Jet-Smooth Luxury

In the mid-90's I bought a baby-blue, "stock," 32-year-old Chevrolet Biscayne and drove it for six years/26,000 miles.  It looked almost new when I bought it.  It drove like it was almost new, and it cost me what I would have paid for it—new—in 1964. The only down-side to owning it was when parking it, getting into it, or stopping at intersections with the windows rolled down...strangers were compelled to talk to me about it. The invisible societal barrier that I'd grown accustomed to—the one which facilitates a quick trip to the grocery store without being constantly accosted by questions and conversation—had been removed by the car.

I received many compliments: "Hey great car. They sure don't make em that way any more." and, "Wow! Classic Detroit Steel, amazing!" Some criticisms: "I can't believe you are driving this on the roads!" and, "You don't actually take it out on the highway do you?" As well as the occasional derision: "You're a fool. I can't believe you're using that irreplaceable antique as your primary mode of transportation!"

Compliments made me feel uncomfortable because I didn't design it, build it, or paint thank you felt all wrong...I'd normally reply with some form of: Well, I really like driving it.

I would usually field criticism with humor: It prefers roads over ditches, or something like, The highways and speed limits are the same as they were in '64, when this baby was born.

And, I'd normally meet derision with facts:  I paid three grand for it.  What did you pay for yours?...So if I promise not to tell you how to use your expensive chunk of steel and rubber, will you promise not to tell me how to use my cheap one?

One time, this last one backfired. Some guy replied with a smarmy, "Eighteen hundred, what of it?" and the phrase left my mouth containing the words cheap piece of shit, which sounds so much more derogatory than expensive chunk of metal and rubber that I had to quickly get in my irreplaceable antique and jet it down the highway.

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.  What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? — Henry David Thoreau (from Walden)

1 comment:

MontiLee Stormer said...

In Detroit, classic cars are everywhere, in fact we celebrate them for a week in August whhere we clog a 16- mile stretch of Woodward Ave to show them off.

You get used to the conversations and it forms a brief by impresive kinship. Guys like a chick who can answer questions about the engine size, the body style, the paint color. Skirt mechanics are hot. When we drove the 72 Duster (paid $1,700 in CA) a few summers ago, we would get the derisive comments from green nuts - and I mean the hippies with cash who could afford a Prius or Insight. Why was I driving something so old? Didn't I care about the environment? Their remarks were easily deflected.

See - save for roofliner and things that wear out over time, my car was nearly original. It was literally driven around one of the islands of Hawaii for 90% of it's life by a little old lady. Low miles, purred like a well-fed lion, gorgeous cherry frame and finish.

When some green nut approached me with their battery of questions, I could ask - when something goes wrong with your environmentally conscious car - where do you go to fix it? Of course the dealer. Who changed the fluids? That's what the dealer was for. When the car outlived its usefulness (or the lease ran out) what happened to it? Often they didn't know.

Whereas, if I needed parts, I could go to any number of auto yards and get myself whatever I needed. I could change my own oil and fluids. My car was vintage Detroit Steel and it was resuable. The parts were easily located and installed. Being steel, my car could be melted down and reused. 30 years later, my car was still drivable. Does anyone believe a 2002 Prius will still be on the road in 30 years?

I was reusing, which in my opinion makes me far greener than anyone who needs a new model anything to make an environmental point.

I do love the smell of well-maintained old cars. The heat/oil/rubber mix is intoxicating.