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All I need's a fast machine...

Not that I have one. Even if I *can* make the Saturn push 85, it's just not the same.

But, this is both an essay and an exercise in web-image scavenger-hunting that I assembled for a board I'm on (all right, all right, it's a Canucks discussion board), and I was pleased enough with the exercise in nostalgia that I thought I'd put it here as a more durable respository.

This...is a sob-story.

This is the coolest car my family ever owned. A 1961 Buick Le Sabre 4-door sedan. This was the best picture of one I could find on the web. Only, picture the car in that classic robin's-egg blue color (pale aqua):

When I was small, this was my grandmother's car. I rode in it a lot; we used to spend summers with her at a beach house in New Jersey, and this was our only car for the summer. My older brother learned to drive in it . (He said it was a bitch -- not that he used those exact words -- because it didn't have power anything, so it drove like a tank.) When my grandmother died, we kept the car, for my brother to drive. (He was ten years my elder, so it'd be a while before I got to take the wheel. I loved the Le Sabre. Becaus the Le Sabre was actually a sedan, we took it on more family trips. We drove to Quebec City in it. (Where it helpfully broke down, on Easter Sunday, but that's another story.)

I don't actually recall what our family car was, if not the Le Sabre. I don't recall what we drove, before we inherited that car, and my father, for some godforsaken reason, bought a 1970 Dodge Polara convertible "coupe":

I hated that Polara. It was a terrifically ugly shade of 70s brown, with a white convertible roof, and a black interior. It wasn't comfortable at all, and it made me carsick (I think it was the smell of the closed top). I don't know what my father was thinking. Polaras were not really a very sexy car, even at the time. Other than this "sport" model, they are mainly known as the preferred cop car of many cities. If my father felt the need to be Steve McQueen, he could have made several much better choices. (I know that his great love and ambition was to own a Corvette Stingray, but I'm guessing he couldn't afford one, and didn't think one would be practical for transporting a family of four).

Then my father got laid off from work. And my brother got married. And I guess they figured a "classic" Buick would cost too much to keep up. (I've no idea what mileage those things got.) Before I had even turned 13, my parents (without consulting me, of course) decided to sell the Le Sabre, practically giving it away to some family friends who had 3 teenage boys, all drivers. Within a year, those boys had pretty much managed to take a well-maintained classic car, and almost completely destroy it.

I was, and I mean this sincerely, heartbroken. I'd loved that car. It was a huge part of the family, and my earliest and happiest memories. I had fully expected to learn to drive on it, just as my brother had. And within a year, not only was it gone from our family, but it was gone completely, junked, with no possibility of ever getting it back.

Yup. I'm still bitter about it, all these years later.

Meanwhile, while it should on no account be called a "cool" car, the most outlandish car I have ever owned myself (at least, jointly) was a 1978 Chrysler New Yorker. It looked like this (though, please note, our lifestyle at the time looked NOTHING like this):

Except that it was a two-door "coupe", and had once been silver with a red leather interior, but was, when raqsand I bought it for something like $400, weathered to a sort of battleship grey. The best thing you could say for that car, which we had for exactly a year, was that it could seat about a billion people, and driving it on a highway was a wonderful experience because it was so big and so ugly that merging into traffic took on a certain carefree excitement. It projected a distinct aura of "go ahead, play chicken with me: you'll lose, and I won't even notice another dent". It got a whopping 8 miles to the gallon, 11 highway.

Which I bet is more than the old Le Sabre got. And yet, something in me still yearns for one.

To round out the collection, special mention must be made of the following:

- after getting rid of the Le Sabre, because my mother needed something to drive, we got a white Chrysler LeBaron, with a red interior. I was not fond of that car, either, but now I am very amused every time I hear Cake's "Short Skirt, Long Jacket".

- after finally giving up on the Polara (thank god), my father, in yet another strange automotive-image move, bought a Ford Bronco II. Not a real Bronco. It was like you took a Bronco, and then shrunk it in the wash. This was, now that I think about it, the forerunner of compact SUVs like the Honda CRV and so on. I think, for my dad, it was a compromise between wanting to feel all adventurous and manly by owning something that was essentially on a Jeep chassis, but that was nonetheless moderately practical. I didn't actually hate the Bronco; it was okay. That window in the back that curved up over the roofline slightly was nice, especially considering the number of hours I spent in that back-seat on about a billion drives to and from the shore-house during the winters. Unlike most photos I've found on the web, this is exactly the color we had:

- Godzilla, Judith's car in college, a black-and-grey Plymouth Horizon in which I actually took a few early driving lessons with a stick-shift, before giving up for the next decade.

- The Pony: the 1990 Ford Escort that we had for years and years. Good little car, reliable, plucky even. So-called because that's what Ford called the absolutely no-frills, basic-as-dirt model, the "Pony" model. Ours was dark blue.

- and finally, the current Little Car; same color as this, too. That teal is SO mid-90s, isn't it?

What's next? Well, a Mini Cooper, of course! That's my current ambition, anyway. I see they just came out with a convertible model, too, which is damned tempting, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't look enough like the real classic Mini for me.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 3rd, 2004 04:30 pm (UTC)
Did the Omni/Horizon actually have a stickshift? i thought it was an automatic - those little cars usually were. of course, it came after Lurch, a blue Ford Econoline 150 van that you never met, that WAS stickshift (three on the tree, not four on the floor), on which (this is true) my father had cut down the letters that said "Ford" on the grill so that they said "Judi". I still expect to see that grill looming up in front of me on the highway some day, like something from a Stephen King novel.

anyway, there was no reason for you not to have driven the horizon, except i didn't allow it (and, after a certain point, i felt i was tuned to its quirks and might be able to psychically sense when some part was about to fall off of it.)
Apr. 3rd, 2004 05:36 pm (UTC)
I could have sworn that the Horizon was a manual, because it made me so nervous. I swear. Wasn't it? I remember a few driving lessons in it. In one, you took me out to this little residential road off of Old Gulph Road (that ran along the Merion and Denbigh side of campus), which was a big circle, and you had me drive round and round in a circle, and then at the end, you have me actually drive out onto the semi-busy and hilly Old Gulph Road (bad sight lines; terrifying) and back to the parking lot behind Merion and the Student Center.

I do remember that you were hinky about people driving Godzilla, for good reason, which I suspect is why driving lessons didn't continue until we got the Pony. (Obviously, I never even tried to drive the New Yorker.) And it was really in the Pony that I had that one very demoralizing experience with the clutch and the emergency brake that convinced me I would never learn to drive stick, for years thereafter.

In the interests of full disclosure to anyone else reading this -- at length, and only marginally before my 30th birthday, I did finally learn to drive, and I learned largely on the Pony, with the stick-shift. And although I was disbelieving during the process, just as everyone assured me, I now cannot imagine *NOT* driving a stick, and prefer it.
Apr. 3rd, 2004 07:16 pm (UTC)
Your ability to find images is impressive. And you LJ-formatting-fu is quite impressive. Getting comfortable enough to write photo-essays, I see. We'll just have to expect bigger and better things.

Like a picture of the MiniCooper convertible next time, or at least a link!! To totally misquote Deliverance, I want to SQUEEE! like a Holly.
Apr. 3rd, 2004 07:23 pm (UTC)
I found it. The Convertible.


I must strongly remind myself that I have chosen to become carless. But... Mini!!!

Remember the hideous towing. The insurance costs. But... BEACH MINI!!!!

OK, clearly I should not have looked. Quick, talk me out of it!!
Apr. 3rd, 2004 08:42 pm (UTC)
I know! I KNOW! I KNOW!!!!! Isn't it just the SWEETEST THING?

I especially like the interior dash, with the color insert. That is smokin'. (Although I assume the classic speedometer is an option, and not that multi-dialled thing in the center.)

However, (say I, magnanimously), you may have the convertible. As I suspected, looking at more pictures of it -- it is fabulous with the top down, but I don't really like it that much with the top up. (I feel exactly the same way about the New Beetle convertible -- looks great with top down, kinda stupid with top up.) In the case of the Mini -- with the top up, as a convertible, it's just not as quintessentially a MINI.

I'm coming around to the feeling that I could deal with the moon-roof marring the pristine expanse of the necessary white top, and that would be a good compromise with the whole convertible idea.
Apr. 12th, 2006 09:42 am (UTC)
Love that Bronco :) I've driven the Jeep Cherokee and the Dodge Durango (adooooooored that one). Can't beat an SUV. I'm driving a Vauxhall Zafira atm. It's a seven seater, but the two back seats hide away under the middle bench seat. It's very versatile, but not quite as meaty as a truck.

I wish you well with your Mini Cooper. When I was little and the original Coopers were around, there was a Mini Cooper, and a Mini Cooper S. I thought it was Cooperess, meaning there was a model for boys and a model for girls *blush*
Apr. 12th, 2006 11:57 am (UTC)
Heh! Cute!

I have to admit, I'm fairly anti-SUV, although it's a position with an asterisk. I used to be quite enamored of the idea (if I could afford a real classic car, right up near the top of my list would be a classic Land Rover, from the early 60s; there is someone in the town I work in who specializes in restoring them, so there are quite a few on the road around here, but I became fond of them while working for the dig in Turkey, which owned a '61 and a '63, both of which still run to this day and both of which are real characters).

But for me, personally, an SUV would make no sense whatsoever. I'm a single woman living in an urban environment. And in a broader sense, I get angry about the "vanity SUV" movement in the US contributing to fuel consumption problems, not to mention the way they don't *really* make the road safer either for their own drivers or for other drivers around them. For people for whom they really do make sense, though -- great.

I think I did inherit some of my father's latent Steve McQueen yearnings, but unlike my Dad, I'm not really willing to compromise (on something like the Polara). Again, if I could afford a classic car habit, I'd love to have a Mustang GTO or a Charger or a Torino... or lord, yes, a Stingray. So many different tastes in cars, so little time, and so little money, too! The new Mini definitely feels to me like the best compromise I can make between practicality and fun and Coolness.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )