05 May 2010

Ghosts of Detroit



The American landscape was littered with these once upon a time: old trucks and cars that had given it their all and run until they couldn’t run any more. They were parked in a field or a back lot and the driver walked away in search of another ride. My friend, Alan, said that he always wanted to know the story of these old vehicles whenever he saw one, and I’m the same way. My imagination fires up, concocting stories of how these old beasts got where there are. My imagination does that to fill the vacuum, because I don’t know, and nobody knows, and the old truck can’t speak for itself. I guess I could go to the courthouse and trace down the registrations on them if they still had plates, but that wouldn’t tell me how that right front fender got crunched and who knocked it out with a hammer to keep it from cutting the tire.

Someone’s grandfather and/or grandmother went a lot of miles in this old chunk of steel – no air conditioning or radio, no shock absorbers as we know them, just leaf springs that would bounce you against the roof if you hit a rut. I can’t even tell what make or model it is. The hood ornament is bent down over the logo. I would guess it to be a Ford and guess it to be from the early 1930’s, like 1932, but that’s just a guess. I should have looked closer when I was there shooting it.

By now, most of these have been hauled away and melted for scrap. A few have been gathered by collectors, restored and put in the Rod & Custom Car Show. That is how it should be. We can’t make monuments of every old machine. There were millions of them that trucked our grandparents around, and I don’t really want one in my yard. Still, there is a magic for me when I see one of these old vehicles, whether derelict or restored. There is an instantaneous transport back to an America I never knew – that time of dust bowls and Roosevelt, Bonnie and Clyde and Dillinger, Henry Ford, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woody Guthrie and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It happens every time.

Technical data on the photo: It was shot with a Nikon FM on Tri-X film, developed in D-76. The negative was scanned and the image manipulated in PhotoShop to give it the spectral effect.

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Julie Schuler said...

It's a haunting photo. I often don't appreciate these old cars, as I am dragged out to car shows at least ten times a summer.

Stacy said...

Gorgeous photo. I love the hues.

If that was a Chevy my Dad would be high tailing it down there with a flat bed. Those little trailers (to the right) are hard to find now. Boler trailers were written up in a hipster mag a few years ago and boom that was it.

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