If You're Going To Own A Sketchy Car, Make Sure You Have Good Friends

Illustration for article titled If You're Going To Own A Sketchy Car, Make Sure You Have Good Friends
Photo: Renault, probably

It seems that I blew up not one but two car engines in my early days. It was not in my Porsche 914, however, as my son originally thought—that is fake news. One of them was a Sunbeam Alpine, and the other was a Renault Dauphine. The latter is a good example of why you need good friends.


(Welcome to Jalopnik Father’s Day, where we are celebrating the wonderful dads of the Jalopnik staff. This is a story from Ed George, dad of Jalopnik EIC Patrick George.)

I owned a lot of interesting, fun, weird and sometimes terrible cars through high school, college and the years after. My first car was a 1952 Ford with a flathead V8 that I bought for $50. I had a green straight-six Ford Mustang with a three-speed automatic, and later a red Mustang with the 390 cubic inch V8 that a friend from high school said he had dreams of dying in. I owned the aforementioned 914 and Alpine, a Volkswagen Beetle, a Toyota Cressida wagon, and a V8 Chevrolet Camaro when my son was born.

On the Alpine, I blew the rings on two of the pistons while at my aunt’s house in Northern Virginia. I took the engine apart and replaced the rings then we drove it back home. My repair must have a worked because we drove it for another 10,000 miles afterward.

But in 1969 or so I owned a Renault Dauphine, a rear-engine POS that was designed for cobblestone streets in France but not for highway driving in the U.S. Why a Dauphine? Very simple: at the time it was all I could afford. I talked the dealer into taking the cash I had on hand for it, and that was that.

Anyway, I drove a couple of fraternity brothers home in it for some holiday. I was driving from Waynesburg College in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania to Plainfield, New Jersey.

The author and his then-girlfriend, now wife of more than 40 years in a Sunbeam Alpine
The author and his then-girlfriend, now wife of more than 40 years in a Sunbeam Alpine

As sure as the sun rises in the east I managed to blow up the highly sophisticated French power unit somewhere in the countryside in Jersey. We had it taken to a barn owned by another of my fraternity brothers where it remained for a few weeks.

Eventually I was able to purchase a old replacement engine from a dealer in Morgantown, West Virginia. I then talked yet another frat brother to help me transport the engine to New Jersey in his car. He had a Chevy Corvair, and yes, we were able to fit the Renault engine in the front trunk of a Chevy Corvair.


I took the engine to New Jersey, swapped it out, then drove the car back to college. I further was able to drive this French masterpiece for another 20,000 miles before selling it.

I suppose, being that it’s Father’s Day and all, that I should close with a bit of fatherly life advice for all you Jalops out there. Mine is this: Don’t screw over your fraternity brothers, or any of your other good friends. You never know when you’re going to need to rope someone in for your engine swap misadventures.


Especially if they own a Corvair, which has a front trunk roomy enough to carry an entire French engine.


Patrick George

The author, pictured with Sir Jackie Stewart at an F1 event in Austin a few years back.