[Sticky] What's your story? Please share …
During these unusual times of isolation and social distancing, maybe we could share some personal stories of our automotive past. For example, what was the fastest you have ever gone in a car and the circumstances surrounding the experience? Or, what was the scariest thing that ever happened to you in a car. Don’t be limited by the facts. At our age (at least most of us) fading memories can only enhance reality. For me, it was 110 mph and I was in the back seat of a Porsche 911. The scenery was going by so fast I had to peek over the driver’s shoulder. The needle was pegged and I knew it was a benchmark moment.
That was back in 1968 and it still stands.
My first “real” race
The year was 1980, my car an Alfa SS, and the location was Laguna Seca (original track configuration). Even though I had gone through the Bondurant school and had my competition license I was still pretty wide eyed.
On my first hot lap in the first practice for the first race I approached the corkscrew in the middle of a pack of cars. For those who are not familiar with Laguna Seca the corkscrew is at the crest of the hill and totally blind. As I crested the hill and turned in for the sharp steep downhill left turn an Abarth double bubble in front of me snapped an axel and launched about 5 ft into the air.
I was able to pull wide as he landed along side of me and rolled end over end down the hill. The car was a total mess and he got hauled to the docs, but I don’t think he was seriously hurt.
Gave me a whole new perspective of what I had gotten into.
I would like to offer another submission in response to your brilliant idea to share car stories as a means of coping with the self-isolation restrictions. My true story below attempts to illustrate just how connected we can become to our cars, especially those that we have owned for decades. They become part of the family. We give them names. We praise them when they are good, we admonish them when they are bad. We groom them to look their best, we care for them when they are ailing. And most importantly, the shared experiences, positive and negative, forever tightens that bond. As with my first story, my apologies for the narrative length. Perhaps, I should pursue haiku!
The enduring bond that I have with my E Type
The refrigerator door swung open slowly, the cool air bringing immediate relief on that hot summer afternoon. I pushed aside the milk carton, the leftover General Tso chicken and various half empty containers of condiments. It wasn’t long before the pace of my search began to quicken as the object of my pursuit was nowhere to be found. Damn, we are out of beer.
“I’m going to run out to the package store,” I shouted out to my wife who was in the second floor bedroom. “And, I’m going to take the E Type,” I followed.
It would be good to fire up the car and have it stretch its legs a bit. It was clear the E Type did not share my sense of urgency but after some choking, coaxing and caressing, she roared to life. The short ride to the liquor store, Willimantic, Connecticut being only 15 minutes away, took place on small country roads with many turns, tight curves and unforgiving frost heaves. The throaty exhaust notes echoed off the oak and birch trees lining the empty roadway.
The small, unassuming package store was set off the road with no paved parking lot to speak off, with simply a gravel section in the front where one would park. There was only one other car in the lot immediately in front of the entrance and so I pulled up alongside leaving a few yards to mitigate any risk of the errant door swing. As I approached the entrance, three young men exited the store with their purchases in hand, we passed without incident. Now whether it’s simply hindsight invented and honed after decades of reliving this memory or if it was indeed a wave of apprehension that broke over me at that moment, I can no longer tell. But I recall feeling a sense of awareness, like a feral cat abruptly raising its head to sniff the air, that there was something amiss, some heightened sense of undeterminable threat.
After exiting the store with my six pack of Rolling Rock, I was relieved to see that the other car was gone, all fears of a confrontation receded. However, upon making my way around to the driver side of the E Type, my heart sank, my feet frozen in place as I gazed upon the several pools of spit that laid upon the bonnet; the dreadful drool in the midst of its slow and long descent along the beautiful and gentle curves.
Rage, anger and a definite thirst for revenge immediately boiled through my consciousness like a radiator expansion tank about to explode. But as I meticulously mopped up the spittle with napkins, making sure my touch did not encounter any sensation of dampness, an overriding sense of guilt washed all other emotions aside. I could not help but feel that somehow through my poor judgement and bad decisions, my innocent E Type had to accept and suffer through the distressing consequences.
The ride home was quicker than normal, the heat from the bonnet vaporizing any traces of the transgression. Upon arrival, I immediately bathed the E Type with the deepest cleaning possible. After delicately drying her off, I parked the E Type safely in the garage and gently tucked her in under the soft Covercraft blanket.
I no longer ponder the question whether the actions of those young males were motivated by my Asian race or the sight of a foreign sports car or perhaps a 60/40 combination of the two. Time and maturity have smoothed out the rough edges. Instead, my thoughts are drawn to the enduring bond that I have with my E Type, a relationship forged and welded with all the enduring experiences, exhilarating and disappointing, funny and sad, beautiful and ugly, that we have shared together as intertwined companions on our life long road trip.
Those who shall remain nameless
Here is another tale that just crossed my mind in the midst of the imposed “stay-at-home” rules.
Then there is the tale of a 15 year old who didn’t have a drivers license in his home state of Pennsylvania which required the ripe old age of 16 to qualify for the pleasure of driving. A buddy, who will also remain nameless used to take his dad’s old car, in this case a 1955 Ford six popper with three on the tree, for joy rides while his dad worked the second shift at the steel mill.
The boys (my mom would call us hoodlums) waited at the pick up point near the high school and they would all jumped into the old Ford to navigate the town’s back roads while learning to drive from the experienced teacher who was just months older than the rest of us.
To my driving tale … I was approaching a small town, taking a downhill left turn at about 45 when we realized an immediate stop was required. As in NOW!
Do you remember how loud it is when 5 guys in a car yelled STOP all at the same time?
I applied the brakes with all the force those 15 year old legs could exert and BANG! the front A arm bushings on the left side separated from the frame (no idea how that happened) but that old Ford slid to the curb. As in right now!
As this was pre-cell phone days, there wasn’t even a pay phone for miles, the guys in the car bailed out and ran away, leaving the owner’s son to walk back home and explain the situation.
He healed up fairly quickly and we all lived to laugh about it, or that’s the way we want to remember it!
After school education
Rob’s original suggestion for car related stories was focused on how fast or how scary. My story focuses on the impatience of youth. It dates back to growing up in a sleepy town on the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The late Fifties was not a particularly trying time to come of age and the infallibility of youth was a given. At the time my high school was a new and modern campus situated on the outer edge of town and surrounded by apple orchard fields. Access to and from the campus was via a long 2 lane street that ended at a major cross street monitored with a very anti-student stop light. With the majority of the students driving their own cars to school, but interspersed with school buses, the traffic at the end of the day was a long, slow crawl.
Needless to say, frustrations grew exponentially. There must be a better way. And there was — the dirt roads running between the trees in the adjacent abandoned orchard. It started with the school’s hotrod-crowd pacing through the orchard to find another way out. Soon others joined the exodus. Including me driving my low mileage, unmolested $50 1949 4 door Cadillac purchased from an elderly relative.
Built like a tank, but not particularly fast. What started as an alternate exit route soon morphed into an unmonitored rally-cross. The initial single lane way through the trees soon grew into a multi-lane track decorated with apple tree cones. Top speed wasn’t the controlling factor. Car control and survival was!
Fortunately, as the school year passed, it was only paint, dents, hub caps, and trees that were injured. But there were lots of control lessons learned. Who says classes stop as soon as the last bell rings?