Me, My Dad and a Car

In the past, I’ve written about my father and about how my love of the internal combustion engine goes against the grain of some of my more progressive beliefs.  In the piece about cars, I blame my obsession with them on time and geography.  While that’s true, this morning, I realized there’s another factor at play here.  You see, the truth is that no matter how bad things got between my father and I, the one place we’ve always been able to connect is cars. I don’t know if there’s a gene that is passed down from father to son, but if there is, it certainly passed from my dad to me. As a teen, my dad was a car nut.  His first car was 1937 Plymouth Coupe like this one, only not as nice:

It was dark green and my mom says she had to put feet on the seat when it rained because the floorboards were rusted out.  Dad was a tinkerer back then.  He told me once he and his cousin Rick tore the engine down and when they put it back together, they had parts left over.  When I asked if it still ran, he said no, that my grandfather had it towed to the shop where it was put right.  Dad has had more than a few cars over the years, but I think his favorite will always be the 1955 Chevrolet he bought right after he got out the Air Force; again similar to this, but not as nice:

Ours was a Bel Air, which was the top of the line model, but it wasn’t two-tone like this.  But, it did have the Power Pack option with the four barrel carburetor, dual exhaust and more horsepower.  There’s a funny story tied to this car.  Mom and Dad had gotten married while he was still in the service and when he was getting out, he sent Mom some money and told her to buy car.  She enlisted the help of a neighbor who sold cars and he helped her find a very nice, reliable 1953 Chevrolet.  Unfortunately, in 1953, Chevrolet hadn’t gotten around to producing a V-8 engine, so this very nice, reliable car had a six cylinder, which meant it was a bit of dog when it came to performance. That just wouldn’t do for my gearhead father, so he went out and found a hot rod.  Later on, when the original engine gave out, he replaced it with a 283 that had a Corvette cam in it.  He said the original 265 was faster on the top end, but the 283 would do 90 in second gear.  Of course, he didn’t mention this while I was still a teen ager.

Many of my early memories revolve around cars.  I remember riding in the 55.  Well, mostly, what I remember is the backseat of that car.  It was huge and my brother and I spent a lot of time standing up and looking over the front seat.  As I got older, Dad taught me the basics of vehicle maintenance; changing the oil and doing what repairs we could.  The 55 was long gone by then, replaced first by a 1964 Chevy II, a Chevy C-10 pickup and a Chevrolet Kingswood station wagon.  By the time I learned to drive on the Chevy II, which was in about as good a shape as Dad’s old Plymouth, it was our second car.  But, it was the perfect first car, because everything else has been a step up.  I’ve had my share of cars over the years, but never a hot rod like that old 55.  One day, I’m going to rectify that. And, in case you’re wondering, that’s an Auburn Boattail Speedster at the top of the page.  Neither of us ever owned one, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful cars ever made.  Not to mention it was the hot rod of its day; something my father and I can both appreciate.

I started thinking about all this because Dad’s in the hospital today.  About 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and he’s been fighting it ever since.  It slides back forth between a slow growth and a more aggressive pace; right now, it’s more aggressive and chemotherapy is the order of the day.  They put him the hospital because his blood work was unsatisfactory when went in yesterday for his first treatment.  That way, they can address the problems and monitor him while they do the therapy. He and I have both been where he is right now and we both know what it’s like. In the best of situations, chemotherapy is rough and so is being in the hospital; put them together and it really sucks ass.  Rather than think about that, I found something better to think about and decided to share it with you.  I hope you’ll forgive this departure from my usual faith-based fare.