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This 1957 Ford Ranchero was one of many vehicles lost to the Woolsey Fire, but it now has a new life as a piece of history at the Murphy Auto Museum. Ken Vela
Fireball Tim Lawrence
12:28 pm PST December 21, 2018

The Woolsey Fire left many cars in ruin. 

Literally hundreds of them litter the ’Bu, and many of them will head to the scrap heap.

But when my friend Thom Panunzio asked me if there was anything we could do with his 1957 Ford Ranchero, I had to take a moment to contemplate. This Ranchero was in Panunzio’s hands for many years and two days before the fire started, it was just completed. His to-do list was done. The next stop for the car was my Wheels and Waves show here in Malibu.

But alas, the fires ripped through the canyon and destroyed his garage, cars and all its contents. 

So I made a call to my friend David Neel at The Murphy Auto Museum. What if we could drag the car out of the ash-littered garage, take it to the museum and put in on display as a piece of history? And to no shock at all, Neel was immediately on board.

A few weeks later, I was heading to Panunzio’s again with my wife, Kathie, and friend, Ken Vela, to grab the car. We posted on Facebook that we needed a trailer and up popped Dennis Burnham from Torrance. He had just purchased a trailer and was eager to help. We arrived at the garage to find that the car sat on its belly and was in park. The only way to get it out was to drag it. So, we did.

It took four hours to get the car on the bed — twice as long as we expected. 

We had to come back the next day and drive it from Malibu all the way to Oxnard, ash flying out the back. The dismount of the ’57 was slightly easier than getting it on the trailer, albeit it falling a few times. But once we got it cleared using a forklift, we set her down in a prime spot where people could see her.

The Murphy is currently closed for the holidays, but will reopen in January if you want to go up and get a closer look.

But as we settled the car in the space, Panunzio called me to express his gratitude that the car that he once had truly loved was going to have a second life. This made me very happy and gave me perspective in regard to the cars, homes and things that people lost in this fire. The attachments we had are not about the things, but about the feelings behind them.

The emotion that was rattled in this year’s fire was what truly shook us. Most things can be replaced and some things can’t, but the feelings we suffered from hit us to our core. Many of us identify ourselves with what we have instead of who we are. And it’s who we are that truly defines us.

Loss of your possessions is horrible. But loss of yourself is worse. And that can only happen if you give up, which is something Malibu will never do — and that’s why I’m grateful to be here with all of you.

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