SAAC: Checking Out Fred Dole's Magnificent
'65 Dodge Custom 880 Station Wagon - On Display and In Print!
(this page new as of 12/17/2010)
Quick Links for this page: O.C.W. Article Transcript | Photo of the car & display board from July 2009 Essex Cruise Night
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As a long-time subscriber to the antique auto publication Old Cars Weekly, it was a treat to read a great story in a recent issue about a wonderful vehicle that we had taken special notice of at a local antique auto cruise night, with the past couple of years. The car was Fred Dole's fantastic 1965 Dodge Custom 880 Station Wagon. We had viewed and photographed this cool "woodie" at one of the Essex Cruise Nights, back in the summer of '09--specifically on Tuesday evening, July 14th, 2009. The car positively sparkled, and though we were not fortunate to be able to meet the owner, we also took a nice overall shot of it, along with another shot of a great informational poster about the car that was displayed with it.
Fast forwarding now to the late fall of 2010, and with the arrival in our mailbox of the December 2, 2010 edition of Old Cars Weekly News & Marketplace Volume 39, number 46--see the image at the upper right for what the cover of that issue looked like), a familar sight appeared in pictures, within a detailed article appearing on pages 38 & 39 of that issue--the article was within a section called "Reader Story," and was entitled "A tale of 3 wagons." I enjoyed reading the article so much that I decided to transcribe the text and combine that with a couple of pictures of how it appeared on the pages of O.C.W., and also with the shots I took of the actual car and its display poster at t the July 2009 Essex cruise night!
IMAGE BELOW: Here is a detail view of the header for the O.C.W. story--as you read the transcript of the article, you'll notice a mention of a "group photo" of "trip members" that appeared in a local newspaper "back in the day"--we assume that the image at the lower right of the published article header must be that same picture. There are people standing near the back of the wagon, luggage loaded on the roof rack, and three more people visible inside of the wagon through the back window. The sign posted on the tail gate of the car reads: "Salem Conn. Cong'l Church California Caravan." We are guessing that the article's author, Fred Dole, is the gentleman in the black suit who is down on one knee at the lower right of that photo...
So, without further delay, let's get right into the story!
Reader Story: "A tale of 3 wagons" by Fred M. Dole (pages 38-39 of the December 2, 2010 edition of Old Cars Weekly news & Marketplace, ref: www.oldcarsweekly.com).
"In 1965 I was a (very) young Congregational Clergyman serving my first church in the tiny rural community of Salem, Conn. Looking back, it was a wonderful time; while living it, however, it was often frustrating because young pastors and set-in-their-ways church leaders don't always see eye to eye about doing new things.
One exception was the church's delight at the high school youth group my wife and I started. Within two years we had nearly 20 young people doing lots of fun things, and when the opportunity came to attend a national Congregational youth meeting in Pomona, Calif., aboard a New England-sponsored chartered bus, the church said the kids could go.
Unfortunately, the bus idea fell through, so I (timidly) suggested that maybe a small group from our church could drive to the meeting and then spend at least a month coming back across the country seeing national parks and other educational sights. We would camp or stay in homes at various Congregational Churches along the way. Five young people signed up to go. Amazingly, the church leaders agreed to the idea.
And that's when the first of three 'very special station wagons' came into our lives. I went to various rental agencies looking for a big enough wagon to carry seven people and all the gear we needed to take with us for a month-long trip.
None met our needs until I located an agency that had a 1965 Dodge Polara nine-passenger wagon available. It was the first year of Dodge's new C-body wagon that was (along with its Chrysler and Plymouth sisters) bigger than any other wagon and had a wonderful, stylish roof rack that measured nearly 7 feet in length.
A group photo of the trip members with my wife and myself got good newspaper coverage, and on a warm June evening, after the youngest girl graduated from eighth grade, we headed for California. In order to get to the meeting we had to drive straight through-which we did in 72 hours with one six-hour sleep stop somewhere in Texas. Ah, to be that young again!
On the return trip, we spent 30 days seeing such places as the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Greenfield Village and a number of Congregational Churches. Our white Dodge wagon cranked off the miles (nearly 12,000) without a complaint. Again, looking back, I marvel that our bias-ply tires carried such a load.
The trip ended successfully and safely. After I washed it, the Dodge was returned to the rental company in good shape, although I hated to leave it and go back to driving our '63 VW panel truck that I had converted into a camper (long before van conversions were common).
In late August, as my wife and I relaxed for a week on the coast of Maine, we agreed that as much as we enjoyed our VW camper, it sure would be nice to have that beautiful Dodge wagon. So, as the 1966 models were coming out, we went looking for a leftover '65 Dodge Polara wagon. And we found there weren't any at area Dodge dealers. Finally, at Downtown Dodge in Hartford, we found one. It was a dark green color that we weren't especially fond of, but we dickered and finally agreed on a price that included trading in the VW camper.
Then the embarrassed salesman came back and said, 'I have bad news. I didn't know it, but one of the other salesmen sold that car yesterday and didn't put a "sold" sign on it, and that's the only Polara we've got left.' Sadly, we got up to leave when he said, 'Wait a minute. I've got an idea.'
He came back and told us, 'I've got a Custom 880 wagon upstairs that doesn't have the third seat. But the boss says that I can give it to you for the same money as the Polara, if you want it.'
Enter 'Very Special Station Wagon No. 2.' One look and we fell in love. It was white with the wood trim and a gorgeous red vinyl interior. Even though it didn't have the third seat, it did have the roof rack.
IMAGE BELOW: Here is an overall view of how the entire article appeared on the pages of the 12/2/2010 O.C.W. issue, pages 38 & 39.
Two days later, we proudly drove our new wagon home to Salem. I think the good folk of the church thought they were paying me too much (believe me, they weren't), but they got used to the wagon when we crammed it full of youth group members and drove all over New England to various meetings. In 1968, the '65 wagon, now with close to 80,000 miles on it (along with another rented Dodge Polara wagon), took 12 kids on a three-week mission trip to Appalachia to help a little mountain church run a vacation Bible school.
When we returned, there was a move to a new church awaiting and the next fall, feeling that the 85,000-plus miles was an huge number of miles, we traded the Custom 880 in for a new 'leftover' 1969 Plymouth Fury III wagon with wood trim and everything on it, including air conditioning. I even had them custom fit a '68 Dodge full-length roof rack to it, since the '69 rack was shorter. The Plymouth served us faithfully for several years and racked up over 100,000 miles, but in my mind, it never matched up to that '65 Dodge wagon in style or comfort.
Now, fast-forward to 2006: the vehicle of the day is a 1999 GMC Suburban. We're retired from active ministry but still traveling, taking church groups abroad; we were getting ready to lead 35 people on a two-week trip to Greece in early November.
One night, relaxing after the day's work, I was playing around on eBay looking at various cars for sale. Suddenly, 'Very Special Station Wagon No. 3' pops up on the screen. I could hardly believe what I was seeing: a restored 1965 Dodge Custom 880 station wagon that looks exactly like the one we had bought new in 1965. It was a two-seater, the same color inside and out, same 383 motor and equipped exactly as was my wagon, including that wonderful roof rack. There was 112,000 apparently original miles on it. If it had the same VIN number, it could have been the wagon from those Salem years.
I gazed with loving eyes at the wagon and wished I could bid on it, but it wasn't practical with a trip coming up and considering the fact that my retirement 'pension' was non-existent. Funds just weren't available. I watched until the auction ended with the car getting up to about $2,400 but not meeting the reserve. As far as I was concerned, that was that; it had been nice to see that there was at least one 1965 Dodge Custom 880 still around.
Then, a few days later, surprise: the car was re-listed. This time with no reserve.
I watched the auction more closely and even e-mailed the seller to find out more about the car. He had purchased it the year before at an auction where it had been consigned by a charitable foundation. It had been restored before they were given it-probably from an estate, but they wouldn't release any information. He had done over $1,000 worth of work on the car adding new radial tires, radiator, starter motor, front shocks, and exhaust system. As to why he was selling it he said: 'I only have space for one car at a time. I fall in love with a car and buy it. My problem is that now I have fallen in love with my next car (an Olds Toronado) and so I have to sell the wagon.'
But I still didn't place a bid. That is, until the last 5 minutes of the auction. The price had reached $1,900 and my wife was out of town, I couldn't resist: I bid a maximum of $2,300 and watched the clock run down. Oh my God, the final bid was MINE: the wagon was mine for $2,210! The seller was disappointed that the car hadn't brought more and even told me that when I came to see it, if I was for any reason unhappy with it, he'd let me out of the deal. Later, I found out that the high bidder from the first auction was out of town during this auction and would have gone higher and had told the seller he'd gladly pay him more than I had bid if I changed my mind.
Naturally, when I traveled to Binghamton, NY, to pick up the car, there was no way I was not going to keep it. It was even more handsome in person that it had been in memory and we happily made the five-hour trip back to Connecticut.
In the four years since, I've only done minor work on the car and I've put about 5,000 miles on it. The restoration is beginning to show its age with some "Bondo" spots needed to be looked at. The "wood" is still perfect, through, and the car is a really great "10-footer" at cruise nights and shows, and has won a number of trophies even though it is not really a "show car." But wagons are scarce. My greatest excitement came at a cruise night in Vermont in 2008, where it got the "Favorite Mopar" award.
To date, I've not seen a '65 (or '66) Custom 880 wagon as clean as this one. Dodge made only 4,900 two-seat wagons in '65 and the few I've seen for sale are in pretty sad shape compared to mine.
Hopefully, "Very Special Wagon No. 3" and I will have a few more years and a few more miles together!"
What a great story! We appreciate Mr. Dole telling his wonderful story about his history with three 'Very Special Wagons,' and how his current superb 1965 Dodge wagon ties everything together wonderfully! We are so pleased now to wind up this page with our own photos from July 2009. Both of the below photos can be directly clicked-upon to bring up larger, more detailed views (and then use your browser's "back" button to get back to this page).
We wish Mr. Dole many more happy miles in his superb & historical 1965 Dodge wagon!
Photo of the car & display board from July 2009 Essex Cruise Night - And don't forget to click directly on the below images to bring up larger versions!
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