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Wheelspin: That little green suitcase

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 19, 2012, at 6:17 a.m.

News that Carroll Shelby, creator of the legendary Cobra, died last week at the age of 89 made a sad time a bit sadder for me.

We had lost my father-in-law about a month earlier and our household is still trying to adjust to that new reality. Like Carroll Shelby, John was an inventor of mechanical devices, and I stood in awe of his amazing abilities.

He was at the forefront of the development of zero-turn-radius lawnmowers and I was privileged to help assemble the first batch of 25 that he turned out in his welding shop 40-some years ago. But he was a car guy, too, and we always enjoyed "talking cars."

A couple of weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to bring home several boxes of old photos, letters and various bits of the family genealogy he had worked so hard to trace. Included in the stuff was a little green metal suitcase.

"What’s in there?" I asked my wife.

"I don’t know. Didn’t have time to open it," she said.

We opened it and there, neatly stacked inside, were old car repair manuals, vintage magazine ads and dealership brochures for several makes and models of cars, including a 1941 Buick. He had a ’41 Buick convertible he wanted to restore, but never got around to it.

There was a time-worn set of registration papers issued to someone in Beverly, Kan., for a 1923 Dodge Brothers sedan, along with the Dodge’s owners manual and specific manufacturers instructions for how to care for a McCord Radiator, a Willard Storage Battery and a Bovey Air Circulating Exhaust Heater with Clean-Out Door.

These were small things, but things that had meant something to John. Things that he saved and carefully stored away.

And I realized that little green suitcase held a lot of happy memories for him. It has been given a seat of honor in my home office, in a swivel chair that sits in front of a now-defunct desktop computer.

In quiet moments, I will open that little green suitcase and thumb through those memories. And they will make me smile.

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