday, November 9, 2017

More of Alley Oop's Friend's Cars (Bob Minutello)


Another of Frankie's friends whom I met at his house
was Bob Minutello of Richmond Hill
(correct spelling of names not guaranteed)
who owned this stock-looking '59 Chevy convertible.


It sported Plymouth wheel covers, plumber's pipes
behind the front wheel openings, and a 4.88 rear end.
Inside can be seen a Sun tach and Hurst shifter for the three-speed trans,


Under the Hood was a 348 cubic-inch mill with three carbs.







More of Alley Oop's Friends Cars (Jim Mongelli)


My previous blog post remembers cars owned by Frank Gesuldo,
otherwise know as Alley Oop. I'd often meet some
of Frank's friends when I hung out at his house and
that's where I met Jim Mongelli, from Glendale, Queens
(correct spelling of names is not guaranteed).

Jim owned and built this '55 Chevy Corvette
featuring some novel bodywork over the headlights,
a modified grille and housing, and '59 Caddy
tail-light lenses in the rear, among other things.
It was painted candy-apple red;
I'm sorry I couldn't afford color film at the time.

 


The engine in Jim's 'Vette was a 327 Cubic-incher
with a fuelie cam, solid lifters, dual quad carbs, and
it was mated to a beefed-up Powerglide.



The Legend of Alley Oop


One of my friends from the 1960s was Frank Gesulado but,
because he was a big burly-looking guy, everybody called him Alley Oop
(after the comic strip character of the same name).
He lived on 125th Street, near Idlewild Airport
(today JFK International) and was totally into cars. Although
I've featured a couple of his friends' cars back in my June 23, 2011 post,
I've never gotten around to showcasing Frankie's cars
(all of which, by the way, are named "Alley Oop").


The only photos I have of Alley Oop I ("the first")
were given to me by Frankie around 1962 and show his
'54 Olds with slight body modifications and a De Soto grille.
Under the hood, the engine was bored out to 4-inches, with
two quads feeding the fuel, mated to a Caddy La Salle gearbox.


Alley Oop II was a 1951 Olds bubble coupe
with trips and an automatic;
unfortunately, I never got photos of that car.

A 1958 'Vette became Alley Oop III;
when Frankie bought it, it had only slight body modifications
but was destined to become one of the meanest cars around.



(Note my primed '50 Merc, the "Mint Julep II," in the background.)


Extensive bodywork included dechroming,
rolled front and rear pans, a big hood scoop and
a bolt-on tow-bar (for trips to Westhampton Drag Strip).



 The engine was a 283 cubic-incher, bored out to 297;
it used dual quads, a dual-point centrifugal advance distributor,
and an Isky track grind cam, running through a
four-speed trans and a 4.88 posi rear.
This combination netted Frankie over twenty trophies at the strip,
some of those runs captured on 8 mm movie film
currently in my archives.


The 'Vette was eventually sold but that engine was
swapped into Alley Oop IV, a '55 Chevy 2-door hardtop.


Next in this family tree was Alley Oop V,
a '61 Chevy hardtop with a functional hood scoop,
partial dechroming, and a rolled & pleated blue & white interior.



The engine was a 348 cubic-incher with three carbs,
an Isky cam and solid lifters, and a Mallory ignition.
(If the engine photo looks a little strange, it's because
it's a double exposure with a bulletin board in my old bedroom;
don't ask me how that happened.)


I eventually married and moved to Elmont, Long Island,
and soon discovered that Frankie had married and
moved to the same neighborhood.
At that time, he owned a black '65 Chevy Impala.

It was pretty much stock-bodied, with a
327 c.i., 300 h.p. engine and a 4-speed trans.


Within ten years, I moved to East Meadow and
somehow lost touch with Alley Oop over that time.



Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Coffin Factory

The Coffin Factory?

Yes, you read that correctly! Only a few blocks from where I lived while growing up was a large, three-story building on Atlantic Avenue, at 124th Street, in which they made coffins. We actually had quite a lot of light manufacturing in our part of Queens, during the ‘50s and ‘60s, but the coffin factory was probably the most unusual. It’s main entrance was on 94th Avenue where a large side yard bordered the big brick building.

The things that I remember most about this place were the smells of various types of fresh wood that they would mill themselves to actually build the boxes; the aromas greeted you anytime you walked by and, in their yard, was a big dumpster where they threw their discards. My friends and I would always check the trash bin for scraps that we could use to make bird houses or feeders, or – if we were really ambitious – tables and chairs that we would use in our clubhouses (which sprang up in someone’s yard or a vacant lot, from time to time).

(As seen from the corner of 124th Street and 94th Avenue
through a Recent Google Earth photo.)

I think it was sometime in the 1970s, after I had moved away, that the coffin factory closed its doors and the entire block (gas station/auto repair shop on one half and the old factory on the other) was bought by the South Shore Tire & Rubber Company, a Goodyear tire distributor. They bricked up all the windows in the old factory and – to this day –  continue to use the building as a warehouse to store tires which they can then deliver to numerous repair shops in the surrounding areas.

That Pond in Forest Park

How about a place that once existed, then it was no longer there, and now it’s back again? I’m talking about the large pond that used to be in a hollow across from the carousel in Forest Park, Queens.

When I was a kid, we used to walk – or ride our bikes – to this 538-acre wilderness in the center of one of the largest boroughs of New York City. A couple of winding roads used to let you drive through the heart of this pastoral and picturesque green space but half of them are now closed to vehicular traffic so that walkers, joggers, and bikers can have more safe spaces. Back in the day, we used to ride our bikes all over this place and, especially, directly through the woods on hilly trails.

One of our favorite destinations was this natural pond that I’ve lately discovered was actually a kettle pond left over from retreating glaciers during the last ice age. Over millennia, this depression filled with rain water and, during the 1950s, my friends and I used to sail boats there or try catching fish. It was about forty feet below the level of the nearby road. Looking back, it’s amazing that we didn’t kill ourselves riding our bikes down the steep dirt hills leading to the water’s edge.


Around 1966, some genius in the NYC Department of Parks thought it would be a great idea to drain the pond and create a couple of ball fields in its place. They named the Twin Fields after PFC Laurence Strack, a boy who use to play hockey on the frozen pond – and the first local resident to be killed in Viet Nam. This was shortly after I moved out of the area but I used to return to see family and friends. So, when I saw the ball fields during one of my visits, I thought, “That’s never going to work; they’re constantly going to get flooded every time it rains.”

Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened.

In 1994, Marc Matsil, chief of the parks department natural resources group, and Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, visited Forest Park to survey Twin Fields. “It had rained a couple inches literally two weeks before, and right field was about 5 feet underwater and left field was 4 feet underwater,” said Matsil. Stern, he said, turned to him and commented, “Those are black ducks in right field and those are mallards in left field, aren’t they?”

It was then that they decided to restore the area to its former glory and remove the ball fields and the fill that had been laid down, and replant the entire area with native plants and trees. Today, the area is even more lush than I remember it from my childhood because all the original trees that were surrounding the pond (or ball fields) are now huge, and all the new growth has filled in beautifully. On a recent visit, I saw lots of turtles in the renewed pond but I don’t know if there are any fish; I guess they would have to be stocked, wouldn’t they?



The path leading from the road to the pond.
(Parks Department photo)

 My photo from a recent autumn visit.

 My photo from summer, 2017.

 My photo from summer, 2017.

 Google Earth photo with Strack Pond visible within white oval.