2021 – Speaking of Cars…………
(ignore April 30, 2017 publish date – this was published on February 9, 2021)
In response to my previous post about Chevrolets, I got an email from old friend and past president of the Bergen County Historical Society (AND Teaneck town historian), Bob Griffin, that stated:
“My second car was a 1960 Chevy Bel Air. I loved it. The first was a 1949 Buick Special (3 hole, if you know what that meant ). Two people could lie down in the back seat, full out, and not touch either side (very important at drive-in movies in Denver during the late’50s).”
It made me realize that I failed to mention my own ownership of Chevys and other brands in that post, so that’s what this post will be about.
And I have to make a slight correction to my statement that “……. I’ve never owned a Ford”. While I’ve never owned a car with a Ford nameplate on it, I DID own a Mercury product that was made by Ford. More on that later.
I bought my first car – a gold-and-white 1956 Dodge Custom Royal – from a classmate at Bergen Catholic High School. Except for the dual exhausts, it looked exactly like this one:
You’ve heard of four-on-the-floor? This car didn’t have that (it was automatic), but it DID have four-on-the-door:
I don’t recall it looking exactly like the above, but it WAS over a half-century ago and what’s shown WAS a replacement for that year and model (which may originally have had chrome buttons to match the rest of the dashboard).
And I didn’t have the car long enough for those buttons to imprint on me.
Coming home one night from Palisades Amusement Park, I took her out on Route 80 to see what she could do. Happy to hit 100 for the first time in my life, I shut her down and went home.
The next morning, I drove the car to school, but only got as far as 4 blocks from home when the engine died without a sound – it just stopped, never to start again.
Oh, NO! Not only did I have to use the school bus again, but my senior prom was in two days and I had been anxious to impress my date and another couple with my snazzy wheels.
Of course, Mom wasn’t willing to let me use her 4-door, battleship gray ’61 cheapo Chevy until the very last minute (I think she enjoyed torturing me for two days) and it was embarrassing to use that car (good thing proms are held at night when things are less visible).
On a side note, the prom was a disaster because I started to really not like my date about a week before the event, but a commitment was made, so………….
I think I danced the first and last dance with her and spent the entire rest of the evening talking to my friend’s date, whom HE wasn’t getting along with. If the school was smart, they should have had a fee-based date exchange at the door and made some money.
My father later used his automotive connections to have a used engine installed, but I don’t think his connections were as great as I had hoped: that engine died within two weeks and with it went my dreams of my first summer of driving.
I don’t recall how long it was before I got another car – a 1960 Pontiac convertible – but here I am with it in our driveway in April, 1966 (baby moon hubcap!):
That car was a lot of fun.
The next car was a black 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix. I had always liked the design and lines of this car, but I thought it could look so much better…………..maybe even hot, so I had it painted an electric blue, jacked it up and made the front slightly higher than the back. Deep-dish chrome-reversed wheels were the icing under the cake.
I also gave it a name – something that was semi-popular back then. “Prix-fection” was somewhat known for being a one-of-a-kind eye-catcher that a few people thought was a GTO, which was smaller and faster. This was taken in August of 1968:
A couple of people gave me pictures they took of the car. Here I am pulling out of the Fairmount Diner parking lot in Hackensack with my girlfriend in the Fall of 1968:
One person who gave me a picture of the car was my mother, who took this candid shot from her bedroom window. I’m polishing the car while my sister Geri gets to mow the lawn:
At one point, I acquired a ’64 Chevy Impala Super Sport while I still had the GP. The picture is not of my car, but mine was the same color and model:
I have a story about that situation that you may find interesting. Back in the ‘60s, the place to be in the evening was Main St in Hackensack, where EVERYBODY cruised the drag up and down either showing off their cars or looking to meet someone cute (or both).
I had glasspack mufflers on the GP, so it sounded as good as the car looked…………except to a Hackensack cop on Main St who pulled me over and told me, “I don’t want to see this car on Main St again tonight!”
“Yes sir!”, I said.
I went straight home and grabbed the SS and headed back to Main St, where I passed the cop, gave him a big smile and waved. Fortunately, he left me alone.
Hey – I did exactly as he ordered………….what could he say?
A year later, I had sold the GP and the SS and got a ’68 Pontiac GTO, for which I can find no pictures other than this one that Mom took:
My GTO story: I was driving down the Garden State Parkway late one night c.1970 to get to the Shore for some reason, when a Jaguar XKE pulls alongside of me and the driver made some racing gestures. The road was deserted, so I took off (and he kept up).
You know how most speedometers usually list speeds up to 120 – even though you never go that fast? We did………..and more.
You know the spaces between each set of numbers on the dial? I don’t know for sure if the needle can really go far past 120, but – as I recall – I went two spaces past it.
If I’m right, I hit 140 before the Jag walked away from me!
How embarrassing! (and how grateful I was that no vehicle with flashing red lights and a siren pulled me over).
(Uh…….the statute of limitations doesn’t go beyond 50 years, does it?)
If it does, then I, uh…..dreamt it! Yeah – that’s it.
Sometime in 1970, I got a little 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite that looked like the below image (not sure about the interior color, though). It was quite the opposite of my previous cars: no power and ZERO protection if someone ran into me:
It was like driving a tin can, but it was the best car I ever had for driving around in midtown-Manhattan traffic! I remember zipping in and out of traffic on Eighth Avenue. There were no blind spots………….you could see everything!
Unfortunately, that’s all I remember about the car, so all other driving in it must have been pretty boring.
Can’t have that, so I bought my first new car: a 1971 Mercury Capri (this was the Ford product I mentioned earlier).
This is the only shot I have of it as it originally existed. Once again, I’m polishing my car – this time, in the driveway – while I’m talking to my suddenly very long-haired sister, Geri (my hair also got longer, but it’s flat………that would change very soon):
This was taken – unbeknownst to us – by Mom from a different bedroom window. BTW – you can see her previously-mentioned battleship gray ’61 Chevy in the garage.
Soon after that, I added a white vinyl roof, exploded my hair, put my bike in the car and wore short-shorts (hey – I had the legs for it):
(photos by Mom)
During the ’73-’74 school year – while I still had that car – I was a student at one college and a faculty member at another:
One evening sometime later, I was invited to dinner at the home of a friend of mine and his wife. He lived in Wood-Ridge, NJ, near the Carlstadt border. I parked on the street. It was the last time I’d ever drive that car.
Sometime during the evening, we heard a very loud crash outside. My friend ran out to check on it. He came back, looked at me and shook his head in the same manner a doctor might when someone dies and he doesn’t want to say it.
He brought me outside. Some drunken maniac had barreled down the street, sideswiped a couple of cars and smashed into mine.
Not only was it totaled, but I had parked in front of the last house in Wood-Ridge. The accident pushed my car in front of the first house in Carlstadt. Officers from two police departments were arguing about jurisdiction.
My friend drove me home.
I had to get another vehicle fast and wound up with a Chevy Vega:
The thing burned a lot of oil and I didn’t keep it for long because my father came through with something interesting.
At the time, he was working in a Chevy dealership in Bayonne. He was close with his boss, who informed him of the possible availability of a practically-new Chevy Nova Concours company car that the boss’ wife either didn’t want or couldn’t use for some reason.
They’d be willing to let it go at a pretty low price. We took it.
Here I am with it in the summer of 1977:
I kept that car for about 14 years, decided to sell it to someone I knew who needed a car, and bought a car I’ve always liked the look of:
It was a 1983 Datsun 280-ZX.
One final Mom-from-the-bedroom-window shot from when I brought it over to show Dad in 1990:
I kept that car for 8 years and was then in the market for a new one. Here’s the picture that sold me on the 1998 Chrysler Sebring Coupe (in Paprika!):
For a while, I owned two cars once again. I kept the Z at my parents’ house and brought the Sebring over to take this shot of both (note the “For Sale” signs in the Z):
The Sebring from another angle:
I’ve now had this car for 23 years! And it hasn’t even reached 27,000 miles yet! And before you start making jokes about the little old lady with the low-mileage car who only used it to drive to church on Sunday, you should be aware that I park this car IN a church lot, where it sits for many days at a time, so I don’t even follow the little old lady’s example.
There’s one segment of the family that may remember that I drove this new car to a mini-family reunion in North Carolina in 1998 – the longest trip I’ve ever driven it on. And if I didn’t make that trip to NC, it might not even be at 25,000 miles yet.
Time to wrap up this saga.
Did anyone notice that I’ve never owned a car with 4 doors? That was considered to be the epitome of uncool behavior in the late ’60s. If your car was in the shop and you had to borrow your parents’ van or 4-doored vehicle and you showed up to meet your friends while driving it, you were ragged mercilessly for driving a mommydaddy car. To this day, any 4-doored vehicle is a mommydaddy car to me and I’m shocked that that term can’t be found in search engines. Trust me – it existed.
One other observation: the Chevy father’s son’s list of cars started and ended (so far) with Mopars.
Finally, the last images will be the Sebring and not the Sebring.
Last week, we had one of the larger snowfalls in recent memory. For the first time ever, I got plowed in by an inattentive plower. And for the first time in a half-century, I had to shovel snow to get out.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to shovel the whole pile – just enough to squeeze by to the left and barely miss my neighbor’s car.
It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t include all this in the previous post. It’s bulky enough as it is.