Blogs » CARS MATTER » The creation of a car crazy (Chapter 1)


It is more than obvious that ours is a nation that is filled to the gills with car-crazy individuals. It is a group to which I have been from virtually from infancy.

How does this happen? Why does it happen? Is it some kind of mechanical magic? Does the rumble of Detroit V-8, or, let us not forget, the throaty song of an MG-B's four-banger seduces you?

As it happens, I have an answer . . . sort of. What it is, is that we are a people soaked (rhetorically speaking) in 10/30 motor oil, and drunk (again, rhetorically) with the throaty rumble of a two-pipe exhaust. It comes to us naturally after all these years -- and it still has that old excitement.

My memories of cars of yore go way, way back. The first car I actually remember is a gray Plymouth two-door coupe. That was followed by a Chevy that was dapper enough, but proved unreliable; and after came was a gray-green Ford.

Again, I was conscious of all these conveniences, but the that really hit me was in . . . the Buick. Now, there was a car.

Let me count the ways: First, there were those Buick portholes. As in so many thing, there was a sort of hierarchy. Ours, a Special, was the entry offering. The Special's flanks accordingly carried three portholes, while the other, more snazzy and more richly lushly attired Buicks, proudly displayed four portholes on each side of those proud beauties.

Nevertheless, our hardtop Buick was a head-turner. For one thing, the windows were not surrounded by metalwork: If you cranked them all down, you had all the beauty of the nature smack in your face. Nice, throaty radio? You had it (no FM,though; that was yet to come).

Ah, but that was just a beginning. How about those red-and-black upholstery? How about that white paint (which back in those days was just a tad risque)? How about that Dynamush (or something like that) automatic transmission? And, finally, how about the chrome jet-plane hood ornament. That was a head-turner.

Finally, and most momentously (at least down in these parts) . . . there was for-real air-conditioning. And it worked, for crying out loud! This just flat took about 90 percent of the angst from the once-horrifically punishment that accompanied our periodic trips from Austin to Rio Grande City in the summer.

Some of you may think that this is piling on minutiae. But those who have even a tiny snippet of car-madness will understand just how monumentus is the first car in one's young life.

Oh, and did I mention that this was the car in which I learned to drive? Now, there's a story . . .