- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2000

It all started when Brandon Fried and his wife, Kim, saw the motion picture "Rainman," in which actors Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman drive across the country in a yellow 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible.
" 'Rainman' got me interested," Mr. Fried said. What sealed his fate was seeing a neighbor drive by in a similar vintage Packard.
That did it. He told his wife he was going to start shopping for a car from that era.
"I'm a cyber kind of guy," Mr. Fried said. He promptly began scanning the Internet, where he found posted of all things a black 1949 Buick Roadmaster for sale. He made what he thought was a realistic bid for the old four-holer but lost out at the last minute.
Mrs. Fried consoled her disappointed husband and urged him to continue the hunt. "We can do better colorwise," she told him.
She was correct.
Soon thereafter, on the Internet, Mr. Fried found a 1953 Pontiac Chieftain two-door deluxe. He quickly contacted the owner and discovered the car had been posted only within the previous hour on the Omaha, Neb., Web site where he had found it.
He learned that the owner, proprietor of a tool and die shop, had owned the Pontiac for some time and recently had sent it off for restoration. Because he was retiring, he had told an employee to sell the car.
As anxious as Mr. Fried was to see the car, he didn't want to fly to Nebraska with a mechanic in tow to check out the Pontiac.
Thanks to technology, a solution to the dilemma was found.
Mr. Fried invited a trusted mechanic into his office in Alexandria while the Pontiac owner's representative was in the Nebraska garage with a camera, along with the man who had restored the car.
The two parties conversed over the Internet, and as the pictures were transmitted, the mechanics were able to show and see what work had been done.
Once everyone was satisfied, a deal was struck. Mr. Fried sent a check west, and the car was to be sent east. "I'm sure the check will clear," was the response Mr. Fried reports with a laugh.
The deal for the spruce-green metallic over linden-green Pontiac was made in August 1999.
Finding a trucker who would be agreeable to hauling a car from Seward, Neb., to the East Coast took longer than buying the car.
Six weeks later, the truck driver telephoned to say he would be arriving later in the day.
The Pontiac arrived at Mr. Fried's Adcom Express Air Freight Co. in Alexandria about 8 p.m.
Mr. Fried was accompanied by his wife at the auspicious occasion, along with their sons Evan, 6, and Jordan, 9. The mechanic who had inspected the car on the Internet was there as well when the car was unwrapped from the plastic cocoon in which it had been transported.
"It was like Christmas, the Fourth of July and every other good day rolled into one," Mr. Fried said.
The assembled throng was appreciative when the trucker backed the Pontiac off the truck on its 7.10x15-inch white sidewall tires.
"It runs great," the truck driver told Mr. Fried as he handed over the keys.
Mr. Fried was breathless as he drove the 3,546-pound Pontiac a block up the street to his mechanic's garage for a thorough physical examination.
The report came back that the handsome car needed a water pump, the brakes needed attention, and the prudent course of action would be to replace the starter. Three rebuilt water pumps were exchanged before one was found that functioned properly. The Pontiac was in the shop for five weeks waiting for parts and then being returned to good mechanical health.
In the meantime, Mr. Fried turned his attention to cosmetic matters. He found glass replacement lenses in Kentucky for the cracked original parking lights.
A replacement radio antenna came from Florida, and a new plastic "Chief Pontiac" hood ornament was found in North Dakota. Of course, the plastic is illuminated when the headlights are turned on.
From Michigan came a rebuilt brake master cylinder. Wheel cylinders were found in Minnesota, and new wheel covers were located in Rhode Island.
Both bumpers and the grille had been replated by the previous owner.
The base price of the Pontiac when new was $2,031. Accessories included rectangular backup lights, the aforementioned illuminated hood ornament, the gas cap door guard, AM radio, day/night mirror and underseat heater.
"Let me tell you," Mr. Fried exclaims, "That heater is toasty warm. It heats better than my new Volvo."
Settling behind the three-spoke steering wheel with a full horn ring, Mr. Fried observes the 100-mph speedometer. "It's done 70 mph," he said. "After that, it sounds like parts are starting to fall off."
Down the long engine hood and trunk lid run the stainless-steel stripes that identified Pontiacs during the late 1930s and 1940s and through 1956.
Because the shift pattern is different from those on modern cars, Mr. Fried calls this a "thinking man's car." From the left, the gears are: neutral, drive 2, drive 1, low, reverse. There is no gear designated for parking.
A 122-inch wheelbase gives a luxurious ride for occupants of the 1953 Pontiac as the 268-cubic-inch, 122-horsepower, straight-eight-cylinder engine provides smooth power. One horsepower per inch of wheelbase.
Since acquiring the Pontiac, Mr. Fried has driven it less than 1,000 miles, but they all have been happy miles.
Mrs. Fried presented him with a spinner knob for the steering wheel to help him steer the car around corners. It's a useful gadget for a heavy car that doesn't have power steering.
His next task is to have the hood ornament replated with chrome to bring it up to the standard set by the grille and bumpers. That's a winter task, Mr. Fried said. Until then, he'll take advantage of the good weather and drive his Pontiac.

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