They are just an inanimate objects. A conglomeration of rubber, pistons, crank shafts, rings, nuts, bolts, cables, wires, leather, cloth, vinyl, and glass, all expertly pieced together to form the perfect form of mobility. But to each of us it’s so much more than just a car, a simple sum of its parts. The relationship between these modern chariots and their owners isn’t something to be taken lightly, just ask Stephen King (Christine). Speak to anyone at length and when the topic eventually rolls around to automobiles, just watch as their eyes light up. Right or wrong, we are defined by what we drive and conversely who we are is expressed in what we choose to be seen in. Everyone has a favorite car they’ve owned, or one they dream about owning someday.
I counted them up, and over the course of my life (so far) I have owned 15 different vehicles. Some of them I scratch my head and wonder what I was thinking, but others were true gems that transported me through wondrous times and ever-lasting memories. I thought I’d tell you the story of five of them today.
Naturally the list must start off at the beginning. We all remember our first car; it maintains a special place in the heart regardless of how many follow it. For me it was a 1966 green Chevy Van. My uncle worked in the auto shop for Southern Bell in Baton Rouge and was responsible for selling off parts of the fleet that had exceeded mileage limits. He came across this one van in excellent shape despite its miles, so he called my Dad and a deal was struck. I took possession of it my sophomore year of high school. When I first laid eyes on it I didn’t see the rust, the dents, and the bland appearance. What I saw was a meek caterpillar, waiting for me to weave a cocoon so it might emerge as a beautiful six-cylinder butterfly. My Dad and I performed the complete makeover together. We carpeted the inside, put in a killer stereo, tinted the windows, and gave it a new coat of paint with stylish pin striping. I learned to drive a standard shift in that van (3 speed with the shifter on the steering column). It was a great first car! That same year the song ‘Chevy Van’ by Sammy Johns played on the radio a lot. Anybody remember it?
The second car on my standout list was the only convertible I owned. It was a red Triumph TR3 two seater (don’t remember the year). That car was so impractical it wasn’t funny, but it was a blast!! The suspension sucked and I was always running out of gas because the gauge kept going on the fritz, but driving the roads on a cool fall day with the top down is a treasured remembrance. I owned the TR3 while I was going to college, but didn’t have it for long. Like I said, impractical.
A 1976 black Trans AM fills the 3rd slot on my list. That car was a monster, and it was FAST!!! It was a four speed (naturally) and had enough horsepower in it even I had a hard time controlling it. My only venture over 100 mph (on a lonely back road) came in that car. Girls were drawn to it and guys drooled over it. The only reason I got rid of it was because I was going back to college full time and I couldn’t afford to keep it. I probably miss that car the most.
The fourth car on my list is a 1994 white Ford Mustang. That was the year (1994) of the fourth major redesign of the mustang. Of the 15 cars I have owned, only five of them have been brand new cars. This mustang was one of them. I have always held a special love for the mustangs. The 1966 mustang (the same car driven by Steve McQueen in ‘Bullitt’ or Nicholas Cage in ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’) is my ultimate dream car. When the new body style came out in ’94 and it was a return to the stylish nature of its predecessors, I had to have it. It was a wonderful car that I hand washed every weekend. In the end I had to sell that car to make accommodations for something else precious in my life…the expecting of our 3rd child.
My fifth and final vehicle also hails from the year 1994. It's a Dodge Ram truck, and no it didn't look like this when I got it. The truck has something in common with another one of my favorite cars -- the Chevy van -- because it was also given to me by my father. He bought it used and drove it for a couple years before passing it along to me. Its for that reason that this dodge holds the record for the vehicle I've held onto the longest (13 years). The gas gauge, radio, clock and door locks no longer work, the paint is rusting off, and the dashboard is cracking - but none of that really matters. My father may be gone now, but every time I hop into my truck we're always taking a ride together.
That’s it. Those are my five favorite cars. What about you? What was your favorite car(s)? What made them special to you?