Bob Osborn's 1936 Ford Police Car

as published in the V8 Times, Vol. 23, No. 4, July/Aug. 1986,

the newsletter for the Early Ford V-8 Club of America

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50th Anniversary of Model 68

Some Guys Will Do Anything to Get a V-8!

 

John Jaeger, Associate Editor, Northwest

Milwaukie, Oregon

 

Robert L. Osborn owned a Ford once – a '32 Five-Window Coupe. But that was more years ago than many of us care to remember. In high school. In Bellingham, Washington. And like many of us of that time frame, the Ford was modified into a hot rod – so typical of the era.

But that was a long time ago. A career (advertising), raising a family (six children) and moving around the country (Detroit, Denver, etc.) can certainly stop any interest in hobby cars – thus this was family sedan car time. Thirteen years in Detroit, working in advertising for the Dodge Division of Chrysler Corporation, keeps one away from Ford thoughts.

But now, at age 51, Bob had transferred to Portland, Oregon and had left Dodge to start his own business (Osborn and Associates Advertising). The children were grown and on their own. Settled down at long last, Bob thought about owning his first antique automobile – a lifetime ambition perhaps finally to be realized. This was the first

The big guy – who wasn't smiling – rapped opportunity in his life to afford his dream of owning an antique auto!

Scanning the Old Cars Weekly September, 1985 issue, his eye focused upon a unique possibility – a restored 1936 Ford “hump-trunk” Fordor Sedan. Unique? What made it unique was it being a resorted State Patrol 1936 Ford!

Several telephone calls and current photos divulged the Ford to be authentically restored to an original police car, including – based upon original 1936 photos – all the goodies. Siren, Police lights, police door star, special black and white paint – the whole package. All this information exchange took considerable time, October and early November to be exact. Finally, Bob and owner Ray Brady made their deal, and Bob left by commercial airplane to pick up the car.

Airplane! Well, it was the quickest way to get to Auburn – New York! (West of Syracuse, NY). Bob obtained the car, and then headed generally West – Portland was over 3,000 miles away! Now all alone on his solo journey, gliding down the New York Turnpike in this strange Ford, he first realized a totally new experience – all the people looking at the old NYSP Ford! A brief stop in Rochester confirmed the fact that the car was a real attention grabber. It really created quite a stir! Bob wasn't used to such attention.

Heading into Niagara Falls, Canada at dusk for his first overnight, he was stopped by the Canadian border Customs Officers. It was a

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Saturday evening, and traffic was backed up way behind the Ford. The Officers kept quizzing Bob about the car, while non-patient drivers of modern iron behind were wondering what the heck was happening. Finally they let him pass into Canada – but only if he would hit the lights and siren a bit as he entered. Takes away the night's boredom alright!

The next morning it was West down Highway 401, through Windsor and finally back into the USA – Detroit – for his second night, staying with friends.

Now a Ford owner, the next morning Bob did something in Dearborn he never had time to do while living in Detroit – a visit to the massive Henry Ford Museum!

Then, it was onto Highway 696, heading towards Chicago. It was cold – winter was early. At age 55, alone in a car about 50 years old, without any heater, all stock – including mechanical brakes – Bob started wondering if the Ford bug had bitten too hard! Three jackets somewhat numb the chilling pain.

Then, in a desolate area, he saw signs advertising two items of immediate need – gasoline and food. Pulling onto the off-ramp, he spotted a similar (yet current model) machine – a Michigan State Patrol Car. No big deal. But then the rear view mirror revealed a second such rig – right on his rear end genuine bumper – with “pull over” lights flashing and siren wailing. Pulling over, the Officers got out, and one, about 6 foot-20 inches tall (as Bob explains it) ambled over to examine the bare spots where license plates should be located – there were none! All Bob had was an Oregon Travel permit!

the police star on the driver's door and finally opened his mouth, stating “Don't you know this is illegal in the state of Michigan?” It was a slow, yet firm, sentence. The only sounds heard were Bob's teeth chattering (from the intense cold) and his knees knocking together (from the thought of an even colder jail cell behind bars).

After several long moments of otherwise silence, the second Officer started cracking up and couldn't restrain his laughter! Then, they escorted Bob (and the police Ford) over to the McDonalds, bought him some coffee and asked about a million questions. Seems they had spotted the Ford earlier, and wanted to have a little fun scaring the wits out of the driver! It all turned out for the best – the big guy has a son in Stayton, Oregon, and wanted to know if Bob could take a “passenger” (the big guy) with Bob to visit the son in Oregon! Then, they laughed harum-scarum again.

Free at last, with a full tummy and a Ford with a full gas tank, Bob headed once again towards Chicago. Soon, it was dark, and the stock headlights just weren't up to the modern day standards of “cutting the mustard” in the darkness. The cold and SNOW didn't help either! But, finally he rolled into Chicago at last to visit his father-in-law and mother-in-law with siren and lights blazing! They ran for cover!

After a visit and a night's sleep, it was on the road again. Things weren't too bad - except for about two FEET of snow – plus no heater, no defroster, a single vacuum windshield wiper, and mechanical brakes. A cheap blanket helped somewhat with the cold problem.

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At one point in South Dakota, the Ford was running low of gas (seems those tanks are never big enough!). Trying to find an open service station proved fruitless – they were closed (most for the winter). Then it happened – hopelessly stuck in the snow in an area of desolation! No shovel, no way out! Suddenly – a miracle! A camouflaged Air Force Ramcharger truck appeared from out of nowhere. The driver, a uniformed Mastersergeant, said it was against the law to help push civilian vehicles, but he did provide manpower, shovels and gravel to finally free the stranded Ford. Still low on gas, Bob was worried he couldn't make it to distant Rapid City. No problem, the MST/SGT offered to follow the Ford all the way to town! They made it OK, and all the Air Force gentleman wanted for his troubles was a photo – of him in front of the police Ford!

At Mt. Rushmore, while trying to see the Presidents carved heads through the snow covered windshield, Bob was approached by a group a travelling Mormons who insisted on buying the Ford right there on the spot – name the price. Bob related after all he had been through so far, it wasn't for sale – at any price!

In Wyoming, he wasn't so sure sometimes he had made the right decision – the wind and snow were getting so terribly harsh. He started “sweet talking” the Ford, praising, and patting it on the dash – gently. He talked to the Ford, with now a nickname of “Goldie” – for the Golden Anniversary of its life.

In Livingston, Montana, while searching for a covered storage spot for the night to house the Ford (Bob always tried to keep the car indoors at night to revive its frozen spirits), the car developed an engine noise. Out of several possible service stations, luckily Bob just happened to select the “right” station – a Standard Station. Not only did they let him keep the Ford indoors, but the owner was a low key “closet” restorer. He kept his – owner restored – collection of old cars – mostly Fords – as quiet as possible from most people, but did agree to show them to Bob. Doing all his own work, the cars were perfect.'32, '33, '34, '36 Sedans. Roadsters – even three '39 Lincoln Zephyrs! He listened to the noise, then suggested the Ford was being driven too slow at 45 MPH!

The next morning, Bob treated the owner to breakfast – then he was on the road again, now at 55-60 MPH. No noise.

East of Bozeman, at treacherous Bozeman Pass – elevation 6,002 feet – Bob ran into a total “whiteout” in the weather, but somehow struggled on through to Bozeman.

West of Bozeman, a Montana State Patrolman stopped Bob. He asked all the usual questions, and finally showed Bob photos of a 1936 Montana State Patrol Ford Coupe!

At Ritzville, Washington (about fifty miles southwest of Spokane), the snow and cold were still gruesome, and – for the first time – the Ford wouldn't start the next morning. A battery charge finally got it going again. But a short distance out of town, Bob ran into another total “whiteout.” It was a really awesome snow blizzard! If that wasn't bad enough, he hit black ice, and fishtailed sideways – back and forth – several times, but

– somewhat akin to Danny Sullivan in last year's (1985) Indy 500 Race, managed to correct and save the car from disaster.

The stock vacuum windshield wiper just wouldn't cut it – Bob had to get out several times to wipe the windshield clear so he could proceed.

Finally, in Pascoe, Washington, he became “dry” (and thawed out) at last – no more snow! A short distance south and he was into Oregon – and then on into Portland. Man, was he happy!

 He arrived home on November 17, at 3:30 PM., triumphantly with siren going and lights flashing. It had taken eight strenuous tough days of all alone solo driving, but Bob had made it – surviving bitter cold and three major snow storms! No tire chains ever – Bob said the car was too tough for chains!

Bob must have brought the storms with him, for a most unusual freak snowstorm hit the Portland area during the Thanksgiving holidays!

One of the main things Bob had noticed during his trip was the sudden attitude changes by other drivers – especially on long, boring, straight road stretches – as they spotted his neat police Ford, perked up, and held up a hand to signify “right on!”

Bob joined the National V-8 Club and the local Columbia River Regional Group chapter. He is now going through the original 1936 flathead V-8 to double check everything. He did discover the block has never been bored!

The Ford finally even has its very own license plates!

So, it can be done, even in a strange car and under extremely unfriendly weather conditions. Think about this next time you want to drive a distance to a National Meet (in the summer!) or even on a short tour! But how many experienced V-8'ers would try such a trip as Bob's – over three thousand miles – all alone! You've got to give the guy credit!

Fate – and much luck – were obviously with him. And, we like to think the 50th Anniversary of the 1913 Ford played a major factor!

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