Saturday, June 22, 2013

The cars of my father

In addition to his camera hobby, and his bee keeping hobby, and his gem and mineral hobby, and his sailing hobby, my Dad was a closet car guy. I say closet because he was not actually an enthusiast; he didn't soup up his cars or buy cars that were not practical. But he did often buy cars that were offbeat and he maintained them largely himself.

That leads to an interesting story, a common theme around here if you pay attention. My mother joined the Navy in WWII and was stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. She trained as a mechanic and eventually became a plane captain, responsible for an SNJ, the primary advanced trainer. So when Dad would head out to change the oil, or adjust the valves, or whatever, he would jokingly invite my mother to help. I don't recall her reply, but I never saw her under a car.

September 1966 - Danville, Illinois

Anyway, we lived in the SF Bay Area and Dad owned mostly VWs, the local vehicle of choice in the late 1960s. We had Beetles, convertible and hardtop, and traveled cross county once in a Bus complete with a canoe on the roof. Hilariously my Dad claimed that we were once refused entrance to a state park in Texas when the ranger saw the license plate frame: Volkswagen of Berkeley. Apparently Dad's crew cut did not balance that Texan's fear of hippie apocalypse.

As the 1970s wore on, driving and maintaining air-cooled VWs made less and less sense and so Dad bought a Ford Falcon station wagon. A white Ford Falcon station wagon with a green vinyl interior and no air conditioning. When it wasn't burning through transmissions he taught me to drive in that car. Despite the V8 it would not do a burnout. I tried. Often.

Eventually the Falcon was replaced with a Ford Econoline van and later a series of Toyota Corollas: the VW Beetle of the 1980s. Dad's last cars were Toyota Tercels. And they were all white. In fact he had the van painted white too. He got in to his head that white was the safest color. When he passed away in 1996 I traded the last Tercel on a Ford Escort with automatic transmission and AC for my mother. She chose white.

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