Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Confessions Of An Ugly Car Owner

At left is the closest picture I could find of my first car, a 1964 Ford Station Wagon. Everybody has one in their past - the "Blue Bomb," the "Red Terror," the "Yellow Weaser," the "Brown Smoking Pile of..... " You catch my drift. We're talking ugly cars. Really crappy cars. Your first car. Cars that you had to drive because they were the only way you'd get there. Not the type of vehicle that your children would ever be subjected to today. Heavens no! Thanks to that little known, but seminal case regarding freedom of expression and First Amendment limits on parental notification, the Supreme Court has forever established that those, as yet unable exercise the franchise or capable of providing for themselves in any manner - up to and including the making of "toast," - nevertheless retain a fundamental constitutional right to select their personal vehicle, for which they will pay nothing. ( See, spd rdr v. Sixteen Grubby Daughters and Their Mother, 1539 U.S. 861 (1997), and progeny).

Such liberal social attitudes were not always the fashion in this nation. We boomers, spoiled as we were are, began our driving experiences in our parents' cast off vehicles. After many years of exemplary family service, these worn out, hulking masses were turned over to the kid bearing the most freshly minted license with a hardy congratulatory pat on the back. “It’s all yours, Son/Daughter. Take care of her and she’ll take care of you." You instantly suspected that this lie registered somewhere between Santa and the Tooth Fairy. But, like always, you weren't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. You took the proffered keys eagarly, visions of absolute freedom playing like "anthropology" filmstrips in your head.

But let's be honest. As I recall, the prevalent term for these rolling post-familiar nightmares was "shit-boxes." No heat, no air conditioning, no music, no class, plenty of dents. But maybe there was a great back seat! And, maybe, if you were lucky, and your were parents clueless enough, it was a station wagon! The possibilities were suddenly endless. "I got a '64 wagon and I got me a woody! Surf City, here I come!"

In any event, your only limitation was curfew...and insurance. And who paid attention to that?*

So what I'm looking for is this: What was your ugliest car? Find us a picture. And then tell us a story about your ugly car. I don't care what, just make it sound real.

*Ahh... youthful exuberance. I often wonder whether half the crap I think happened to me actually happened to me...and then I run into some old friend and the history churned up just gets worse and worse for mrs. rdr. I've found that when anyone asks you did as a kid, the best answer to give is "nothing felonious."


Masked Menace© said...

The car I learned to drive on was a 1979 Chevy Caprice Classic Station Wagon. It was only 2 years younger than I was and had been nicknamed Lurch by my older siblings. But that wasn't even "my car" by even the loosest definition. It was Mom's and I could borrow it...maybe...sometimes...but probably not unless it was to go to work.

Fortunatly, for our (me and my twin's) birthday my Grandmother bought us a car. Well, it had wheels and an engine anyway, but we were eternally grateful to have it. We named it The Grey Grenade because of it's uncanny physical semblance to a pineapple and that you never really knew when it was going to blow up on you.

spd rdr said...

I don't know which frightens me more, Menace, the fact that you drove a Horizon, or the fact that, somewhere, you've got a twin.

Masked Menace© said...

How about both of us in the Grenade at the same time?

spd rdr said...


Cassandra said...

I am going to participate in this. It is just that my hair is currently on fire.

Like Menace, one of mine in the running is a grey chevy caprice wagon we alternately called the Suburban Assault Vehicle or the Battlestar Galactica (I favored the SAV myself). I have stories about that one.

The one I learned to drive on, though.... Suffice it to say that I was not to have my license for another two years. It had a nasty habit of stalling at intersections and I would have to get out, take the cover off the air filter and hold open the butterfly valve with a pencil in order to get it started again...all at the tender age of about 14 or 15...memory fails me now. This was not a good thing when I was halfway across town on a hot summer day and hoping none of my mother's friends would drive by and see me. All of a sudden joyriding didn't seem like such a bright idea. I'm having dinner with one of my old riding companions this weekend - I'll have to bring that up :)

I'm afraid most of my other station wagon stories are better left unpublished.

Cassandra said...

OK, I notice Mr Youthful Exuberance isn't exactly ponying up with any felonious stories himself...

What is up with that?

And I rather thought anything involving Menacing Twins and a station wagon would have to be at least *mildly* interesting... no illicit kitten bouncing? No wild midnight rides to get a slurpee at the local Circle K?


spd rdr said...

If you want me to start talking out of school, you're going to have to be patient until I get this appeal filed. You have the floor if you want it.

Cassandra said...

[sound of my little foot tapping...]

Oh, I can wait :)

Is it 5 o'clock yet? Not that that makes any difference, but psychologically it's a milestone.

4:58, 4:57...

*running away*

Cassandra said...

Good Lord, I'm going back in time.


spd rdr said...

Okay. It's filed. I've got my stamped copy (4;48 p.m.), and some *dickbag* laywers in Tampa just had their weekend ruined. Yet another satisfying day in the law.

My 1964 Ford station wagon was, no kidding, a light bronze, almost gold, but not as garish. More like the color of weak tea. It was a sturdy creature, its plastic seats and sexy curves having already survived seven years of screaming kids and Long Island traffic prior to its final turn as the "Golden Chariot of Love."

Yeah. That's it. It was a Sex Machine! Uh huh! reality it was the worst of piece of crap EVER. Somehow, in the history of its many "boo-boos" the whole body got slightly skewed on the frame. No joke. Standing in front of the car was like looking into the face of a wall-eyed drunk: It made you tipsy. And I was embarrassed to be seen driving around in the winter with my passagers wrapped up in blankets because the heater didn't work. (Some genius, (it coulda been me), came up with idea to re-route the exhaust system through the passenger compartment to provide needed warmth. The fact that I even remember this discussion speaks volumes about the dangers of teenage thinking.) The horror of this automobile lasted under the following summer, when, not surprisingly, something went more wrong than even my tight-fisted old man was willing to deal with. The wagon died an ignoble death..I scrap later to become a Dodge Aries K. And you ask, "What can replaced it?"

Grandpa's prize jewel.
A 1963 Galaxie 500 Coupe - black w/red interior.Yeah, baaaaaby. We cruisin' now.

portia said...

I got a '64 wagon and I got me a woody!
Great line.

We had a 1962 GOLD Thunderbird! (ours had a black hardtop) Must have be the "in" color back then, like avocado refrigerators in the 70s. The t-bird was traded in by the time I got my license so I didn't have a chance to fool, I mean, tool around with it as a driver. Darn. Even with bucket seats, it would have been a very cool car to drive. She'll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes her t-bird away....

I didn't have my own car until well past the age when one thinks about fooling around in cars, um...let me rephrase that, well past the age when one needs to fool around in cars but I am not without an experience or two--or twenty--as a passenger...and, even some as an adult:)

Cassandra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cassandra said...

Well darn. I just lost most of my comment. I thought I had copied it before deleting it, but I guess it didn't make it to the clipboard...

Oh well. It wasn't that exciting anyway, and I'm too tired to try to type it over. The first car I ever drove was my Dad's AMC Rambler. It was kind of funny-looking, but I really loved that car. The best part was the name: The Green Latrine. I guess you can tell my Dad used to trash it when he came home from sea :)

spd rdr said...

Whoa! That's some homely vehicle, Cass. Ramblers were, um, "geek" cars," before there were even geeeks! Always a trailblazer!

And Portia, I would have noticed if you tooled into the the high school parking lot in a '62 "box" T-bird. I'll tell you someday about my midnight ride down Jones Beach Parkway in L0+i+0's '64 red T-bird convertible and the rabbits. The sea of rabbits. The poor, dumb rabbits.

a former european said...

For me, it was a 69 Chevelle Malibu. It was a great muscle car with a big-block V-8 (can't remember the size, but I want to say a 384 maybe?). I was quite the gearhead in high school and souped it up for racing down the ubiquitous Illinois-asphalt-road-between-cornfields-in-the-middle-of-nowhere.

It was called the Flintstonemobile, because it was so rusted out that we expected any good kick would break through the rusted out floor and our feet would show through a la the Flintstones. It sure could move, though.

My best friends drove the ever-popular Ford Mustang type II, and the ever-brokedown Maverick. Oh yeah, one guy had a 66 Impala. He was going to trash it, but I convinced him to drive down to the hispanic parts of Chicago. He got a smokin' deal for it because 66 Impalas are great lowrider material.

My best friend and I really scored senior year when a 95 year old guy for whom we had been doing yardwork for years practically gave us a PRISTINE 62 black Cadillac sedan de ville that he had had in storage for several decades. It looked like the Batmobile and was a dream come true for a young man. It had giant tailfins, about 30 ashtrays in the interior (people must have been truly serious smokers back then), and a backseat bigger than the Playboy Mansion.

Problem was, at over 22 feet long, it would not fit any garage. It was so wide, that it was hard to find a modern parking space. It ran on super LEADED, which was impossible to find, so we had to use additives or it would knock like a mother. It only got like 3 miles to the gallon, however, so we had to sell it. We couldn't afford the price of gas under Jimmah Cartuh.

Cassandra said...

Well, the best thing about being a girl in HS was that you rarely went out in your own car. Most of the time was spent listening for the sound of some guy's tailpipes in your driveway. I can't say I ever really cared (or noticed) what any of the guys I dated drove, with one exception. In tenth grade for some bizarre reason a senior on the basketball team just decided he was in love with me, which completely stupified me b/c he was 2 years older than I was and I couldn't figure out any good reason he'd be interested in me, but also b/c he drove a gorgeous 1962 White Corvette convertible in mint condition.

All the girls were after this guy, but for some reason he was too shy to ask me out (according to his friends) so we spent most of basketball season in this kind of awkward pre-dating dance. Finally one summer night at a party we somehow winded up talking and then driving around in his car, which was great, but I quickly realized that though he was polite enough, we also had absolutely nothing in common. He was rich and we weren't interested in any of the same things. So despite the car (and the good looks) we just didn't click. About three months later he ended up going steady with this girl who was beautiful, but just dumber than a fence post, and I ended up dating one of his team-mates who had a crap car, but was smart and fun to talk to :)

portia said...

You're right Cass. I'm not sure I cared much what kind of car he was driving. The big thrill in high school was waiting for that car to pull into your driveway, or hear the honk of horns as friends passed by your house. Seems to me, boys fall in love with cars well before they fall in love with girls (even if sometimes they can't tell the two apart: "listen to her purr..." ) so I think "cars" tend to be much more of a guy thing. Maybe if I was trying to get la*d in those days instead of not, I would have had a different um...respect, for a set of wheels:)

That said, for years, I have chosen to spend 2 hours every other Sunday for 6 months a year--often setting the alarm clock if the time change requires-- watching gleaming, noisy, sexy, turbocharged hunks of metal zoom around hair-raising non-oval circuits, and find every lap fascinating and thrilling.

Heh. Maybe all along, it really was about the car...:) Vroooooom.

43 days to Bahrain, and counting!

Anonymous said...

My first car, that I took my drivers' test in was a '63, white plymouth Valiant, 176 ci, slant six, that had a red vinyl (looked like leather!) interior, bucket seats, push-button auto transmision, and was in constant need of a quart of oil, as the engine needed a ring job.
But it was a great little car, and took me on many trips hither and yon.
"Don Brouhaha"

Anonymous said...

But wait! It got better! The car I learned to drive standard (in 1973) in was a '65 Valiant (my Dad like Chrysler cars, what can I say!), that had ~11K miles on it in 1970 when my Dad bought it used, and you could literally eat of the floor of the trunk, it was that clean (until my sister and her stupid Irish Setter got hold of it and trashed it).
Later, I drove a '66 gold Barracuda (Plymouth, again), with a small block (283 ci) V-8, to college. It belonged to the old German couple (he was in the Wehrmacht in WWII) next door, and they sold it to us. It had black vinyl seats (looked like leather!) and it was really sharp.
Then the downhill slide began. Next I drove a '63 Beetle, which could go all of 45 mph and was ice cold in the winter, then a '67 Plymouth Fury; huge, but the exterior was beat up from being left out in a hail storm. I drove that Fury until '81, when it was (literally) falling apart.
'Course, in the meantime I bought a '71 TR-6, but that's another story.

-"Don Brouhaha"

spd rdr said...

Don! I had a '63 Beetle too!
How well I remember the "heat" vents pouring black smoke into the cabin.

Cassandra said...

Well 'officially' I learned to drive automatic first. Then I got my license. Then one night my parents were in NH at our cabin and I had a party at our quarters in Norfolk and made dacquiris. We ended up on Admiral's Row at 2 am in some dinky parking lot in the Green Latrine with half the cheerleading squad teaching me to drive stickshift - what a hoot. I have no idea how we survived without getting arrested except I think the MPs stayed away b/c of all the big brass down on that street.

The Unit used to take me out in a Beetle but I don't remember what year it was. Girls don't care about that stuff. All I remember is that it had handles to grab on to and boy - the way he drove, you needed them.

spd rdr said...

Beetles had that certain, something, that melted girl's fears the driver was interested in anything but getting you home.

Cassandra said...

Probably had more to do with the back seat being so small than anything else... which if memory serves, wasn't all that much of an impediment. Oh, to be young and flexible!