Turning a dollar here and there, in real estate and hardware sales and delivering fresh milk, Byrd Nosler moved his family to Pomona, California, and then to a ranch near Huntington Beach. “I was seven,” recalled his son, John. “A year later, Dad took in an old Dort that needed service. I tinkered with it and got it started and sold it. What I wanted was a Model T. So I rode my bicycle around until I saw one behind an old house. I went to the door and asked the lady there if she could use a bicycle. The derelict Model T had evidently overstayed its welcome, because she agreed to an even swap. With Dad’s mules, I dragged the car home. Then I fixed it up and sold it.”

Automobiles became John’s passion. From Western Auto Supply he got parts for overhead-valve engines and built them. “I learned to see problems as opportunities in disguise. They gave me a chance to improve on current designs.” John liked guns, too. He traded a set of Model T connecting rods for his first deer rifle, a .25-35 Winchester. But under the grind of the Depression, the talented mechanic had to drop out of high school. He went to work as clean-up boy at a Ford dealership in Chino for 15 cents an hour. The garage fueled more ideas. “A pal and I souped up a Model A with a B engine, adding counterweights to the B’s crank. It ran smoothly at 100 mph. Ford liked that crank well enough to adopt it.”

In 1933, John Nosler married Louise Booz. Shortly thereafter, he sold his new ’35 Ford and bought a ’29 coupe for $60. The couple moved to Reedsport, Oregon, where John managed a Ford dealership. A push to unionize local timber industry workers caused many sawmills to shut down…

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