Friday, 4 February 2011

Cars I've Loved and Left - Part II

Obviously, being Part II, this is a continuation from Part I.  About two years after I got my first car it developed problems other than a crumpled side and a wonky tailpipe.  For a while I drove one of my Dad's cars, a 1964-ish Pontiac Catalina. It was sort of navy blue but the oxidising paint gave it a sort of iridescent multi-colour look.  

It had power steering and power brakes, which were way fun, but driving it was sort of like wearing a dress with a 25 foot train for everyday: there was just too much of it!   I felt much the same about the long bench seat in front.  I had to slide into West Texas to unlock the passenger door.  

By then I was waitressing at Pizza Hut.  One night I was driving home after closing, about 2am and some guy who was keen not to miss his flight back to Army duty decided he needed to turn left from the right hand land.  I was in the way.  The damage he did to my car - something to do with the wheel - was more expensive than the car.  It is likely that neither of us had insurance back then either.  My Dad had the habit of buying clunkers and driving them til they died, so this wasn't a huge loss, and he happened to have a spare for himself.  Still, public transport in OKC was next to non-existent so I needed another car.

As usual, my Aunt Rita had a car to trade off, a 1972 Volkswagon Karmann Ghia.  I took out my first car loan to buy it from her.  My Dad co-signed my loan with Associates Finance.  He called them loan sharks - it will have been a ridiculous rate of interest - but they were the only folks he could do business with.  That was one of my early financial lessons:  people with bad credit pay through the nose.  I remember the payments were 'only' $83 a month, but the seemed to go on forever. 

The Karmann Ghia (named Gretchen - the only car I ever named) was noisy on purpose - it had something called 'headers' that made it growl a little instead of the rin-tin-tinny sound Volkswagons normally made.  It had a standard transmission with a stick shift on the floor.  It sounds daft now, but that stick shift was so cool to me back then.  The engine was in the rear and the 'trunk' wasn't big enough for anything, but it had a cute little hidey-hole behind the back seat which folded down.  It was low to the ground and wonderfully fun to drive, but I was terribly irresponsible with its upkeep.  When it developed motor problems my Dad identified a good mechanic through a work contact.  

Eddie re-built the engine of my Karmann Ghia for me.  We also dated for a while.  Eddie drove my dream car:  a 1969 Chevy Corvette.  

We'd go out to eat and on the way I'd ask him to drive on and off the freeway just so I could enjoy the feel of the car hugging the road on those sharp turns.  

He was a nice enough guy and we had good times together.  I think his day job was something to do with airplane mechanics and he made pretty good money.    But then he traded his Corvette for a '68 Mustang Shelby Cobra.  He obviously felt he'd traded up, but Shelby Cobra did nothing for me.  I thought those fin-things behind the windows looked like shark's gills and they gave me the creeps.

I'm sure it wasn't just about the car, but more that at some point I decided I didn't want a permanent relationship with grease-stained hands, an ex-wife and two small children.  I moved on, but not before Eddie had found me a different car to drive:  a 1968 Datsun Roadster convertible.    

I liked Eddie, but I left him rather easily; when I left Gretchen I sat in the driver's seat for the last time and blubbered.  I felt so sad and so guilty for trading her in.

A little while later I dated a guy who drove a rag top Cadillac.  An older model, green, nothing to get that excited about.  I could be snide and say 'him or the car', but there was one perfect, happy day, driving with the top down in the hills around Lawton with Lovely Rita blasting.  

I enjoyed my Datsun, in the sunshine.  The top was tricky to get up and down - 'up' being the more important part with Oklahoma's sudden showers.  Also, I decided convertibles were a bit dangerous.  

One Friday after work I had a whim to drive down to Ardmore to spend the weekend with a longtime girlfriend.  On the way I encountered a truck driver who was attracted to my car.  Or maybe it was the long blonde hair or the tube top and cut offs on a 20-year-old.  He would get in front of me and slow down, but would speed up when I tried to pass.  After a while I got well and truly fed up and did 93 miles an hour (without a seat belt) to get rid of him.  Between the tricky top and that nasty experience, I was lukewarm on the car thereafter.

For a while I had a roommate, Missy, who drove a new Mazda RX-7 with the rotary engine.  That will have been around 1975-1976.   She let me drive her car once; it was a dream, but it cost more money than I was prepared to pay for a car.  By that time I'd moved out from home and had to pay for boring things like food and utility bills.  

Did you love and name your cars like pets?


Boywilli said...

When I was young I used to watch kids like you on the movies. I never believed that ordinary kids went to school in these huge luxurious machines. We got the bus ( athing like Harry Potter's Knight Bus, unheated and with an open door at the back) if we had money. Most of the time we walked or cycled. Even our parents didnt have cars. Eventually dad inherited a thing called an Austin A30 that would have fitted easily into the trunk of one of your Dad's cars and we were mobile. It did not make much difference to me though. In Britain you had to be 17 to drive

Toad said...

I hadn't thought of a Datson 2000 in many years. Thanks for reviving the memories.

Rick Stone said...

Favorite car was a burgundy 1969 Oldsmobile 442(W30) I bought when stationed in Alaska in 1969. It had 400cu inch engine, Herst four speed and Ram Air. No A/C or power steering. It was nothing but fast. When I left up there the Navy shipped it to Seattle and I drove home, via San Diego to see a brother. Eventually wore it out with racing and traded it to my folks for my mother's 1968 Ramble Rebel. They then traded it for her a new Oldsmobile. Man, that car was hot.

Gwen said...

We almost bought a Ghia a couple of weeks ago. I have been wanting a project car, but the guy wanted to much and didn't want to come down.

My frist and favorite car was a 1975 BMW 2002 also known as the Bimmer from Hell. Loved that car, keep hoping that I will find one similar and treat a wee bit better this go around.