By Rikki King Herald Writer
CLEARVIEW — Jim Watson sure was surprised when he picked up his newspaper on Aug. 5.
His former 1933 Ford Coupe was on the front page, in a story called, “Who stole the ‘33 Coupe?”
Watson, who’s 86, was the Coupe’s last owner before it was sold to Wayne Caldwell, who now lives in Clallam County. The car was stolen from Caldwell in 1999. Snohomish County cops recently recovered it near Stanwood. Since its theft it had been sold a few times, until someone recognized it as Caldwell’s coupe.
“I was always looking for that car to show up some place,” Watson said last week. “I would know that car right away because I worked on it for so many years.”
Watson lives in the Clearview area now. In his early 20s, he worked at a wrecking yard in Ballard.
Another young man used to come around with the coupe back then, he said. Finally, the man asked Watson if he wanted to buy it.
“I think I gave him $35 for it,” Watson said. “I think it was something like that. It was not anything like it wound up being. I spent a lot of money after that.”
He got hydraulic brakes put on the car. A friend lowered the roof-line and added a steel roof. Watson built a new engine. He’s still got that engine.
He used to drag-race in the car, too.
Then, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He drove the coupe from Fort Lee, Va., to Seattle, before he shipped out. He served in Korea for 15 months.
When he and his wife, Patricia, were courting, she’d come over while he’d polish the car, and she’d help.
They went to the fair in Puyallup in the car one year. It rained. The car didn’t have windshield wipers. It was an experience, he said.
They got married a few months later, in 1954. Their 60th anniversary is in January.
After they got married, the couple needed money for a down payment on a house in Edmonds. Watson sold the Coupe to Wayne Caldwell for $400 or $500, he said. Watson kept the engine. Caldwell used to race the car at the drag strip in Arlington.
That house cost Watson $10,500. He and Patricia lived there 35 years.
They sold the house for $210,000, Watson said. A few years later, it sold for nearly a half-million dollars.
“When we first moved out there, all we had for neighbors was cows,” he said. “I liked the place right off the bat because it had a beautiful sweeping Sound view, and it looked right over the end of Whidbey. Our kids all grew up there. They all graduated from Edmonds High School. We’ve been around here a long time.”
Watson used to try to buy the coupe back from Caldwell, before it went missing, he said.
“He always turned me down,” Watson said.
After the car was stolen, Watson offered to hire a private detective. The deal was, if the car got recovered, he would get to buy it from Caldwell.
Caldwell didn’t bite.
Caldwell brought his coupe home from the cop-shop in January. The Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force still is investigating its theft from a Seattle garage in 1999. Detectives shared the story earlier this year in hopes of generating tips in the case.
These days, Watson keeps a two-car garage at a home he shares with his wife, his daughter and his son-in-law. He’s working on a Ford Model A Coupe and a 1923 Ford Model T, “modified into what used to be called a Track Roadster,” he said.
He’s been painting the Model A in Seahawks colors, for his son-in-law.
“It’s almost ready to hit the road,” he said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com
Who copped the coupe?
Anyone who might have information about the 1999 theft of Wayne Caldwell’s 1933 Ford Coupe can contact investigators at 425-388-3845.