Pictures of cars I've owned from 1953 and'57 Dodges, two Volvo 122s, three Honda Accords, a Morris, and Olds, and two BMWs

My First: Tank

n

My first summer at Oyster Harbors Caddy Camp I was thirteen. I was slow to learn and reluctant to work, but with help of an older caddy, I finished strong and was voted u201cMost Improved Camper.u201d I learned to hustle, earned respect from the caddy-master and older caddies and earned $250 net after the $45/week room and board, more than the other u201cfirst years.u201d

n

My second summer didnu2019t go as well. I expected to pick-up where I left off, but everyone was new and starting over wasnu2019t easy. Then I got hit in the head when a lady hit a five iron shot into our foursome. I lost a week, while they woke me constantly to u201cmake sure I wasnu2019t dead,u201d the staffu2019s joke about checking for concussion. Next I got bronchitis. I went home for two weeks, where I would have gladly stayed, but the camp was still charging me $45/week. So I went back and really hustled to dig out of the $135 hole created by lost time.

n

I netted $50 for the whole summer. Maybe my dad felt bad for me. He wanted me to learn to work, which I did, but even he was annoyed when the camp made no concession for injury and illness. u00a0Mr. Antonini, from Dadu2019s work, u00a0sold me my first car for $25 – u201crunning – not worth much. He doesnu2019t want to junk it.u201d

n

It was a 1953 Dodge Coronet four-door sedan, with a 241 cubic inch Red Ram V8. Later, as I learned what a gas gauge was by hand-pushing the car, I called it u201cTank.u201d

n

Tank was two-tone turquois and white with a brown plastic and fabric interior. It had a Gyromatic transmission, a cross between stick and automatic, where you used the clutch for first and third gear, but shifted between first and second and third and overdrive by releasing the gas pedal.

n

I was fourteen, so for two years I just took the engine apart and put it back together and gave our driveway a coat of rubber, popping the clutch and u201cpeeling out.u201d

n

The summer I was fifteen my dad bought a new car. He taught u201cthe boy about buying a caru201d and I had some input to selection of the 1963 Pontiac Tempest, black with red bucket seats, and u201cfour-on-the-floor, (a four speed manual transmission with floor mounted gearshift). It also had (optional) seat-belts, my idea, u201clike race-car drivers.u201d

n

I got my license on my sixteenth birthday. My father taught me how to drive when I was twelve, and had me practicing parallel parking on our 30% grade driveway for years so when the instructor had me parallel park on a hill at the end of my test, I aced it.

n

u201cGreat!u201d The trooper said, u201cLetu2019s go back and write this. . . Watch it!u201d u00a0Elated I enthusiastically started pulling out and almost crashed into a car coming up the hill. I hung my head.

n

u201cWould you rather have your license of your life?u201d

n

u201cMy life.u201d

n

I was resigned to taking the test again. But the trooper took pity on me and gave me my license with a stern warning to look before pulling out. Now almost sixty years later, I still do, (mostly).

n

I drove the family car. I had a job and saved to insure my car. Then I wrecked the family car, learning about the snowplow skid on front-wheel-drive cars. Seat belts saved my life.

n

u201cPut your car on the road,u201d Dad said.

n

I did and began my love affair with car-owning freedom. I drove to school and hung out in the gearhead parking lot, until someone called the cops to roust us.. I drove to the beach and learned about vapor lock where the fuel boils in the carburetor and the vapor prevents gas from getting to the cylinders. I traveled with cooler ice and a towel to cool the carb.

n

I learned that $2 tires from the Gulf stationu2019s used tire rack were worth the extra buck over the $1 ones. I learned that power-line right-of-way paths arenu2019t good for car exhaust systems and not to u201cgo parkingu201d on woodsy dirt roads after a big rain. I observed the white smoke of a blown head gasket is different from the black smoke of an engine badly needing a valve job.

n

And I learned that even old friends like Tank, age to where it just isnu2019t worth the money and time to do major work on a $25 car.

n

Red Wing

n

Then along came Red Wing, a 1957 Dodge, red and white fin-car with a hemi V8, before it was called a hemi, and a pushbutton Torqueflite transmission. The car was huge.

n

u201cWhy look at this back seat! You could just lie down on it,u201du00a0 she said, but she never did.

n

The name Red Wing came from my motheru2019s friend from whom I bought her. I took stick about the name, which described her red fins not Detroitu2019s hockey team, but these were days of the Esposito and Orr Boston Bruins and few believed me.

n

Red Wing and I drove everywhere: school, u00a0work, dates, ski trips, beach trips, just-because trips. I was still on a u201cCinderella pumpkin license,u201d not able to drive after midnight until eighteen.

n

I mostly obeyed that rule, except once. We went to see Ellie and Les in Ogunquit Maine and I asked my father to stay so I wouldnu2019t have to drive after midnight.

n

u201cNo.u201d

n

My friend Ben and I were changing Red Wingu2019s left rear tire at about 12:30 a.m. when the army of State troopers and National Guard drove up. We were sure we were busted, but they drove on to quell the Hampton Beach New Hampshire riots, Labor Day weekend 1964.

n

I sold Red Wing for almost what I paid for her and went to college where I had no car and drove a Vespa to my ice cream factory summer job the next year.

n

Family Cars

n

I didnu2019t get a car again until 1970. Married then, I bought my first 1967 Volvo 122 red, a fun car to drive. My then wife learned how to drive on that car, but before her test I made her drive with my mother in the 1967 baby blue VW bug.

n

u201cWhy.u201d

n

u201cBecause theyu2019ll fail you on your language alone!u201d

n

Ultimately Kirsten bought her own car, a red 1965 Volve 544 turtle-back and I bought another 122, dark green with saddle brown leather seats.

n

In 1977 we bought our first new car, with our first car loan, a silver 1977 Honda Accord. My father-in-law, who had been WWII US support troops for the RAF in the Burma War was disgusted.

n

u201cI fought those bastards for four years and now youu2019re buying cars from them.u201d

n

The Little Samurai sloughed off his insults and I sold it along with everything else we owned to go to business school in London. The 1971 Morris 1100 Mark II we bought in the second year made many trips with our by then three children – still no car seats. I thought a trip to Bath would take an hour because thatu2019s what it took on the train. I didnu2019t realize that the British Rail 125 was so named because it went 125 miles per hour – oops.

n

When we came back I bought a used u201979 Honda Accord, which a Pittsburgh truck ran over teaching me that whiplash is real. I replaced it with a new silver Accord. Family cars werenu2019t named.

n

My Hot Rod

n

The 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais International Series, Quad Four with four-on-the-floor, black on black with spoiler was called u201cAlanu2019s hot rodu201d by others.. I ordered it through the GM supplier program when GM clients gave me Grief aboutu00a0 my u201crice burner.u201d

n

I drove the Olds for ten years. My son learned to drive on it and used it while I travelled with the stipulation that he drove me to and picked me up from the airport and left me with a full tank of gas. Iu2019m told that Zac learned about gas gauges being hand-pushed out of the Fort Pitt tunnel by a friendly motorist. I gave him the car for art school graduation and my friend Anil and I had an excellent adventure driving it from Pittsburgh to Seattle. Zac learned that maintenance cost and new artist income donu2019t mix and donated the hot rod a year later

n

Car Again?

n

My second bride and I moved to New York City and didnu2019t own a car for seven years until we moved to New Jersey. I then bought a silver 2003 BMW 530I, which I named Brunhilda after the Valkyrie. When she was eighteen years old I finally let Brunhilda go to a new home and bought Die Liebele, the dragonfly, a 2018 BMW 330ix, her name a reference to the E90u2019s light-darty steering and turbo-charged acceleration compared to the E39u2019s limo-sports-car ride.

n

Thatu2019s my history with automobiles. Like many Boomers I grew up with cars. I still prefer cars to trucks, even SUVs. Unlike many where I live I havenu2019t yet succumbed to electric vehicles. Iu2019m a late adopter and will probably buy a hybrid first and that only after we stop producing electricity with coal.

n

American culture is built around the automobile. We have road trip movies, songs, TV shows and cartoons where cars talk and many car ads, though automotive advertising spend dropped from third place in 2017 to eighth in 2022.

n

I love cars, love the freedom. As this piece shows my life has been lived with, if not defined by, cars. I enjoy driving, though long road trips are less fun now that my bladder and back insist on more frequent relief than they used to require.

n

However I do wonder what my life would have been like if I lived somewhere where public transportation was available like it was in New York City. What if we lived in a country that had investedu00a0 money in high-speed rail service, or one that built its highways like Germany, on a deeper bed, with more cement and less asphalt, so autobahns last longer.

n

Do you think that itu2019s possible for the United States to change its love affair with the automobile?

n

Should we even consider it?

n

 

n

* u201cEvery woman I know is crazy u2018bout an automobileu201d song by Ry Cooder

“,”tablet”:”

My First: Tank

n

My first summer at Oyster Harbors Caddy Camp I was thirteen. I was slow to learn and reluctant to work, but with help of an older caddy, I finished strong and was voted u201cMost Improved Camper.u201d I learned to hustle, earned respect from the caddy-master and older caddies and earned $250 net after the $45/week room and board, more than the other u201cfirst years.u201d

n

My second summer didnu2019t go as well. I expected to pick-up where I left off, but everyone was new and starting over wasnu2019t easy. Then I got hit in the head when a lady hit a five iron shot into our foursome. I lost a week, while they woke me constantly to u201cmake sure I wasnu2019t dead,u201d the staffu2019s joke about checking for concussion. Next I got bronchitis. I went home for two weeks, where I would have gladly stayed, but the camp was still charging me $45/week. So I went back and really hustled to dig out of the $135 hole created by lost time.

n

I netted $50 for the whole summer. Maybe my dad felt bad for me. He wanted me to learn to work, which I did, but even he was annoyed when the camp made no concession for injury and illness. Mr. Antonini, from Dadu2019s work, sold me my first car for $25 – u201crunning – not worth much. He doesnu2019t want to junk it.u201d

n

It was a 1953 Dodge Coronet four-door sedan, with a 241 cubic inch Red Ram V8. Later, as I learned what a gas gauge was by hand-pushing the car, I called it u201cTank.u201d

n

Tank was two-tone turquois and white with a brown plastic and fabric interior. It had a Gyromatic transmission, a cross between stick and automatic, where you used the clutch for first and third gear, but shifted between first and second and third and overdrive by releasing the gas pedal.

n

I was fourteen, so for two years I just took the engine apart and put it back together and gave our driveway a coat of rubber, popping the clutch and u201cpeeling out.u201d

n

The summer I was fifteen my dad bought a new car. He taught u201cthe boy about buying a caru201d and I had some input to selection of the 1963 Pontiac Tempest, black with red bucket seats, and u201cfour-on-the-floor, (a four speed manual transmission with floor mounted gearshift). It also had (optional) seat-belts, my idea, u201clike race-car drivers.u201d

n

I got my license on my sixteenth birthday. My father taught me how to drive when I was twelve, and had me practicing parallel parking on our 30% grade driveway for years so when the instructor had me parallel park on a hill at the end of my test, I aced it.

n

u201cGreat!u201d The trooper said, u201cLetu2019s go back and write this. . . Watch it!u201d Elated I enthusiastically started pulling out and almost crashed into a car coming up the hill. I hung my head.

n

u201cWould you rather have your license of your life?u201d

n

u201cMy life.u201d

n

I was resigned to taking the test again. But the trooper took pity on me and gave me my license with a stern warning to look before pulling out. Now almost sixty years later, I still do, (mostly).

n

I drove the family car. I had a job and saved to insure my car. Then I wrecked the family car, learning about the snowplow skid on front-wheel-drive cars. Seat belts saved my life.

n

u201cPut your car on the road,u201d Dad said.

n

I did and began my love affair with car-owning freedom. I drove to school and hung out in the gearhead parking lot, until someone called the cops to roust us.. I drove to the beach and learned about vapor lock where the fuel boils in the carburetor and the vapor prevents gas from getting to the cylinders. I traveled with cooler ice and a towel to cool the carb.

n

I learned that $2 tires from the Gulf stationu2019s used tire rack were worth the extra buck over the $1 ones. I learned that power-line right-of-way paths arenu2019t good for car exhaust systems and not to u201cgo parkingu201d on woodsy dirt roads after a big rain. I observed the white smoke of a blown head gasket is different from the black smoke of an engine badly needing a valve job.

n

And I learned that even old friends like Tank, age to where it just isnu2019t worth the money and time to do major work on a $25 car.

n

Red Wing

n

Then along came Red Wing, a 1957 Dodge, red and white fin-car with a hemi V8, before it was called a hemi, and a pushbutton Torqueflite transmission. The car was huge.

n

u201cWhy look at this back seat! You could just lie down on it,u201d she said, but she never did.

n

The name Red Wing came from my motheru2019s friend from whom I bought her. I took stick about the name, which described her red fins not Detroitu2019s hockey team, but these were days of the Esposito and Orr Boston Bruins and few believed me.

n

Red Wing and I drove everywhere: school, work, dates, ski trips, beach trips, just-because trips. I was still on a u201cCinderella pumpkin license,u201d not able to drive after midnight until eighteen.

n

I mostly obeyed that rule, except once. We went to see Ellie and Les in Ogunquit Maine and I asked my father to stay so I wouldnu2019t have to drive after midnight.

n

u201cNo.u201d

n

My friend Ben and I were changing Red Wingu2019s left rear tire at about 12:30 a.m. when the army of State troopers and National Guard drove up. We were sure we were busted, but they drove on to quell the Hampton Beach New Hampshire riots, Labor Day weekend 1964.

n

I sold Red Wing for almost what I paid for her and went to college where I had no car and drove a Vespa to my ice cream factory summer job the next year.

n

Family Cars

n

I didnu2019t get a car again until 1970. Married then, I bought my first 1967 Volvo 122 red, a fun car to drive. My then wife learned how to drive on that car, but before her test I made her drive with my mother in the 1967 baby blue VW bug.

n

u201cWhy.u201d

n

u201cBecause theyu2019ll fail you on your language alone!u201d

n

Ultimately Kirsten bought her own car, a red 1965 Volve 544 turtle-back and I bought another 122, dark green with saddle brown leather seats.

n

In 1977 we bought our first new car, with our first car loan, a silver 1977 Honda Accord. My father-in-law, who had been WWII US support troops for the RAF in the Burma War was disgusted.

n

u201cI fought those bastards for four years and now youu2019re buying cars from them.u201d

n

The Little Samurai sloughed off his insults and I sold it along with everything else we owned to go to business school in London. The 1971 Morris 1100 Mark II we bought in the second year made many trips with our by then three children – still no car seats. I thought a trip to Bath would take an hour because thatu2019s what it took on the train. I didnu2019t realize that the British Rail 125 was so named because it went 125 miles per hour – oops.

n

When we came back I bought a used u201979 Honda Accord, which a Pittsburgh truck ran over teaching me that whiplash is real. I replaced it with a new silver Accord. Family cars werenu2019t named.

n

My Hot Rod

n

The 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais International Series, Quad Four with four-on-the-floor, black on black with spoiler was called u201cAlanu2019s hot rodu201d by others.. I ordered it through the GM supplier program when GM clients gave me Grief about my u201crice burner.u201d

n

I drove the Olds for ten years. My son learned to drive on it and used it while I travelled with the stipulation that he drove me to and picked me up from the airport and left me with a full tank of gas. Iu2019m told that Zac learned about gas gauges being hand-pushed out of the Fort Pitt tunnel by a friendly motorist. I gave him the car for art school graduation and my friend Anil and I had an excellent adventure driving it from Pittsburgh to Seattle. Zac learned that maintenance cost and new artist income donu2019t mix and donated the hot rod a year later

n

Car Again?

n

My second bride and I moved to New York City and didnu2019t own a car for seven years until we moved to New Jersey. I then bought a silver 2003 BMW 530I, which I named Brunhilda after the Valkyrie. When she was eighteen years old I finally let Brunhilda go to a new home and bought Die Liebele, the dragonfly, a 2018 BMW 330ix, her name a reference to the E90u2019s light-darty steering and turbo-charged acceleration compared to the E39u2019s limo-sports-car ride.

n

Thatu2019s my history with automobiles. Like many Boomers I grew up with cars. I still prefer cars to trucks, even SUVs. Unlike many where I live I havenu2019t yet succumbed to electric vehicles. Iu2019m a late adopter and will probably buy a hybrid first and that only after we stop producing electricity with coal.

n

American culture is built around the automobile. We have road trip movies, songs, TV shows and cartoons where cars talk and many car ads, though automotive advertising spend dropped from third place in 2017 to eighth in 2022.

n

I love cars, love the freedom. As this piece shows my life has been lived with, if not defined by, cars. I enjoy driving, though long road trips are less fun now that my bladder and back insist on more frequent relief than they used to require.

n

However I do wonder what my life would have been like if I lived somewhere where public transportation was available like it was in New York City. What if we lived in a country that had invested money in high-speed rail service, or one that built its highways like Germany, on a deeper bed, with more cement and less asphalt, so autobahns last longer.

n

Do you think that itu2019s possible for the United States to change its love affair with the automobile?

n

Should we even consider it?

n

 

n

* u201cEvery woman I know is crazy u2018bout an automobileu201d song by Ry Cooder

“,”phone”:”

n

My First: Tank

n

My first summer at Oyster Harbors Caddy Camp I was thirteen. I was slow to learn and reluctant to work, but with help of an older caddy, I finished strong and was voted u201cMost Improved Camper.u201d I learned to hustle, earned respect from the caddy-master and older caddies and earned $250 net after the $45/week room and board, more than the other u201cfirst years.u201d

n

My second summer didnu2019t go as well. I expected to pick-up where I left off, but everyone was new and starting over wasnu2019t easy. Then I got hit in the head when a lady hit a five iron shot into our foursome. I lost a week, while they woke me constantly to u201cmake sure I wasnu2019t dead,u201d the staffu2019s joke about checking for concussion. Next I got bronchitis. I went home for two weeks, where I would have gladly stayed, but the camp was still charging me $45/week. So I went back and really hustled to dig out of the $135 hole created by lost time.

n

I netted $50 for the whole summer. Maybe my dad felt bad for me. He wanted me to learn to work, which I did, but even he was annoyed when the camp made no concession for injury and illness. Mr. Antonini, from Dadu2019s work, sold me my first car for $25 – u201crunning – not worth much. He doesnu2019t want to junk it.u201d

n

It was a 1953 Dodge Coronet four-door sedan, with a 241 cubic inch Red Ram V8. Later, as I learned what a gas gauge was by hand-pushing the car, I called it u201cTank.u201d

n

Tank was two-tone turquois and white with a brown plastic and fabric interior. It had a Gyromatic transmission, a cross between stick and automatic, where you used the clutch for first and third gear, but shifted between first and second and third and overdrive by releasing the gas pedal.

n

I was fourteen, so for two years I just took the engine apart and put it back together and gave our driveway a coat of rubber, popping the clutch and u201cpeeling out.u201d

n

The summer I was fifteen my dad bought a new car. He taught u201cthe boy about buying a caru201d and I had some input to selection of the 1963 Pontiac Tempest, black with red bucket seats, and u201cfour-on-the-floor, (a four speed manual transmission with floor mounted gearshift). It also had (optional) seat-belts, my idea, u201clike race-car drivers.u201d

n

I got my license on my sixteenth birthday. My father taught me how to drive when I was twelve, and had me practicing parallel parking on our 30% grade driveway for years so when the instructor had me parallel park on a hill at the end of my test, I aced it.

n

u201cGreat!u201d The trooper said, u201cLetu2019s go back and write this. . . Watch it!u201d Elated I enthusiastically started pulling out and almost crashed into a car coming up the hill. I hung my head.

n

u201cWould you rather have your license of your life?u201d

n

u201cMy life.u201d

n

I was resigned to taking the test again. But the trooper took pity on me and gave me my license with a stern warning to look before pulling out. Now almost sixty years later, I still do, (mostly).

n

I drove the family car. I had a job and saved to insure my car. Then I wrecked the family car, learning about the snowplow skid on front-wheel-drive cars. Seat belts saved my life.

n

u201cPut your car on the road,u201d Dad said.

n

I did and began my love affair with car-owning freedom. I drove to school and hung out in the gearhead parking lot, until someone called the cops to roust us.. I drove to the beach and learned about vapor lock where the fuel boils in the carburetor and the vapor prevents gas from getting to the cylinders. I traveled with cooler ice and a towel to cool the carb.

n

I learned that $2 tires from the Gulf stationu2019s used tire rack were worth the extra buck over the $1 ones. I learned that power-line right-of-way paths arenu2019t good for car exhaust systems and not to u201cgo parkingu201d on woodsy dirt roads after a big rain. I observed the white smoke of a blown head gasket is different from the black smoke of an engine badly needing a valve job.

n

And I learned that even old friends like Tank, age to where it just isnu2019t worth the money and time to do major work on a $25 car.

n

Red Wing

n

Then along came Red Wing, a 1957 Dodge, red and white fin-car with a hemi V8, before it was called a hemi, and a pushbutton Torqueflite transmission. The car was huge.

n

u201cWhy look at this back seat! You could just lie down on it,u201d she said, but she never did.

n

The name Red Wing came from my motheru2019s friend from whom I bought her. I took stick about the name, which described her red fins not Detroitu2019s hockey team, but these were days of the Esposito and Orr Boston Bruins and few believed me.

n

Red Wing and I drove everywhere: school, work, dates, ski trips, beach trips, just-because trips. I was still on a u201cCinderella pumpkin license,u201d not able to drive after midnight until eighteen.

n

I mostly obeyed that rule, except once. We went to see Ellie and Les in Ogunquit Maine and I asked my father to stay so I wouldnu2019t have to drive after midnight.

n

u201cNo.u201d

n

My friend Ben and I were changing Red Wingu2019s left rear tire at about 12:30 a.m. when the army of State troopers and National Guard drove up. We were sure we were busted, but they drove on to quell the Hampton Beach New Hampshire riots, Labor Day weekend 1964.

n

I sold Red Wing for almost what I paid for her and went to college where I had no car and drove a Vespa to my ice cream factory summer job the next year.

n

Family Cars

n

I didnu2019t get a car again until 1970. Married then, I bought my first 1967 Volvo 122 red, a fun car to drive. My then wife learned how to drive on that car, but before her test I made her drive with my mother in the 1967 baby blue VW bug.

n

u201cWhy.u201d

n

u201cBecause theyu2019ll fail you on your language alone!u201d

n

Ultimately Kirsten bought her own car, a red 1965 Volve 544 turtle-back and I bought another 122, dark green with saddle brown leather seats.

n

In 1977 we bought our first new car, with our first car loan, a silver 1977 Honda Accord. My father-in-law, who had been WWII US support troops for the RAF in the Burma War was disgusted.

n

u201cI fought those bastards for four years and now youu2019re buying cars from them.u201d

n

The Little Samurai sloughed off his insults and I sold it along with everything else we owned to go to business school in London. The 1971 Morris 1100 Mark II we bought in the second year made many trips with our by then three children – still no car seats. I thought a trip to Bath would take an hour because thatu2019s what it took on the train. I didnu2019t realize that the British Rail 125 was so named because it went 125 miles per hour – oops.

n

When we came back I bought a used u201979 Honda Accord, which a Pittsburgh truck ran over teaching me that whiplash is real. I replaced it with a new silver Accord. Family cars werenu2019t named.

n

My Hot Rod

n

The 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais International Series, Quad Four with four-on-the-floor, black on black with spoiler was called u201cAlanu2019s hot rodu201d by others.. I ordered it through the GM supplier program when GM clients gave me Grief about my u201crice burner.u201d

n

I drove the Olds for ten years. My son learned to drive on it and used it while I travelled with the stipulation that he drove me to and picked me up from the airport and left me with a full tank of gas. Iu2019m told that Zac learned about gas gauges being hand-pushed out of the Fort Pitt tunnel by a friendly motorist. I gave him the car for art school graduation and my friend Anil and I had an excellent adventure driving it from Pittsburgh to Seattle. Zac learned that maintenance cost and new artist income donu2019t mix and donated the hot rod a year later

n

Car Again?

n

My second bride and I moved to New York City and didnu2019t own a car for seven years until we moved to New Jersey. I then bought a silver 2003 BMW 530I, which I named Brunhilda after the Valkyrie. When she was eighteen years old I finally let Brunhilda go to a new home and bought Die Liebele, the dragonfly, a 2018 BMW 330ix, her name a reference to the E90u2019s light-darty steering and turbo-charged acceleration compared to the E39u2019s limo-sports-car ride.

n

Thatu2019s my history with automobiles. Like many Boomers I grew up with cars. I still prefer cars to trucks, even SUVs. Unlike many where I live I havenu2019t yet succumbed to electric vehicles. Iu2019m a late adopter and will probably buy a hybrid first and that only after we stop producing electricity with coal.

n

American culture is built around the automobile. We have road trip movies, songs, TV shows and cartoons where cars talk and many car ads, though automotive advertising spend dropped from third place in 2017 to eighth in 2022.

n

I love cars, love the freedom. As this piece shows my life has been lived with, if not defined by, cars. I enjoy driving, though long road trips are less fun now that my bladder and back insist on more frequent relief than they used to require.

n

However I do wonder what my life would have been like if I lived somewhere where public transportation was available like it was in New York City. What if we lived in a country that had invested money in high-speed rail service, or one that built its highways like Germany, on a deeper bed, with more cement and less asphalt, so autobahns last longer.

n

Do you think that itu2019s possible for the United States to change its love affair with the automobile?

n

Should we even consider it?

n

 

n

* u201cEvery woman I know is crazy u2018bout an automobileu201d song by Ry Cooder

n

 

“}},”slug”:”et_pb_text”}” data-et-multi-view-load-tablet-hidden=”true” data-et-multi-view-load-phone-hidden=”true”>

My First: Tank

My first summer at Oyster Harbors Caddy Camp I was thirteen. I was slow to learn and reluctant to work, but with help of an older caddy, I finished strong and was voted “Most Improved Camper.” I learned to hustle, earned respect from the caddy-master and older caddies and earned $250 net after the $45/week room and board, more than the other “first years.”

My second summer didn’t go as well. I expected to pick-up where I left off, but everyone was new and starting over wasn’t easy. Then I got hit in the head when a lady hit a five iron shot into our foursome. I lost a week, while they woke me constantly to “make sure I wasn’t dead,” the staff’s joke about checking for concussion. Next I got bronchitis. I went home for two weeks, where I would have gladly stayed, but the camp was still charging me $45/week. So I went back and really hustled to dig out of the $135 hole created by lost time.

I netted $50 for the whole summer. Maybe my dad felt bad for me. He wanted me to learn to work, which I did, but even he was annoyed when the camp made no concession for injury and illness.  Mr. Antonini, from Dad’s work,  sold me my first car for $25 – “running – not worth much. He doesn’t want to junk it.”

It was a 1953 Dodge Coronet four-door sedan, with a 241 cubic inch Red Ram V8. Later, as I learned what a gas gauge was by hand-pushing the car, I called it “Tank.”

Tank was two-tone turquois and white with a brown plastic and fabric interior. It had a Gyromatic transmission, a cross between stick and automatic, where you used the clutch for first and third gear, but shifted between first and second and third and overdrive by releasing the gas pedal.

I was fourteen, so for two years I just took the engine apart and put it back together and gave our driveway a coat of rubber, popping the clutch and “peeling out.”

The summer I was fifteen my dad bought a new car. He taught “the boy about buying a car” and I had some input to selection of the 1963 Pontiac Tempest, black with red bucket seats, and “four-on-the-floor, (a four speed manual transmission with floor mounted gearshift). It also had (optional) seat-belts, my idea, “like race-car drivers.”

I got my license on my sixteenth birthday. My father taught me how to drive when I was twelve, and had me practicing parallel parking on our 30% grade driveway for years so when the instructor had me parallel park on a hill at the end of my test, I aced it.

“Great!” The trooper said, “Let’s go back and write this. . . Watch it!”  Elated I enthusiastically started pulling out and almost crashed into a car coming up the hill. I hung my head.

“Would you rather have your license of your life?”

“My life.”

I was resigned to taking the test again. But the trooper took pity on me and gave me my license with a stern warning to look before pulling out. Now almost sixty years later, I still do, (mostly).

I drove the family car. I had a job and saved to insure my car. Then I wrecked the family car, learning about the snowplow skid on front-wheel-drive cars. Seat belts saved my life.

“Put your car on the road,” Dad said.

I did and began my love affair with car-owning freedom. I drove to school and hung out in the gearhead parking lot, until someone called the cops to roust us.. I drove to the beach and learned about vapor lock where the fuel boils in the carburetor and the vapor prevents gas from getting to the cylinders. I traveled with cooler ice and a towel to cool the carb.

I learned that $2 tires from the Gulf station’s used tire rack were worth the extra buck over the $1 ones. I learned that power-line right-of-way paths aren’t good for car exhaust systems and not to “go parking” on woodsy dirt roads after a big rain. I observed the white smoke of a blown head gasket is different from the black smoke of an engine badly needing a valve job.

And I learned that even old friends like Tank, age to where it just isn’t worth the money and time to do major work on a $25 car.

Red Wing

Then along came Red Wing, a 1957 Dodge, red and white fin-car with a hemi V8, before it was called a hemi, and a pushbutton Torqueflite transmission. The car was huge.

“Why look at this back seat! You could just lie down on it,”  she said, but she never did.

The name Red Wing came from my mother’s friend from whom I bought her. I took stick about the name, which described her red fins not Detroit’s hockey team, but these were days of the Esposito and Orr Boston Bruins and few believed me.

Red Wing and I drove everywhere: school,  work, dates, ski trips, beach trips, just-because trips. I was still on a “Cinderella pumpkin license,” not able to drive after midnight until eighteen.

I mostly obeyed that rule, except once. We went to see Ellie and Les in Ogunquit Maine and I asked my father to stay so I wouldn’t have to drive after midnight.

“No.”

My friend Ben and I were changing Red Wing’s left rear tire at about 12:30 a.m. when the army of State troopers and National Guard drove up. We were sure we were busted, but they drove on to quell the Hampton Beach New Hampshire riots, Labor Day weekend 1964.

I sold Red Wing for almost what I paid for her and went to college where I had no car and drove a Vespa to my ice cream factory summer job the next year.

Family Cars

I didn’t get a car again until 1970. Married then, I bought my first 1967 Volvo 122 red, a fun car to drive. My then wife learned how to drive on that car, but before her test I made her drive with my mother in the 1967 baby blue VW bug.

“Why.”

“Because they’ll fail you on your language alone!”

Ultimately Kirsten bought her own car, a red 1965 Volve 544 turtle-back and I bought another 122, dark green with saddle brown leather seats.

In 1977 we bought our first new car, with our first car loan, a silver 1977 Honda Accord. My father-in-law, who had been WWII US support troops for the RAF in the Burma War was disgusted.

“I fought those bastards for four years and now you’re buying cars from them.”

The Little Samurai sloughed off his insults and I sold it along with everything else we owned to go to business school in London. The 1971 Morris 1100 Mark II we bought in the second year made many trips with our by then three children – still no car seats. I thought a trip to Bath would take an hour because that’s what it took on the train. I didn’t realize that the British Rail 125 was so named because it went 125 miles per hour – oops.

When we came back I bought a used ’79 Honda Accord, which a Pittsburgh truck ran over teaching me that whiplash is real. I replaced it with a new silver Accord. Family cars weren’t named.

My Hot Rod

The 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais International Series, Quad Four with four-on-the-floor, black on black with spoiler was called “Alan’s hot rod” by others.. I ordered it through the GM supplier program when GM clients gave me Grief about  my “rice burner.”

I drove the Olds for ten years. My son learned to drive on it and used it while I travelled with the stipulation that he drove me to and picked me up from the airport and left me with a full tank of gas. I’m told that Zac learned about gas gauges being hand-pushed out of the Fort Pitt tunnel by a friendly motorist. I gave him the car for art school graduation and my friend Anil and I had an excellent adventure driving it from Pittsburgh to Seattle. Zac learned that maintenance cost and new artist income don’t mix and donated the hot rod a year later

Car Again?

My second bride and I moved to New York City and didn’t own a car for seven years until we moved to New Jersey. I then bought a silver 2003 BMW 530I, which I named Brunhilda after the Valkyrie. When she was eighteen years old I finally let Brunhilda go to a new home and bought Die Liebele, the dragonfly, a 2018 BMW 330ix, her name a reference to the E90’s light-darty steering and turbo-charged acceleration compared to the E39’s limo-sports-car ride.

That’s my history with automobiles. Like many Boomers I grew up with cars. I still prefer cars to trucks, even SUVs. Unlike many where I live I haven’t yet succumbed to electric vehicles. I’m a late adopter and will probably buy a hybrid first and that only after we stop producing electricity with coal.

American culture is built around the automobile. We have road trip movies, songs, TV shows and cartoons where cars talk and many car ads, though automotive advertising spend dropped from third place in 2017 to eighth in 2022.

I love cars, love the freedom. As this piece shows my life has been lived with, if not defined by, cars. I enjoy driving, though long road trips are less fun now that my bladder and back insist on more frequent relief than they used to require.

However I do wonder what my life would have been like if I lived somewhere where public transportation was available like it was in New York City. What if we lived in a country that had invested  money in high-speed rail service, or one that built its highways like Germany, on a deeper bed, with more cement and less asphalt, so autobahns last longer.

Do you think that it’s possible for the United States to change its love affair with the automobile?

Should we even consider it?

 

* “Every woman I know is crazy ‘bout an automobile” song by Ry Cooder

The post Crazy ‘bout an Automobile* appeared first on Wisdom from Unusual Places.

Originally Published on https://wisdomfromunusualplaces.com/blog/

Alan Cay Culler Writer of Stories and Songs

I'm a writer.

Writing is my fourth career -actor, celebrity speakers booking agent, change consultant - and now writer.
I write stories about my experiences and what I've learned- in consulting for consultants, about change for leaders, and just working, loving and living wisely.

To be clear, I'm more wiseacre than wise man, but I'm at the front end of the Baby Boom so I've had a lot of opportunity to make mistakes. I made more than my share and even learned from some of them, so now I write them down in hopes that someone else might not have to make the same mistakes.

I have also made a habit of talking with ordinary people who have on occasion shared extraordinary wisdom.

Much of what I write about has to do with business because I was a strategic change consultant for thirty-seven years. My bias is that business is about people - called customers, staff, suppliers, shareholders or the community, but all human beings with hopes, and dreams, thoughts and emotions.. They didn't teach me that at the London Business School, nor even at Columbia University's Principles of Organization Development. I learned that first in my theater undergraduate degree, while observing people in order to portray a character.

Now I'm writing these observations in stories, shared here for other Baby Boomers and those who want to read about us.

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