Monday, November 26, 2007

Drivin' Wheel


The car has become an essential part of daily life for all but the most hardcore urban dweller. More than just a means of getting around, the automobile has become a status symbol, mobile workplace, concert hall, and movie theater. For many, their car is an expression of their personality, either real or wishful projection. Men tend to have a special affinity for their cars. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, than cars must be a boy’s.

Everyone has fond memories of their very their first car. Mine was an old Pontiac with a hood as big as a football field. I swear you could have fit twelve hormone-filled teenagers on the big bench seats in that thing. Most of my friends drove souped-up muscle cars. They spent most of their free time tuning and trying to squeeze a little more horsepower out of those massive V8s. I was never much of a gearhead as a teen, but I was too poor to pay a mechanic to properly fix that old wreck of mine, so I learned how to keep it running myself.

During the first gas crunch of the early ‘70s I couldn’t afford to fill the tank in that big old Pontiac and I sure couldn't afford one of those new little Japanese cars that got much better mileage, either. I bought an old VW with a blown engine from the scrapyard and a few weeks later found a matching engine to marry with it.

While my wife has always had a late model car to drive, I have driven old junkers. For the past twenty-some years I have been driving old Volvos. You can always pick up an old 240 for next to nothing, they seem to last forever and when they do require some attention, they are easy to work on. For a few years I was buying old Volvos, fixing them up while driving them, and then selling them for a profit when I’d found another project. My wife, being the smarter half of this partnership, said that if I was going to drive an old piece of junk, I ought to get something that was unique. It wasn’t long after that I found a 1970 Volvo 1800E rusting away in a field. I bought that hulk of a car for $600. That was eighteen years ago and I’m still driving it. Two years ago our younger son bought a 1968 Volvo 122S. I guess it runs in the family.

Ever since Henry Ford made automobiles affordable for everyone, the car has become part of our way of life. And part of our music as well.

John Sebastian and the J Band - Got No Automobile.mp3

Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band - Chevrolet.mp3

Sam McGee - Chevrolet Car.mp3

KC Douglas - Mercury Boogie.mp3

Uncle Dave Macon - On The Dixie Bee Line (In The Henry Ford Of Mine).mp3

Billy Jack Wills - Cadillac In Model A.mp3

Woody Guthrie - Car Song.mp3

6 Comments:

Anonymous Richard said...

You've dragged me kicking, smiling, and screaming back to the days of my 'learning experiences' with automotive products ... very first car was a light blue 1962 Lincoln with the 'suicide doors' ... Loved that car ... when I traded it for my next one, a black '66 Lincoln, I looked in the rear-view mirror as I motored away and watched the salesman turn the key - the motor caught, and the old car was enveloped in a cloud of blue smoke ... I had 'coasted' to the lot 'cuz I didn't want 'em to see the smoke ... He got his revenge about a year later when I had to pull the heads on that sucker ... talk about heavy ...

My absolute all-time favorite was a '77 Lincoln PimpMobile, black over silver with a half rag-top ... I kept that car so long that the paint disappeared from the numbers on the odometer ... Made a left turn one morning and, as I watched, the clearcoat just lifted off the hood and fenders like so much dandruff in the sun ... wish I coulda heard the drivers behind me ... Where the roof met the body was so rusted out from the vinyl holding water that every time I made a turn, I was always ready for the roof and the body to part company ... no small wonder that my mechanic always asked me if I was ready for 'a gallon of gas and a match' whenever I drove it in ...

It finally refused to go one night as I left work - went backward just fine, but forward was somewhat more problematic ... I only found that out AFTER I had gotten on the road, tho' ... I donated that car to the Salvation Army, and since then have donated two more to 'em ... I'll do that with every car in the future 'cuz those folks were mighty damned helpful after Hurricane Katrina ... But I sho' nuff did love me some PimpMobile days ...

November 27, 2007 11:09 AM  
Blogger Jim H. said...

Richard: Great story!

My 2nd car was a DKW (circa 1960) -- a teeny little front-wheel drive from Germany (the name stood for Die Kleine Wunder). It had a three cylinder engine. I tried to put a radio in it and ended up frying the entire electrical system. My dad still wonders why I didn't ask for his help.

Ed: Wonderful song choices! A local independent station (KFAI) used to have an annual 'auto erotic' song festival, playing car songs all day. Fun.

November 27, 2007 9:28 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Richard,
I knew a few of the riders on the Bus would be old car guys!
Your adventures with Lincolns prove what I have long known about us old car guys. They may not let us down often, but when they do we take it in stride. I drive a 38 year old car every day. On the rare occasion when it has left me on the side of the road, I figure it deserves the attention. I can usually get it home with a few minor adjustments.

I’d bet that you wish you had that ’62 with the suicide doors today.

November 27, 2007 10:46 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Jim,
There was a three cylinder DKW at the Richmond Euro Car show on Brown’s Island this past summer. You sure don’t see them often! I took a few good photos of it; I’ll have to see where I put them.

Thanks for the kind words about the musical selections. The ‘auto-erotic’ song fest on KFAI sounds like a great day of music. You are lucky to have a local independent radio station, they are a rare breed nowadays.

November 27, 2007 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Is the KC Douglas the original version of "Mercury Boogie" and "Mercury Blues"? I've heard so many versions of this great song, and each sounds equally good. And Ed, just like you I have driven junkers forever, while my wife has driven the newest. She's always pissed, because my car is the best in terms of dependability. It just don't look so pertty.

November 29, 2007 7:14 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Dan, That's how it is at our house. My wife drives a '99 while I have a '70, my daughter a '89, one son a '75, and the other son a '68. The wifes '99 requires the most maintenance.

November 29, 2007 7:48 PM  

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