I met Arthur in 1977.
I was traveling down California's Pacific Coast Highway on my motorcycle headed to Huntington Beach for a bit of body surfing. As I was passing through Sunset Beach, there he was, sitting on the shoulder with a "For Sale" sign in the window.
It wasn't like I was looking for a 1959 Volvo PV544. In fact, I'd much rather have found, and been able to afford, my "dream car," a Volvo 1800, just like Roger Moore drove on the TV series "The Saint."
However, there was something retro and forlorn about this car that was styled after a three-quarter-size 1942 Ford.
I copied down the phone number and later that day, after a fine time in the surf, I met the owner's boyfriend, made the deal and took Arthur to his new home in Long Beach.
Arthur acquired his name after a few events of bad luck befell him, like the hapless protagonist in "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy," Arthur Dent.
There were the bumps, scratches, mechanical issues and finally being relegated to a parking spot in the backyard while life took my focus in other directions: marriage, house, career, kids.
When I moved to Billings in 1991, my dad brought Arthur up on a trailer.
True to his nature, another nasty event occurred in a white-out over Bozeman Pass resulting in a bent axle.
Arthur spent the next 17 years tucked away in a shed, out of sight, but not totally out of mind. I can only imagine how hard it was for him when, in 2007, I brought home the dream car, a 1972 Volvo 1800E. But it was the arrival of that car that spurred my younger son to go out and pump up Arthur's long-flat tires and suggest that we get him running .
It took six weeks of work before Arthur arose from his slumber which was followed by a summer of rebuilding and restoring. Every system needed attention: fuel, brakes, cooling, electrical (6-volt) and a replacement rear axle.
The interior had disintegrated, so I bought a sewing machine and learned how to make a new interior.
My son helped with much of the work including rubbing out the long-oxidized paint and cleaning up the fogged windows to a like-new clarity. The work continues, and it's long from done. But Arthur can now be considered a daily driver and an active member of the family again.