Monday, November 26, 2018

Cars ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Last Saturday I was on call for the paper, and one of my assignments was taking pictures at a car show. I take pictures of old cars for fun, so this was not really work. I think I may have drooled on the hood of Johnny Capps’ 1957 Ford Fairlane convertible. I think America forgot how to make beautiful cars after the 1960s. My mind wandered as I strolled through the vintage metal. I’ve had a few cars in my lifetime.

I’ve written about my first car. It was a 1946 Plymouth Coupe with moon hubcaps and paint the color of a plum. The radio in the dash hummed when you turned it on, but once the tubes warmed up, WSGN came through a tiny speaker loud and clear. Even though the Plymouth was 20-years-old the mohair seats smelled like an expensive sweater.

My mom loaned my brother the money to buy the car, but he moved to California for a few years and defaulted on his payments. When I turned 15, my mom gave me the car for my birthday. Have I mentioned before that I LOVE my mama?

License and insurance might as well have been optional when I was 15 because I had neither. That didn’t stop me from driving the car to school each day. The battery was a little weak, so I had to back into a parking place at the end of the lot. This made it easy to open the door, step out, and give the car a little push to crank the engine.  That was a small price to pay for the level of “cool” the car afforded a 15-year-old.

Later when I started to work, I bought a 1965 Chevy Impala SS. It had a motor bigger than Rhode Island. I loved that beast, but apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Someone stole it one evening while I was shopping for tools at Sears in downtown Birmingham.

After the beast, I owned a 1952 Chevy two-door hardtop, a 1953 two-door hardtop, and a 1957 Bel Air two-door hardtop. All three cars are rare today.

When I received my draft notice, I sold all the old cars I had except the Plymouth. I parked it in the backyard.  It was my intention to restore that baby when I returned from the Army. While I was in Panama, my dad sold my car. That hurt.

Since then, most of the cars I’ve owned were uninteresting pieces of rolling metal that took me from point A to point B. When they wore out, I looked for another one. At one point several years ago I found a 1966 Chevy Impala SS that looked great. I drove it back and forth to work in Hoover for a few years, but when gas prices soared, I parked it in the barn and bought a vehicle that was easier on gas.

The old Chevy looked sad sitting in the barn. I didn’t have the time or the money to invest in restoring the car, so I sold it for three times what I paid. I realized after the transaction that I could have gotten more, but I was happy it found a good home. I later learned that the couple restored the car.

Last Saturday, as I browsed through the entries, I was hoping I would see one of my old cars in the car show, but that didn’t happen. But I pull them up in my memory when I’m feeling nostalgic.


  1. Of course I love this article. I do enjoy hearing of your previous cars and love for each. I agree that something happened after the 60's in auto design, probably requirements at the time, but I feel sorry for teen boys (and girls) now. I just can't see someone saying , "Hey there is a 2001 Chevy or Ford, man was that cool. Maybe life has continues and I stopped, but I still get a kick seeing a 50's or 50's car on the road. Great article! Love the shot of the '56 tail light! COOL!

  2. My first car was a 1967 Honda Civic. That thing was a lot tougher metal than cars today. Thats a great photo of the tail light. It says it all.

  3. Today's cars are way better than those old ones. The standard for those old babies was 100,000 miles, today the cars run great after 200,000 or even more. THe old ones rusted and ran like crap if not maintained meticulously. Those old cars did have personality, today cars all look alike, you don't know if they are brand new or 10 years old...DAMN I miss those old cars, they did have PERSONALITY!! My first was a 1958 MGA. I had to keep a gallon of water in the back in the summer as it overheated so easy, I had a car in college, 59 Ford Galaxy that I parked on a small hill in the fraternity lot if it needed a rolling start...we refereed to it as the launching pad and it was a much sought after spot. Dang I do miss those old cars!!

  4. Those old cars sure had characters, then and now... We usually get pictures of a front end view of the cars and seldom the rear view. They sure don't make them as sturdy as they used to.
    Hugs, Julia

  5. Anonymous12:08 PM

    I love the old cars, except for the Edsel. I had a '58 model & I had to carry a spare fan belt because they were continually breaking!!

  6. Old cars are awesome, modern cars not so much, I like looking at old cars

  7. My father was a used car dealer and specialized in muscle cars of the mid-60's about the time I turned 16 (early 70's). My first car after I got my license was a 65 Impala SS 396. Did not see many of those. Yellow with black interior and right at 100K miles which was considered a lot back then. You had some great cars. Sorry I missed seeing the 66 SS you drove to work. One of my favorite cars to drive as a teenager. I rarely had a car longer than a month back then. My favorite was a 70 SS 396 with the little flip thing in the back of the hood to suck in more air when you stomped it.

  8. I so agree about the cars of today because most look like pieces of soap. Look at the contour of the soap and the look of the average car and ...voila! They also have various shades of grey with black and white. Every once in a while you see an actual colour..boring. My first car was my brother’s hand me down...a 1976 Pontiac astre. I then owned a 1970 Ambassador. My brother’s next car, after the Astre was A 1968 Dodge Dart. My mom’s first car 1952 Chev Bel Air in the turquoise. My dad’s first car was a 1917 Model T which he got in 1929


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