A drive down Memory Lane
I ’ve never owned a “cool” car. Not for lack of wanting one. It’s just never been in the cards — or the wallet.
Before I go too far down this road, be warned — I’m not a gearhead. All my opinions are based on appearance.
I don’t feel too bad about that, because most folks don’t know a lot about engine size, cylinders, torque and the like.
That said, my mental garage is filled with the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s. The aggressive, blocky body styles, the bright paint jobs, even the racing stripes all fuel my imagination and my desire to get out and drive.
Comfort is a big factor for me as well. I’m not a small man. At 6-foot-3, I need quite a bit of legroom. As a former football player and band geek with bad knees, I need seats that are high enough that my rear end isn’t higher than my knees.
My first car was a 1979 Buick LeSabre. The “Maroon Pontoon,” already 10 years old when it was handed down to me, was no one’s idea of a sexy beast, but it had enough room — and power — to transport a platoon of my friends, many of whom formed the offensive line of my high school football team. The fact that one of those people was bigger than me didn’t matter. The old party boat just kept pushing, until it finally seized up and died.
That’s how I learned how important it is to change your oil regularly.
My next car was another Buick, this time a 1982 Regal. Not quite as big as the LeSabre and a faded sky-blue, it served for many years, carrying me through most of my years at the Standard-Democrat, a small daily newspaper in Sikeston, Mo.
The “Blue Bomb” got a lot of press, at least during high school tennis season. Apparently, my chosen parking space near the tennis courts in Charleston was directly opposite of where I stood to take photos.
I never noticed until my editor asked me if I was trying to sell my car.
The Bomb earned its name on a cold winter day on the way back from Cape Girardeau. I was nearly back to Sikeston, cruising down I-55 blaring the radio, when the battery exploded, sending white smoke out from under the hood as I pulled off the highway.
When I checked under the hood, I found only about an inch of plastic remaining at the base of what used to be the battery, with a tiny bit of fluid left, barely reaching the posts. Oddly, it was just enough to power the radio while I waited for a ride.
Next up was yet another Buick — and another hand-me-down — a 1989 Regal I dubbed the “Black Beetle.”
The Beetle carried me from Missouri to western Pennsylvania, where I spent a year in Oil City, the former corporate headquarters for Quaker State. I always thought it a bit ironic, given the fate of the Pontoon, but I’d already learned my lesson. Oil City was also where I made my first attempt at marriage.
That didn’t end well, at least the marriage part, but the Beetle rolled with me to Wynne.
I didn’t keep it for much longer, trading it in for the first vehicle I was able to choose for myself, a Chevy pickup.
It only had 14,000 miles on it and the color was a throwback to the Pontoon’s maroon exterior, but it was mine. I picked it out. I paid for it. I wrecked it on the way to Memphis to cover an NFL game.
It wasn’t my fault. A Trans-Am spun out across three lanes of traffic, bounced off the divider and landed right in front of me. I wasn’t hurt, but my truck was totaled.
Luckily, the other driver’s insurance, along with the money from the salvage auction, covered my loss and gave me enough money to buy a new washer and dryer.
My bank, pleased that I paid off my first truck, gave me another loan and I used it to buy my first, and so far, only new vehicle.
I chose another Chevy truck, this time in black with chrome wheel covers, bumpers and bed rails.
It had 35 miles on it when I took possession, only because they had to drive it over from another dealership. I loved it. Right up until I sold it.
That happened in Jacksonville. I still miss it. After a succession of junkers, I made another purchase, this time a 2002 Oldsmobile Alero.
Although it was far from new, the Olds was my first car with a little oomph and style. It sat low, accelerated quickly and made driving a pleasure. I drove it till the wheels fell off. And the water pump. And the fuel pump.
My current ride is a 2010 Ford Fusion. It’s not that exciting, but it’s very reliable and gets me from point A to point B in comfort, if not style.
It’s the first Ford I’ve owned — and the first car that truly fits me. The trucks came close in the leg department, but a bench seat just doesn’t fit my back the same way.
It’s nearly perfect. Now I just have to find a “cool” car with the same room for my shoulders that sits high enough that I can get in and out without a crane.
Then again, I’d probably just get accused of having a mid-life crisis — or covering up for something else.