Kim wrote the following to me in an e-mail and gave me permission to post it. As Kim’s story says, it should be noted that this was a particularly dark time for Detroit car makers as both my Chevrolet Vega and Jon’s Ford Pinto had different problems. The Vega had an aluminum engine that melted and started leaking oil and water causing it to overheat. The Pinto had been reported to explode in rear end collisions because of the location of the fuel tank. – Mick Orton
“When you showed up, you had a green Chevy Vega. You carried the 2-person sailboat on top. I don’t think you liked the Vega, seems like I remember you complaining that you had a lot of trouble – it had an aluminum block. I do remember you getting hit in some town, someone went through a stop sign, or maybe it was an uncontrolled intersection. I remember Jon had a white Ford Pinto.
“Here is the story as I recall of the vehicles used to carry equipment.
“We went on the road in Aug. 1974 with 2 vehicles. Jon had his Pinto and I had a 1966 red and white Dodge van that was falling apart. We were constantly battling the ability to travel, as this was in the middle of the oil embargo, and gas stations were generally closed on Sunday, our travel day. A few times we made it to gas pumps on fumes, only to have to wait hours for it to open. I do not remember exactly when the following happened, I’m guessing sometime in early 1975.
“We were driving west on I-80 close to Iowa City when the axle bearing failed, and the axle sheared, i.e. the wheel came off, driving 60 mph. I skidded to a stop on the right side as the wheel went flying by us (at 60 mph). Luckily the wheel ended up in the ditch and no one was injured, but . . . the oil/lubricant around the axle caught on fire. I remember certain band members laughing (shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) while I was desperately trying to put a fire out that was flaming up the side of the van. I guess they didn’t understand that the gas tank was right next to the broken axle, and that all of THEIR equipment was in the van. Anyway, I put the fire out and had the van towed to the nearest town where we sat for hours while the mechanic “fixed” the axle. The mechanic could barely get the van up in the air on the lift, and he asked us what the heck we had in there. Well, it was probably 1 ton of equipment, in a 1/4 ton van . We got back on the road and shortly after the wheel did not feel right. We stopped, and the axle was smoking. It was toast, again.
“That began the era of Silver Laughter hauling equipment in the Ludtke 4-horse trailer, pulled by a Pontiac Bonneville convertible (thanks mom & dad). It did not last too long, but was kind of fun riding down the road with the top down. I took all of my savings and bought a new 1975 red Chevy van for $4,238. I think it only took a few months to get the horse smell off of the equipment. So, at this time we were riding high with 3 vehicles: the Chevy van, Jon’s 1972 Pinto (the model that used to blow up when rear-ended), and Mick’s green Vega. I sold the van to Carl Frisch, our roadie, when I left the band and used the money for my first year of college. Not sure exactly when, but Mike bought a 1976 brown Chevy van, I may have been out of the band at that point. And I think even later, the band purchased a trailer which was used until it fell apart, around the time I got back in the band.”