Fan of old cars still has first one he bought 800,000 miles ago

Sep 21st, 2016 | By | Category: Spotlight

Bob Erickson knows how to make a car last.

Erickson has never had a new car in his life. He still owns the first one he bought when he was 19 years old – a 1934 Chevrolet Business Coupe, purchased used for $440 in 1948 while he was attending the Navy’s electronics school.

“He came courting in that one,” said Eileen Erickson, who would become his wife of 62 years.

After they got married in 1954 and he departed for the Navy, the Ericksons moved to Tacoma, where he opened Bob’s TV and Radio Service and purchased a 1940 Chevrolet delivery panel which he drove for 60 years and over 800,000 miles until he retired.

“I think I drove it a few more miles as the odometer capped out at 800,000,” he said as he laughed.

The Ericksons take it to local car shows, including one that’s held in Spanaway every Wednesday evening from mid-May into September at the Godfathers Pizza at 157th and Pacific Avenue South. Marian Dinwiddie, who writes for classic car magazines, said she has “seen strangers come up to (Bob Erickson) and say, ‘I remember seeing this car years and years ago around Tacoma.'”

One thing she has learned throughout her years of writing vintage-car articles is that many older men “wish they’d kept their first cars,” Dinwiddie said.

Erickson, now in his 80s, said he has kept his first one all these years because “I’ve never liked the modern cars. I hate the looks of them. Besides, there’s just no head or leg room.”

He doesn’t drive the coupe much any more, but recently the couple restored the interior to a bright, deep-colored red. While proudly showing off the car and their handiwork, he picked up a custom chrome-plated instrument panel he was planning to install and asked, “You know how much this covering costs? It’s about $1,000, which was more than three times what I paid for the car. Everything is so expensive these days, I decided to do it myself. I’ve always been pretty good at fixing everything.”

When people talk about their strong feelings for their cars and trucks, they mention dependability, time spent maintaining them, and the freedom that comes from cruising them on the roads, Erickson noted.

Leaning back against the coupe, he said his health doesn’t let him be quite as active as he wants these days, “but I still drive Eileen to attend the Spanaway car shows.”

Besides having the coupe for 68 years, he also inherited Eileen’s 1955 Dodge passenger car. She’s given up driving it, but it’s still part of their personal fleet of vintage vehicles he maintains in their garage at home.

That’s another thing: Cars aren’t all the Ericksons hang onto. They’ve lived in the same house in Tacoma for 54 years.

 

Jim Bryant, who wrote this article, is a freelance photojournalist.

Bob Erickson poses with his 1934 Chevrolet Business Coupe that he bought brand-new for $440 in 1949 when he was 19 years old. In the background is the 1955 Dodge that's one of three vintage automobiles in his stable. (Jim Bryant/for Senior Scene)

Bob Erickson poses with his 1934 Chevrolet Business Coupe that he bought brand-new for $440 in 1949 when he was 19 years old. In the background is the 1955 Dodge that’s one of three vintage automobiles in his stable. (Jim Bryant/for Senior Scene)

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