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Feature Story


by Bob Hagin

June 7, 1996

In 1972 the Milestone Car Society was formed to designate those postwar cars deemed "significant." There are a couple of hundred machines on the list, I'm told, and to be so designated, a vehicle must be superior to its contemporaries in styling, engineering, performance, innovation and craftsmanship. It's an eclectic bunch and range from every model V12 Ferrari to the unlovely Willys Jeepster of 1948.

But all enthusiasts who have been around for a while have their own Milestone Cars and that includes me. Herein is my list of Hagin's Milestone Cars and the reasons they have been chosen:

'37 DODGE CONVERTIBLE COUPE - Who can forget their first car? Mine was a '37 Dodge convertible that I bought from my ex-brother-in-law. I should have known better. It sported a new black paint job but in my inexperience, I failed to notice that the frame was bent and that it took several hundred pounds of sand bags hidden in the left side of the trunk to keep it level. Because of this abomination, the car broke so many drive shafts that I took to carrying a spare in the rumble seat and could change it in less than five minutes. I learned two lessons from that car: never trust a salesman (especially if he or she is a relative) and always carry a few tools in your car.

'40 LA SALLE MODEL 52 - A sentimental favorite. Large and stately, the La Salle was a lower-priced companion to the small Cadillac of the same year but was discontinued just before World War II. I bought mine in the late '50s and somewhere in its checkered wartime career, it had acquired slightly larger Cadillac fenders on the driver's side. I sold it to a friend of mine who was an early-day Hippie (they were called Beatniks then) and he lived in it for several months. It's is a Milestone Car for me because I was driving it back from a race with my girlfriend Carole when I asked her to marry me. She said yes.

'56 BMW ISETTA - The most unusual car I've owned. Commonly known as the "bubble car," it was so small that it could be parked nose-in at the curb without protruding into traffic. The tiny single-cylinder engine was under the one bench seat and the entire front of the body swung forward as the only door. It had two wheels in the rear as well as the front and this kept it from being licensed and insured as a three-wheeled motorcycle, but those rear wheels were so close to each other that they rolled as one. I had two little kids at the time and when Carole became pregnant with our third, I sold the little machine. A week later, it blew its engine.

'47 MG TC - One of the Hagin Milestone Cars that I wish that I had kept. A British sports car in the classical sense (tall spindly wheels, clamshell fenders, cutaway doors, little rain protection, anemic engine, etc.), it was classy and dashing. It also sported a steering wheel that was on the right-hand side of the car which made passing on the highway exciting in view of its lack of horsepower. When Carole found that Number Four was on his way, I traded the MG for a ex-military Jeep which I promptly sold. It rode much harder than the little Brit.

'59 TRIUMPH TR3A - I had done a little amateur racing my earlier years so I felt that driving a Triumph TR3A sports car in a rally in Mexico would be a piece of cake, especially since I didn't have to pay for it. Wrong! The "rally" was actually the first Baja desert race from Tijuana to La Paz and in 1967, there wasn't much on the 900-mile dirt road between those two towns except a few villages and several small ranchos. It was a dune buggy race and my Triumph was a poor choice with its five inches of ground clearance. I broke down after 300 miles and got to know that Triumph very well. I had to sleep under it for four days, bummed a ride out in a crop duster and left the Triumph there. Carole was relieved when I got back albeit late. Number Seven was due shortly.

'60 HILLMAN ESTATE CAR - Despite its pretentious name, it's really just a small British station wagon. It was our family transportation for years and I added a seat in the "way-back" (a name coined by my kids) so it could accommodate the whole family. There were nine of us plus a dog, and our kids learned patience and tolerance. I had to put the spare tire on the roof and when we went anywhere for any length of time, I had to put our stuff in a small trailer. The kids dubbed it "The Rat" as they grew older but it was an affectionate name. The Rat is still in our backyard and someday I'll restore it to its original glory.

I'm sure that members of The Milestone Car Society would disagree with my choices of cars for the category, but that's OK by me. They've probably never felt the same kind of satisfaction that I did when I got that Dodge with a broken driveshaft back on the road when I was only 15.