Hey Wally, when did you learn so much about cars?
Gosh Beav, don’t you know as soon as a guy turns 16, he automatically knows everything about cars.
I never got the “car bug.” Not in a big way, anyway. Had slot cars as a pre-teen (although our cars didn’t go NEARLY this fast) and loved them. Around 15, I tried to get into all the arcane differences between The Judge GTO and a blown 426 hemi , but I never really “got it.”
I even remember pouring over Car & Driver and Road & Track mags (with my best friend Tom Gandy) like they were engineering porn. (This was a year or so before girls’ breasts became the only headlights of real interest.)
The thing was, I never really understood a 4-barrel carburetor, and didn’t care to learn. I faked my way through a few years of high school pretending to be like Wally Cleaver debating the merits of STP (remember Andy Granatelli?) radial tires or Hurst shifters, but fundamentally, I knew I was out of my league with the guys (like Tom and my brother Brett) who really loved deciphering what was going on (good or bad) under one of those giant metal hoods.
Funny thing though, even though I’m a mechanical bozo, cars always did fascinate me. I love the look of a vintage Corvette (yep, my dad even owned one at one time), and remember the thrill of working through the gears of the XKE Jag the old man brought home for an entire weekend test drive. (Do they still do THAT anymore?) He bought the Vette instead.
My mother’s 1970 Chrysler Imperial was the Queen Mary on wheels, and I loved everything about it, too, from the insane oversteer, to the 8-track tape deck.
Another oddball admission: I love the SoCal Mexican-American/Chicanx car culture, and consider it one of the most thoroughly American forms of artistic expression. I am constitutionally incapable of seeing a lowrider without being awestruck by all their religious, cross-cultural and candy-colored majesty. I look as out of place as a hillbilly in a synagogue when I’m walking among them, but to me, a Chicano car convention is as interesting as the Louvre.
So, I guess I’m conflicted about automobiles. I know just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to call myself a car lover or “enthusiast.” But I’ve never cared enough to attach much importance to the ones I’ve owned. And I still wouldn’t know a four-barrel carb if it bit me on my manifold.
THE CARS I HAVE OWNED:
1969 JAVELIN 3-speed manual – bought brand new for me by my folks — similar, but not as racy as the one above. I thought I was quite the stud in high school when I drove it. Totaled by my brother within months of me going off to college. The first car I had sex in. On December 31, 1969, if anyone’s interested.
FIAT 128 (Fix It Again Tony) – (Pictured at top of page as I was about to drive it from Winter Park, Florida to Danbury, Connecticut, in August, 1972.) l loved my little Fiat…I loved it even though it was about as reliable as a slot junkie with a drug problem. I loved it even after it caught on fire, in the middle of the night, on a freeway, at 70 mph, with my wife and baby inside. I think I had sex with my first ex-wife (pre-baby) in this car at a drive-in movie theater. As usual with sex in cars, it was an awkward but totally satisfying three minutes of my life.
CADILLAC Sedan de Ville – 1963 powder blue – totaled by an old fart who drove into it while it was parked on a street while I was in a library studying for law exams. (This is a recurring theme in my life with cars, as you’ll see below.) Sold for junk for $500 – and I had to drive it seven miles in first gear (top speed: 10 mph) to get it to the junkyard. You could’ve had sex with 15 people in the back of this beast, but alas, I was too busy with law school.
Absolutely shitty 1971 CHEVY Truck – the body literally was decomposing as you drove it. No sex. Not in the truck anyway.
Even shittier 1969 pale green FORD Galaxy 500 sedan – nicknamed “Lurch”, since you could read War and Peace between the time you pressed on the accelerator and it staggered forward.
DATSUN Maxima Diesel – solid car, engine sounded like a hamster on a flywheel with a 3 pound bucket of bolts. Generic Japanese but reliable.
PEUGEOT 1985 505 – best car I ever owned (above) – light in the ass but handled great, also had the most comfortable seats ever. The car in which I drove baby Hugh – #2 son Alex Curtas – home from the hospital.)
PEUGEOT 505 Station Wagon – lost in a divorce (sigh). For what this ex- had to put up with, she deserved more than just a car.
Some big ass MERCURY sedan that looked like a cop car and handled like a tank that I took off my partner’s hands because I couldn’t afford anything during the aforementioned divorce. Nailed in a parking lot where I was either grocery shopping or trolling for sex in a nearby tavern (forgot which). Whatever….the repairs weren’t worth it so traded it in for a…
Dark brown MERCURY Cougar – WTF was it with me and Mercurys in the early 90s? Was the color of shit. Looked like shit, drove like shit, too. The doors were the size of an airplane wing and took a weightlifter to open. Still remember chopping cocaine on the console with whatever bimbo-du-jour I was dating back then.
VOLKSWAGEN Passat – bright red, sorta cool and very quick, all I remember about it was the automatic seat belts, and I thought I was hot shit for the three years I drove it. (I wasn’t.) Memories are vague of front-seat diddling with some den mother of my son’s Cub Scout troop who was cheating on her husband. Good times.
Some 2-door, 2-tone, low-profile, piece-of-shit CHRYSLER Sebring that pretended to be a sports car but wasn’t (the closest I ever got to a car as a penile extender). This is the car I was driving when I went through my last divorce and partied like a rock star for a couple of years. No sex in it that I can recall, which is odd since I would’ve had sex with a mailbox in 1999.
CADILLAC Catera – nice when it worked; heavy small sedan; went through 5 batteries in 4 years. The Food Gal® and I had some great early necking sessions in the front seat, but I don’t think we ever drifted into horizontal mambo territory.
ACURA – the early Acuras (late 80s to early 2000s) were almost perfect cars…then they started making them in America. Hit in parking lot without me in car, minor damage. My 94 year old mother is still driving her 1990 Acura Legend (below).
ACURA – rear-ended once…with me in the car, minor damage; great for first 3 years; once it hit 36,000 miles everything started falling apart (overheated, brakes, fuel pump). Actual, driving proof of how much better Japanese cars were when they were made in Japan, not Alabama. Creamed in a parking lot while I was getting a pizza….sold to CarMax for $4,000.
HYUNDAI – 4-door generic sedan with all the sex appeal of Tilda Swinton – sold to CarMax 3 years ago for what I paid for it.
The Tally Sheet
50 years of driving
1 speeding ticket (in 2014)
2 fender benders (one my fault, bumped a car in front of me, while depressed/stressed out over pending divorce – wrote him a check on the spot)
3 cars creamed while parked
4 sexmobiles, maybe more
Drunk drivings avoided? Too numerous to count.
(There’s an old saying in the law: The only people who’ve never driven drunk are those who either don’t drive, or don’t drink. I’ve never had a drinking problem, but imbibing to excess was a semi-regular thing for me in my 20s-40s – like it is for a lot of people. How I never got busted for being over the limit is a miracle, or just dumb luck. Either way, my drinking and driving days are in the rear view mirror.)
I haven’t owned a car in three years. Don’t anticipate ever buying another one. These days, I walk or LYFT it everywhere. Work is 2.4 miles from my house and I spend between $100-$200/month on LYFT rides. Even with that, The Food Gal® calculates a savings over around $6,000/year over what a car was costing us. Do I bank those savings? Hell no. (Remember: I’m the guy who used to chop lines of drugs on his dashboard. I may have grown up, but I’m still a sybarite at heart.) These days, I use the money to buy wine and plane tickets to Europe — much more fun and less overall aggravation…not to mention paranoia.
Do I miss having a huge, planet-killing hulk of a machine taking up space in a garage for 90% of its life? Sometimes. Cars are convenience; cars are freedom, whether for a jaunt to the store, or cheating on your spouse. But they’re expensive, time consuming and wasteful, and our planet can no longer afford them.
Cars can also be beautiful feats of engineering. But most of all, cars are fun, to drive, and..ahem…to do other things in.
But they’re also ecological nightmares, so it’s time we figured out another way to get where we’re going — whether it’s getting to work, getting the groceries, or getting your rocks off.
Take us home, Lou: