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Raging Pencils by Mike "Razzleberry" Stanfill

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start rant

My 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." -
Mitch Hedberg

my father the carI 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 paint and woven 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 time acquiring my next $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 vacuum-powered windshield wipers. You see, the vaccum that an engine produces decreases as the RPM's 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 have mercy.

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 car lasted a few more months until I helped a friend tow his car home. 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 he was 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 75k on the odometer my dad convinced me to rebuild 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? Welllll, sort of. It ran, but it was never really the same and after a 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, well.

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 buying another '65 Mustang convertible, the same dark blue but with a six-cylinder engine. That was 1975 and 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 professionals.

Dad died much too young several years ago. For good or bad I consider the Mustang a sort of legacy of his stewardship and his faith in me to allow me fuck up in my own special way. Thanks, dad.


end rant

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