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March 1, 2014

Scientist owns 1929 Ford for half-century

NORMAN — Jock Campbell’s friends found a 1929 Ford Model A standard roadster for him. They knew he’d want to acquire it. This wasn’t an eBay or Craigslist discovery.

It was in 1958 New Mexico and Campbell’s early-20-something pals spotted the old car under a cottonwood tree on farmland near Estancia. That’s 56 miles southeast of their homes in Albuquerque.

“My group of guys were always looking for old Fords, mainly to build hot rods,” the semi-retired OU geology professor said. “We would go out on weekends and comb the hills for old cars.”

One Sunday, two of his buddies spotted the car Campbell would end up owning for decades. They determined immediately that it was much too nice for cutting up into a hot rod. The Model A was all original. To this day, the only work Campbell has done on the car is mechanical.

“It took us awhile to find the retired farmer, named John Pillow, who owned the car,” Campbell said. “The Ford had new tags but a dead battery and looked like you could just drive it away.”

Pillow wasn’t interested in selling the car. Campbell adopted a patient strategy and began visiting the old gentleman on a regular basis.

“About once a month I’d drive there to check out the car, quite often with a friend to enjoy the drive,” he said. “The answer was always the same; he wasn’t ready to sell. Eventually he said to me, ‘You aint going to cut ‘er up are ya?’”

Campbell assured the car’s original owner that he could never commit such an abomination.

The young man was driving a Mercury convertible with some modifications including dual exhausts and probably had little credibility in his elder’s eyes. Pillow said he’d think about it.

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