Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Horn Went Beep, Beep, Beep

Brookhaven, Miss. -- It's Wednesday, Nov. 14, 1951.  Lincoln County resident Colon Fuller had celebrated his 41st birthday only the day before.

Colon was in his new car at Railroad Avenue and Cherokee Street, in the shadow of the McGrath building, when suddenly, there's a right-of-way miscue. CRUNCH! A 1950 Dodge Wayfarer, driver/owner unknown, and Colon's car collided -- a classic fender-bender in small town America.
Colon Fuller is the man in the hat, behind the car, I am told by a reliable source.

Who was at fault?  It's hard to say.  The passenger side fender of the Dodge is crumpled around the headlight, while the quarter panel behind the driver's side wheel well and part of the door on the other car are dented.

My unscientific best guess is that Colon Fuller was attempting a left turn west onto Cherokee and the Dodge was proceeding east on Cherokee, coming off the railroad tracks.

Photographer John H. Williams, owner of Art Studio on Cherokee, just a sprint or two away from the scene, was called to document the accident for insurance purposes.

And now, a confession: I have spent many a day scrolling through the pictures that the Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Library has posted on Flickr.  I always puzzled over this series, fascinated by this strangely UGLY car.

It was only now, after countless passes, that it dawned on me that I was looking at a piece of American automobile history -- a rare Hudson Hornet, a vehicle that car aficionado Jay Leno ranks among the Top Ten collectible American automobiles.

Celebrated in Pixar's Cars, the Hudson Hornet -- because of its lighter weight, lower center of gravity, over-engineering and over-building -- handled much better than other cars of the day, making it a natural for stock-car racing on the mostly dirt tracks.

The horse power in the 1951 models was 145, and a good mechanic could install racing parts to help the car reach top speeds of 112 mph.  A"souped up" Hudson Hornet was considered unbeatable in its day.

Even without race car tweaking -- the Hornet, with engineering innovations and luxury extras, including an electric clock, had more cachet than a Cadillac to some buyers back in the early 1950s.

Colon Fuller's was one of 43,656 units produced in Detroit in 1951. The car, which came in a four-door sedan, a hard-topped coupe and a convertible coupe model, sold for $2,543 to $3,009.

According to Find-A-Grave, Colon Fuller died on July 8, 1977, just three months shy of his 67th birthday. He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Brookhaven.

I understand that he may have owned a junkyard, that he was a good friend of the fabled Turnbough family, and that he had a sister named Bobby Summers, who worked for Brookhaven Funeral Home, selling insurance.

Other than that, I have little information on the man and his life.

The burning question: whatever happened to his Hornet?

A 1951 Hudson Hornet Sedan, fully restored.  Photo Credit: Christopher Ziemnowicz, via Wikipedia

Today, according to old car auction sites, a fully restored Hudson Hornet can fetch as much as $100,000 at auction. 

Makes me wish I had held onto my '65 Mustang. 

(A special thank you to Will Turnbough for helping me with Colon Fuller's bio and history.) 

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