by dave ammenheuser

Clearing a loved one’s estate is never easy. Over the past eight months, I’ve been methodically clearing my late parents’ possessions after their deaths in the last half of 2020.

Many items were sold on Facebook Marketplace, a couple on Ebay, and many more during a spring yard sale. All of those items stayed close to our family’s roots in Thurmont.

Not so for my father’s vintage cars. A Thunderbird fanatic, his cars are headed to Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania…and Australia.

Yep, Australia.

Each of my father’s cars had its own story, from how they each arrived along Creagerstown Road over the past several decades to how each has been sold to other Thunderbird enthusiasts.

A car enthusiast in Victoria, Australia, recently purchased my father’s beloved 1956 Thunderbird coupe. It’s a beautiful car, with just 15,000 original miles. My father bought it from a Hollywood producer in the 1980s. When it came time to sell it, we had a difficult choice.

A week before his death last September, my father had asked me to take the car to my home in Ocean View, Delaware. Although I loved the idea of a classic car sitting in my driveway and the idea of riding along Coastal Highway, I knew that I did not know how to take care of the vintage automobile. And, that it needed to go to the home of someone who would cherish it as much as my father.

I was surprised when I got a call from Joe, some 14 time zones away.

“Hello, mate,” he said, his thick Australian accent vibrating over my mobile phone. Joe’s in his 60s and collects Thunderbirds, too. He must really like purchasing American cars. Buying it was the easy part.  He also needed to arrange to have it shipped via a truck from Thurmont to California, where it will be unloaded. A mechanic will change out the brakes, so they meet Australia’s strict vehicle guidelines. It will then be sent via ship for a month’s ride across the Pacific Ocean. Joe hopes to have it at his home by October.

While I was surprised the ’56 headed overseas, it’s only one of the memorable stories of selling my father’s cars.

Brian, who lives in Pennsylvania, bought my father’s 1966 Thunderbird. He arrived in Thurmont to examine the car. After he and my brother, Bob, took it for a test drive, he agreed to buy it. He loaded it up and took it on its two-hour journey to the Keystone State.

The next morning, I received an email from Brian.

Oh, no, I thought. What could the problem be?

Brian included a video in the email. The video showed a very large black snake coming out from under the motor! Imagine his surprise.

I told Brian that if he had trouble with the car, I’d take it back, but he could keep the snake who decided to hitchhike from Creagerstown to his new Pennsylvania home.

It’s been a difficult year parting with my parents’ possessions. I am grateful that they are going to new homeowners who will appreciate them as much as my parents did.

That said, it’s a tad sad to see them go. A little piece of me hurts every time a treasure (albeit a small porcelain piggy bank or a classic car) leaves the house.

Next up is selling the house. My heart will ache more than a little when that is done.

Dave Ammenheuser is writing a monthly column for The Catoctin Banner in 2021. He can be reached at [email protected]

Dave Ammenheuser and his brother, Bob, stand next to their father’s 1956 Thunderbird, headed to its new owners in Australia.

John Ammenheuser’s 1956 Thunderbird, getting loaded and prepared to ship to Australia.

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