Sunday, May 10, 2020

My 124 Spider's history

The first owners of my elegant white 124 convertible were  GERTRUDE and MANFORD WETZEL  who lived in 1979 at the time of their 124 Spider purchase at  1760 Avenida del Mundo #803  in Coronado, a luxurious  suburb of San Diego  California.  
From  their wonderful apartment  right at the beach, they had a  spectacular view  over the  Pacific Ocean .   

According to the "Fiat Owners Service Book 1979",   an additional all inclusive note  and  the radio warranty,  the car was bought by the Wetzel couple on February 19, 1979 at  Harrison Motor Inc.  located at 141 Broadway in Chula Vista ( San Diego ).

Manford - graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at  West Point  -  had as a  U.S. Air Force Colonel  an impressive Air Force career.  As a bomber pilot in WWII  he got seriously injured and became in later years a 'Disabled American Veteran', witnessing  a decal  that is still on my Spider's side window. 
Due to cardiac problems he died on October 29, 1980, so he drove his beloved Spider only for one and a half year.  After his death,  Manford was reburied in the sacred military grounds of West Point as a token of recognition of his great Air Force career. 

For pure sentimental reasons,  Gertrude  kept "his" car in  her luxurious apartment house  with a climatological conditioned garage for about 16 years.  And ... she did not drive the car for 1 single mile in all those years !

When Gertrude died in 1992, her daughter Patricia sold ( most probably in 1995 ) the Spider from the Wetzel family to Jonathan Young Lee, living at that time at 11355, Affinity Court #184 in North-San Diego.  And he sold the car on February 9, 1996 ( through car dealer  Mossy Nissan Inc.  at Escondido, Cal. ) and  Neil Motors ( now Automaxx )  located at 905 Hoover Avenue in National City, San Diego to  Joseph Motor Imports (non existent anymore)  at 1531 National City Boulevard, also in National City, San Diego.  

Short after this last event, the Fiat Spider was discovered by mere accident by a  Dutch friend of mine  who was driving around and visiting a large number of car dealers in and around San Diego in search of some Ford Mustangs for export to Europe. 
His attention was drawn by a sharp flash of sunlight on a white convertible while he was driving along one of the uncountable number of car dealers in and around San Diego. 

After a curious, closer look and inspection he could not deny nor resist  the perfect state  of the convertible and decided to buy it  ( paid cash at the backseat of his rental car )  and have it shipped to Holland, because my friend knew that this convertible would be just the convertible I was looking for. 

However, before lading by the  shipping company AFL  a number of  registration documents and  formalities  needed to be complied with.  AFL made for insurance reasons a report  before entering the ship in a large wooden crate. Here  in front of the shipping company waiting for embarkation to Rotterdam at  the Chula Vista harbor wharf.

As the last person in this line, I bought the car from my friend short after it arrived in the harbor of Rotterdam, Holland.

Because the first owner's name was Manford ( an Americanization of the name Manfred ) Wetzel, I went in search on the internet of the family name Wetzel in and around San Diego. To my great astonishment I found hundreds equal family names !
On the basis of zip codes of the many cities and suburbs around San Diego, and quarters swallowed down by the metropolis  (like the outskirts Coronado, Chula Vista and National City)  I filtered these addresses on their postal codes and left over about 24 Wetzel addresses that appeared to be presumable that there were living persons, who possibly could tell me something more about the subjects of my search: Manford and Gertrude Wetzel.

In a letter stating who I am and what the reason was of my letter and to whom I was in search of, I wrote to these 24 Wetzels in the San Diego area by post. Subsequently I received three replies ( all others were indifferent to my letter and did not react ): two did not know the existence of any Manford Wetzel and one was positive.

The positive reaction was from a man called Tony Wetzel , who wrote that Manford and Gertrude were his uncle and aunt, but regrettably both passed away some years ago.
Through a central registration office of the California Death Records I actually found online the death certificates with some additional personal data of the deceased  Manford  and Gertrude. 

Tony Wetzel informed me also, that Manford had a son Robert who was killed in an aircraft accident in 1959 and a daughter Pat ( or Patricia ), who lives in San Antonio, Texas, where her husband, Major David G. Wood, is stationed with the U.S. Air Force as well.

Together with Tony Wetzel's letter was a reprint of  Manford Wetzel's obituary  written by Manford's brother,  Lieutenant General Emery S. Wetzel,  United States Air Force, informing me about more details of the very first owner of my 124 Spider. 

My Spider is still   looking very good  with her ( ! ) original first white car lacquer !