Guest Writer – Michael L. Kelley Sr; Life as a Motorhead



Website visitor Mike Kelley thought he’d share his journey on becoming a certified “motorhead”. Mike was inspired by Rick Wehler’s earlier story about a ’58 Ford Thunderbird.


Mike was a career Army man, retiring after 22 years of service. He served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966 as a helicopter crewman and co-authored a book about that experience, The Gunner and the Grunt. Mike’s book can be purchased on Amazon.


After military service, Mike worked for the Defense Logistics Agency before final retirement.




Life as a Motor Head


Michael L. Kelley Sr.



I was born in 1945 and grew up to be a “Mortorhead”, aka “Gearhead” and all around “Car Nut”. When I was about age five, my parents would take me with them food shopping in my dad’s 1935 Plymouth P3 sedan to Haymarket Square in Boston. I loved riding in the back seat watching all the other cars and trucks on the road. In the early 1950s, people were still driving pre-WW2 vehicles, like 1933 Fords, 1937 Buicks, and 1940 Studebakers. By age six, I could identify each car by the model year, and the sound of its engine.


Whenever dad’s car was parked out in front of our home in East Cambridge, I would play behind the steering wheel, making believe I was driving, it was a lot of fun for me.  One day I managed to get my hands on dad’s car keys and went outside to the old Plymouth and tried to open the lock on the rear mounted spare tire. The lock was in the center of a small chrome hub cap on the spare. I somehow managed to twist the worn soft metal key and it broke. That made me scared, as I did not want to get into trouble, so I returned the key chain to the kitchen table and made a fast get away to play with friends outside. Lucky for me, dad never noticed the broken key and did not have to use the spare tire as far as I remember.


Fast forward to 1959, I was age fourteen and had built a collection of model cars by Monogram, Revell, Jo-Han, and AMT. I thought they were cool and enjoyed showing them to my friends, however, what I really wanted was a real car. But I was only fourteen and you had to be sixteen to obtain a driver’s license in Massachusetts.  Dad was a truck driver handling tractor trailers in Boston and he used to take me to work with him on school holidays. It was a big thrill riding around the Boston area in dad’s 1947 International KB-7, especially in heavy traffic when he let me blow the big air horn on the cab roof by pulling on the chain above the windshield. Dad knew my desire for a driver’s license, so on Sunday afternoons, he would take me over to the old Ford Assembly plant in Somerville on the back streets and teach me how to drive. At that time, he had a 1951 Ford Victoria with a flathead V8 and standard column shift.


Driving was not as easy as I imagined, but with dad’s patience I was able to master the complex clutch, gas, braking, and shifting of the gears. On occasion, he would take me out on the road so I could experience dealing with other drivers. I learned a lot about driving a car long before I got my driver’s license.


Two years later, I finally earned my state driver’s license and would borrow my dad’s 1952 Chevrolet two door hardtop Powerglide six cylinder for going out on dates with girls and cruising around the burger drive-ins with my teenage friends. I still had that burning desire for my own car, so I got a part time job after school, working in a Texaco gas station for $1.25 an hour. I eventually saved enough money to buy my first car and pay for the insurance. For a tidy sum of $75, I was now the proud owner of a 1949 Ford Deluxe Coupe with a 1953 Mercury flathead engine with a three speed column shift, much like my dad’s old Ford Victoria that I had learned how to drive on.


That car got me into a lot of teenage trouble with the lawmen, speeding, siphoning gas from school busses, and general mischief with my friends. Even though gasoline was only twenty-seven cents a gallon, we had little money to buy it. All my money went into a car money pit, replacing worn or broken parts, like clutches and tires, etc. The best part of the car was the AM Radio. We would spend hours listening to the top 40 hits of 1962, like Dion, Ben E. King, and the Chiffons as we cruised around looking for girls. That old 49 Ford led to my becoming a die-hard motorhead owner of hot rods, muscle cars, and the smell of gasoline.




Though not a certified “motorhead”, Joe also

loves all those old buggies, from back in the day 🙂





You are welcome to share Mike’s story, in its entirety, crediting him and this website for the work. Copyright protected, all rights reserved © Joe Campolo Jr

About the Author

Joe Campolo Jr.

Joe Campolo, Jr. is an award winning author, poet and public speaker. A Vietnam War Veteran, Joe writes and speaks about the war and many other topics. See the "Author Page" of this website for more information on Joe. Guest writers on Joe's blogs will have a short bio with each article. Select blogs by category and enjoy the many other articles available here. Joe's popular books are available thru Amazon, this website, and many other on-line book stores.


  1. I enjoyed your story about cars. I had nowhere near the knowledge that you earned about cars and girls!

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