Back in 1976, country music fans were jamming to Johnny Cash’s One Piece at a Time, novelty ditty about a guy who, in 1949 goes heads to Detroit to work at General Motors. Happy to have steady work, but bummed that he’d likely never be able to afford one of those shiny new rides he watched roll off the assembly line day after day, he quickly devised a plan.
Via his lunch box and a coworker’s motorhome, he began swiping parts, one piece at a time, and taking them home to his garage. Twenty-four years later, he’s got a head-turning new ride. The singer’s wife loves it. The folks at the county courthouse, however – Not so much.
“‘Cause to type it up it took the whole staff – And when they got through the title weighed sixty pounds,” the song goes.
The song’s promoters called up Bruce Fitzpatrick, owner Abernathy Auto Parts and Hilltop Auto Salvage in Nashville, TN and asked him to build a real-life version of the car in the song. It was used in international promotional events and materials until, for reasons unknown, it was crushed. Luckily for Cash enthusiasts, Bill Patch of Welch, a tiny Oklahoma coal mining and farming town with an unfinished Lions Club Civic Center and a big debt.
A fan of the song with a passion for tinkering, Patch decided to build his own version of the famed fictional car. The result – a Cadillac Coupe Sedan DeVille sporting parts from four decades. Proud of his masterpiece, and with a plan in mind, Patch drove his “psychobilly” ride all the way from Welch to the House of Cash Museum in Nashville, where he presented it to the Man in Black himself.
Cashed loved the car and accepted it as a gift. But he had a gift of his own in mind when he heard about Welch’s dilemma. He and wife June Carter Cash soon headed to the tiny Oklahoma town where he performed a benefit concert that helped cover construction costs. Cash and Patch remained years-long friends, and Cash later returned to Welch for yet another benefit concert held in the completed Lions Club Civic Center for the Boy Scouts and Oklahoma Eye Bank for the Blind.
Patch’s car was featured in a subsequent video for One Piece at a Time and today is on permanent exhibit at the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe, Illinois. Have you visited the museum and seen Patch’s psychobilly ride in person? Share your pics on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.