Love Those Cars
By Rod Brown
Here’s the scene – 1965 and my father is constantly complaining about those long haired beatniks (imagine my father quoting Jack Kerouac) called The Beatles. I’m in high school searching for that one true love, that one special person, who would inspire me to achieve greatness or at least to get my own car. Remember the Beach Boys… I wanted their cars, all of them.
The Little Deuce Coupe or the Cobra or the Stringray or the GTO … I lusted for all of them with a passion only slightly less obsessive than the love I held in reserve for my one true love whom I had yet to meet. To Canadian youth, the California dream loomed large, although not quite as large as the fact that you were driving your mother’s Valient, and it was a small V6 automatic at that. As the girls were getting all excited about the Beatles with their cute haircuts and tight legged suits, the guys were still hanging on to the James Dean look while searching for Brandon’s Wild Bunch. I never did understand why we didn’t get that particular disconnect.
Now the Rolling Stones were a little different. They weren’t cute which was a blessing and Mick was incredibly close to not cute at all which was a ‘picker-upper’ for most of us who didn’t have cute haircuts or skinny suits. Hope springs eternal when one could hum the tune, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, with real feeling and not appear, at least in our own eyes, pathetic.
But Route 66 changed my life. I knew that a Corvette convertible would, with all the power of Tinkerbell’s wand, would clear up my complexion, add 3 inches of height and have beautiful girls everywhere buying a poster of me to put on their walls. Like the wanderer Dion, I would drive around the world with a smile and permanently windblown hair – convertibles will do that you know.
Do you remember Miles Per Hour and cubic inches? I know about kilometres and litres, I know that metric is here to stay and I know that 75 is really just 46 mph – so who gets excited about cruising down the highway at 46 mph? And who dreams of 1.4 litre engines when the 409s or 429s and 454s drove our fantasies down the highway and into legend? The Beachboys fuelled those dreams in the 60s and then Smokey came on the scene in 1977 – no, not the bear but the Bandit with this black Trans Am. That car was so powerful that, while driving down rural backroads, beautiful girls jumped out in front of it just for a ride. Mustang Sally, Wilson Pickett’s classic, step aside. East Bound and Down – played loudly while the car seats rattled in the backseat.
The hot rod made its appearance in the 30s but that craze didn’t take off late 40s and into the 50s and 60s. There was a mechanical genius about those guys who could turn clunkers into something special. Although my mother’s Valient was beyond hope, that old 1955 Ford was simply waiting for a transformation. Slicks and side pipes were so cool – I knew it and so did the rest of the bus riding gang. Cars were, and it’s oh so clichéd, a rite of passage. Even old people (feel free to fill in the blank around ‘old’) knew cars were sexy. Little Old Ladies In Pasadena cruised in Dodge stock cars while I drove my mother to the store just so I could get the Valient for a night. Mopar had a magical ring, an allure that clinged to many of us even into our responsible adulthoods of work and mortgages and 4 door Corollas. I know about seatbelts, but I still remembered the California dream.
Now sit back, put the top down and drive.