My father bought me a 12-year-old gold Studebaker convertible that was a guy magnet. It was the car he wished he had when he was younger. I had just graduated from nursing school in 1962. At 20 years of age, I had little knowledge of car maintenance. The first time I checked the oil (Google this, youngsters) I didn’t know where to return the dip stick. I just tucked it into the engine before I drove from the Jersey Shore to home some 50 miles away. Surprised to find no dip stick when I next opened the hood, I promptly got a lesson in car care from my father.
My father also bought me one of the first-generation Mustangs in 1964 when I returned home from a short adventure in California. The Mustang was another guy magnet in red with an 8-cylinder engine and “5 on the floor.” Single, with an active social life, I frequently provided the wheels on dates.
Buying me the Mustang is misnomer. While my father did choose the car, I paid it off. Financially naïve, I didn’t think to put the car in my name. Two years later, right before my wedding day, my uncle bought the Mustang. My husband-to-be aced me in car ownership. He drove a white Corvette.
The most enjoyable car I drove was a second-hand 4-door Datsun coupe we had when we lived in Chicago. Googling hasn’t revealed the model or year. It was probably 10 to 15 years old when, in the early 80s, I wove through heavy rush hour traffic, over snow packed winter streets inching into postage size parking spaces, and once roared down a narrow alley to avoid a gang of boys tossing rocks at each other. Rust invaded its body and corroded the floorboard on the driver’s side. I loved that hunk of junk. The Datsun appeared as a character in my book: Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic.
Cars don’t seem to connect in our lives as in the past. I drove myself back and forth to nursing school in Jenny, a burgundy Ford Monterey so named after Aunt Jenny who sold the car to my father. A solid 4-door sedan with a stick shift, Jenny was part of the family. All family cars afterwards were purely functional.
What brings up these memories? Possibly sitting in AAA’s waiting room one morning last week while my 8-year-old Chevy Impala had an oil change. Not as flamboyant as my earlier cars but dependable with rave reviews when it first came out. I took both grandsons on driving excursions when they each had learner’s permits. So, this car has some sentimental value. I wonder if the last grandson, approaching driving age will want to test his driving skills with grandma? And I wonder if I, as instructor, would be up to the challenge? I know my Chevy will. Maybe I should give her a name?