Father, The Car.
"I know a lot about cars, man. I can look at any car's headlights and
tell you exactly which way it's coming." -
come from that legendary epoch when $75 could buy you
a pretty decent car. Seriously. My first cheapo car
was a '63 Ford Galaxy which my dear old dad acquired
from a local auto auction. It was a sedan with bad
nylon seat covers that was constantly unravelling itself
into my Levis, but it had a honkin' massive 390ci V-8
with a four-barrel carb. On reflection I believe dad
was trying to kill me (he certainly had good cause)
and on more than one occasion almost got his wish.
My fault, not his.
Let me take a quick moment to explain that my father
was seemingly born to drink, fight and sell used cars.
He was exceptionally good at all three. So nearly every
night of his life he came home sauced, bruised and
driving whichever car on the lot was closest to the
door. Cars, then, were not treasured possessions in
our family. They were something you used to get to
work or school or the Ace In The Hole. Needless to
say, when his children needed a car they turned to
him. Now back to my misty, pointless reminiscence.
I drove the Galaxy for about a year until the oil pump
suffered a massive coronary. My father
determined that replacing the
pump would cost more than the entire car so he
sold it at the same auto auction, at the same
$75 vehicle, a '63 Rambler station wagon.
As transportation goes it was much more reasonable
than the Galaxy but the thing I remember most was the
the vaccum that an engine produces decreases as the
increase, which meant if I got caught in a rainstorm
on a freeway I was stuck with an early version of intermittent
wipers. Really, really, REALLY slow intermittent wipers.
Being too young and stupid to just slow down or pull
over until the rain let up I
just stuck my head out the window and motored on. Lord
One of my very first attempts at auto repair occurred
on this car when I replaced the thermostat... backwards.
My second auto repair was replacing the resultant cracked
cylinder head... successfully, as it turned out. The
a few more months until I helped a friend tow his car
We connected the chain fom his car to my rear axle
and when I accelerated,
a little too quickly, it tore the rear-end out. D'oh.
The next car dad surprised me with was a 1964-1/2 Mustang
convertible, costing a then-exorbitant $450. It was painted
a near-black Mediterranean
blue and came equipped with a 260-V8
mated to a three-speed manual transmission.
Had I ever driven a stick
before? No. Did I tell my dad that I'd never driven a stick
before? No. It's hard to tell what
thinking as I bucked and lurched out of the lot that day
but he never said anything about it. Needless to say, I had
to replace the clutch in pretty short order.
I had plenty of adventures, both rapturous and disastrous,
in that fine little car until the timing-chain began to slip.
Economics dictated repairing this car, rather than simply
getting rid of it, and although there was but
on the odometer my dad convinced me
the engine while I was under the hood.
Had I ever rebuilt an engine before? No. Did I question my
dad's sanity? No. Did I rebuild the engine? Yes. Was I successful?
sort of. It ran, but it was never really the same and after
few weeks it just stopped running altogether. I think possibly
out of contempt.
I placed an ad in the paper and sold it to a strangely giddy
individual for less money than I care to admit. Little did
I know it would one day become a true collectors item. Oh,
With the proceeds I bought
a '69 Falcon, which turned out to be a lemon in every sense
of the word. I put up with it for about six months before
convertible, the same dark blue but with a six-cylinder
I'm still driving it today. I've replaced a lot of clutches
over the years but I leave the major engine work to the
Dad died much too young several years ago. For
good or bad I consider the Mustang a sort of legacy of his
and his faith in me to allow me fuck up in my own special
way. Thanks, dad.