When Alvin Pharis was a kid in the 1960s, he had an uncle named Clifford who used to race cars. Clifford was a drag racer, starting in the 6 cylinder stock class, and later moving up to super stock. One of those stock cars was a 1965 Ford Falcon, which was sold decades ago. Clifford hasn’t seen that Falcon since he was a kid, until very recently, when a flood-damaged car he purchased at auction just happened to be that very same car. That’s a hell of a coincidence.
“It’s a stupid coincidence,” Alvin told me on the phone, using that other meaning of the word “stupid” where it gets used as a modifier to suggest something really, really intense. And he’s right. I have no idea what the odds of something like this happening are, but it’s definitely some huge number to one.
Alvin runs a body shop in Burkesville, Kentucky, and does restorations, specializing in old Fords. As a rebuilder, Alvin often buys cars from insurance auctions, such as a recent auction of flood-damaged cars from Houston.
Alvin bid on two old Fords—a Falcon station wagon and the Falcon two-door. He was able to get the two-door Falcon, and had taken it back to his shop, where he’d been working on it for a few days, assessing the damage and getting it running again.
While working, something caught his eye on the underside of the hood.
“I had been working on car day or two, when I noticed this sticker and thought it looked familiar,” Alvin told me. The decal said “Clifford Performance 6=8” (a sly reference to the six-cylinder class he ran in) and Alvin remembered that his uncle had a bunch of those, and put them on his racing cars.
Clifford Performance is a known performance brand; Alvin’s uncle was not affiliated with them, just shared a name.
As Alvin was realizing that he knew what that sticker was, his wife found in the glovebox a scrap of paper, stuck to a carb rebuild kit box by the flood water.
There wasn’t much left of the paper, but what was there was pretty significant:
That paper says “Clifford [not sure] Burkesville, KY. That’s his uncle’s name, and where he lived. This 1965 Ford Falcon—a six-cylinder, three-speed manual—was his uncle’s old race car.
Alvin remembered seeing this car race as a kid, and recalled that his uncle bought it new. When Clifford died about 12 years ago, Alvin bought, along with most of his uncle’s old racing gear, the head, intake manifold, and rear end that used to be on the car, and is planning to install them back on the old Falcon.
Alvin was very close with Clifford, so this old Falcon has huge sentimental value to him. Alvin’s committed to restoring the car to its former glory, and Alvin’s son, Jonathan, suggested that the car will even race again.
Alvin recalls Clifford sold the Falcon in the late ‘60s or ‘70s when he bought a Maverick to run in the Super Stock class. Where the Falcon has been since that time is a mystery, as is the path it took to end up in Houston, and, eventually, flooded.
The insurance company won’t release the last owner of the car to Alvin, so he’s reached out to Ford to at least see if he can confirm where the car was originally delivered.
It’s a pretty astounding coincidence, and if anything it shows that maybe, just maybe, cold, cruel Chance has a bit of a soft spot for old Fords, the people who loved them, and fun uncles who raced cars.
UPDATE (10/27/2017 4:59 PM): Here’s some clarification regarding the sticker from Alvin’s son, Jonathan:
“Clifford would stick those performance stickers on all his race cars in that area under the hood, that was what caught dads eye first. Correct year, engine/trans combo, car color and wheels. When him and mom found the carb rebuild box with the ancient paper it confirmed what he thought when he first saw the sticker. He thought it was just a similar car when he was trying to buy it, and it was a good deal as well.”