Elisabeth: Roch’s sweet ride
Chuck Miller wrote about it in his 1956 song “bright red convertible”.
Prince wrote about it in “little red corvette” in 1986.
There’s just something alluring about a little red car that few can deny. It always catches the eye and makes both women and men swoon.
One such local beauty belongs to Rock MacIntyre of MacIntyre Fuels in Middlebury. “Her name is Elisabeth — or Betty,”MacIntyre says, “with the top down.”
Elisabeth is a 1950 Ford Custom Convertible. She’s painted a striking candy apple red with silver detailing and a tan canvas top.
“I don’t really know why, but I’d always wanted a ‘50’s Ford,” MacIntyre says.
In the late 1980s when his kids were mostly grown and out of the house, MacIntyre saw car advertised in Hemmings Motor News, a magazine that caters to traders and collectors of vintage and exotic vehicles.
“The previous owner was a woman who’s father had worked for Ford and he wanted to do something nice for his daughter’s high school graduation present. He bought the car from someone in California and worked on getting it in shape for his daughter, saying she could have it upon successful graduation, granted she didn’t get into any trouble beforehand. She had it for many years but eventually needed the money and put the car up for sale.
“I called her and pretty much committed to it sight unseen,” said MacIntyre, who proceeded to send a trusted employee and his wife to Chicago to bring collect the car.
Elisabeth was given her name on that trip back from to Vermont by the wife of MacIntyre’s employee and “it just stuck.”
Originally the car was painted a “pea soup” shade of green and the interior was a light brown, according to the vehicles identification number. It was changed to red by the previous owner and MacIntyre decided to keep it that way.
“I did a fair amount of the tinkering with it in my garage here,” MacIntyre says, but the finish body work was done by a now-retired Bristol mechanic and the interior finish work was done by Jim Ortuno at Shoreham Upholstery around 2009.
“Jim made it a new custom top, new seats and new carpeting and did a bang-up job.”
MacIntyre gave Elisabeth a new motor and modern tires, but everything else is of the classic “stock” that would have been original to the car.
Indeed, Elisabeth is beautiful.
Her lines are straight and sleek, in a style that was referred to as the “shoe box style” that in 1949 pulled Ford out of the mid-war slump when civilian production of automobiles had been suspended by the war effort.
The departure to this streamlined design from the previous “fat fendered” look of Ford’s cars was widely popular and is credited both with saving the company as well as developing some of the modern automotive design rubrics we see today (integrated fenders for one).
“You look at that car — or at least I look at that car — and you say ‘Holy crow, they were way ahead of the curve with this one.’ It’s like sitting in your living room on the sofa when you’re driving down the road,” MacIntyre says as he proudly gazes at the car.
MacIntyre grew up in Middlebury and followed his father into the family petroleum business.
“I grew up around gas stations and in the crude oil business and have been tinkering with cars since high school,” he says. “My first car I pulled out of the junk yard and fixed it up in the garage until I got my license. It wasn’t the prettiest thing, but it was legal and it worked.”
MacIntyre is now 70 years old, “but I feel like I’m 25 when I’m riding in that thing,” he says with a grin.
“It’s kinda fun — 1:30 in the afternoon on a summer day and everything is pretty caught up. I’ll jump in Elisabeth and we’ll go off down some of our favorite roads to drive. We don’t go out in the rain or bad weather, but it’s great fun to cruise around on a nice day.”
Elisabeth also comes out for parades and occasionally as the escort vehicle for weddings or special events. MacIntyre also has a 1946 Ford Pick Up truck in the MacIntyre garage on Court Street“ that he also admires and brings out for special occasions, but seems to have particular affinity for Elisabeth.
“We drove my daughter Katharine and her husband at their wedding,” MacIntyre says, “which of course is a fun thing to see as a parent.”
In fact, MacIntyre says Katharine is the one with her eyes on the car as it’s next potential owner. “She said to me, ‘Dad, don’t you ever sell Elisabeth’… and I won’t. She can have her when I’m done.”
MacIntyre’s wife, on the contrary, has never driven Elisabeth, “but I’ve taken her for plenty of rides, of course. She loves it. Everyone loves it.”
After all, what’s not to love about a little red convertible?
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