February 17, 2019
Could There Be A Rambler in Your Future?
By Jim Corbran
You often read about these “little old lady car” barn finds on the internet (where you’re reading this one right now, Lol…), but how often do you actually come across one in person?
A short while back I heard from car show friend Steven Botsford about a very special 1958 Rambler Custom four-door sedan which was for sale after spending the past couple of decades or so covered up in an Irving, New York barn.
And as luck would have it, another friend, local orphan-car aficionado Joseph Galvin, was interested in driving down to have a look, so the two of us piled into his pickup for the hour or so drive down to the small Chautauqua County hamlet earlier this week.
We were not disappointed.
This nicely-kept two-tone four-door has been under the care of Irene and Earl Blakely now for a couple of decades or so. It’s been cared for by them since they acquired it from its original owner, Madelia Muller of nearby Silver Creek, who had finally given up driving after a minor fender-bender. Miss Muller (who passed away in 1993 at the age of 92) lived only a few blocks from her work place, and never took the car out in winter weather. As a matter of fact, Irene Blakely told us Miss Muller would even dry it off after a rain before putting it away in her garage!
This Custom is equipped with Rambler’s Economy 6 engine, a 195.6-cu. in. straight-six which at the time held the official NASCAR border-to-border and coast-to-coast fuel economy records — 33.93 and 32.09 mpg respectively. It’s connected to an old-school three-on-the-tree manual transmission. Inside you’ll find Rambler’s famous fold-down front seats, or, as they told us in their brochure “Twin travel beds for restful all-night sleeping are yours in Rambler. No reservation worries.” One thing you won’t find is a radio — but for all of you nostalgia nuts, the dash does contain the factory blank plate which covers the hole where a radio would have been. There’s a (still working) clock (standard on the Custom) on the right side of the dash, and outside are the Custom’s full wheel covers and an updated set of whitewall tires. Original clear plastic covers still adorn the well-kept seats, and the odometer shows a mere 88,460 miles.
Underneath the car is a nice layer of undercoating, so pristine it belies its age. The Blakelys have done some work on the car over the years, including that minor accident repair as well as new brakes and a battery.
The doors shut with a satisfying “thunk” not often heard on modern cars.
There’s an out-of-town buyer interested in the car, but Irene and Earl Blakely are hoping to sell it to someone in WNY — someone who will honor the memory of Madelia Muller by not “souping it up into some kind of hot rod.”
Completely understandable. And we hope they pull it off, as we’d love to see this car again over the summer at a local cruise night or two.
Jim Corbran, RRofWNY
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