First cars were dream vehiclesPublished 10:20am Monday, February 27, 2012
My first car, shared with my brother, was a 1948 Studebaker Land Cruiser. Straight-stick three-speed with overdrive. Dad helped find it for us. “It’s yours,” he told us, “I’ll buy it; you pay everything else.”
We optimistically nick-named it “The Stud.” One good thing about The Stud — we learned early to check the oil often.
Dad must have gotten one whale of a good deal on it. It used so much oil that we took to hanging around Wyatt’s gas station for the old oil he drained out of normal cars.
One other fond memory is dad saying, after I had walked home for about the fourth time, and after he had fetched me and a can of gas to wherever.
The Stud had run dry: “Why don’t you run on the top half of the tank for a while, try that, instead of the bottom half.”
I didn’t have an answer then, but it’s a great memory, and I got to use that line on my kids. Life is good when you can pass knowledge on.
And then came a slant-back ’50 Chevy, with which I had and survived a disastrous encounter with a bridge. And then a souped-up ’54 Chevy, which made do through college, up to going to Vietnam. I sold it to a cousin who terrorized St. Paul with it.
Then a ’55 Chevy. It was a dream car. A V-8, 12-volt, a flat hood so wide it didn’t seem to fit down one lane of the highway.
No drop-down tractor fenders over the front wheels on this thing.
And inside? None of that crummy cloth like the other, older cars had. Uh, uh. This came with real plastic seat upholstery. It had twin rear-view mirrors, turn signals, fender skirts, white-wall tires, and finally, a pair of fuzzy white dice that hung from the rear view mirror. Whew. What a car.
Then, not too long ago, I found myself standing in a used-car lot, engaged in the following conversation, more or less:
Salesman: “Just imagine you and your family and how much joy you’ll get out of this wonderful automobile.”
Who’s going to fix it when it breaks down? Under the hood looks pretty scary. (Scary didn’t even begin to describe the mechanical nightmare under that hood. I should have never looked. The Stud had an engine you could see, even if it did drip so much oil dad could track my brother and me down on a gravel road.)
Salesman: “Isn’t that a marvel of engineering?”
Is there really an engine somewhere in there?
Salesman: “This is the sportiest mid-size car on the lot.”
Where’s the rest of it? I take a bath in something bigger than this.
Salesman: “Are you taking any family trips?
What? I have to take my family with me when I leave?
Salesman: “This car handles well because it’s designed for less aerodynamic drag.”
That must mean a wiener would go down the road well; that doesn’t mean I want to drive one.
Salesman: “These really hold their trade-in value, you know.”
Trade-in value? We ran the last one until I made it into a hog feeder.
Salesman: “It doesn’t look like it, but you can get six adults in this car.”
How’s it handle with eight winter months of accumulated household garbage in it, going down a washboard road to the landfill? (That’s what did the last one in.)
Salesman: “You know, this upholstery is stain resistant.”
That will help, because have you ever seen what happens when a nine-year-old bets her sisters she can eat her age in bananas, three miles down the road after super-sizing a meal at McBurgers?
Salesman: “You look like a man who wants to keep up with the “now” generation.”
Like, “now” I have to make this car payment, now I have to pay the dentist, the doctor, the….
Salesman: “Let’s go over and look at something else.”
Is it a ’55 Chevy?