Today my dad and I had a good laugh while sipping diet coke and eating ham sandwiches. We were discussing the different types of cars we’ve driven over the years. There were some doozies! First, you have to know my dad to really appreciate what I am about to tell you. He loves cars, all shapes and sizes, most makes and models; he finds something he can appreciate about any of them. But, just like many of us, when he was a young man he didn’t have enough money to support his car addiction.
So, he improvised.
It’s an ongoing family joke.
Let me explain.
When I was just a little girl my mom used to tell us about different vehicles my dad owned and sold. He would buy “fixer uppers,” repair them, and then sell them for a pittance; never really getting out of them what they were worth. It was just fun to buy, tinker around and sell. He never seemed to have any real attachment to any particular car, at least not to my knowledge or remembrance. Not so for my mom, she was overly attached to many of the cars they owned, with only a few exceptions. I don’t think she ever really forgave him for selling the car of her dreams. It was a red 1962 Impala convertible, perfect in every way.
And according to her, he sold it for “peanuts.”
I don’t remember many of these cars, but the few I do remember send me into side-stitching laughter as I reminisce.
I love when my sisters and I get into conversations with my dad about the different types of mayhem on wheels that we were subjected to over the years. It’s a wonder that we’re still alive today. We always ask him, “why, daddy, why?” For example “why did you buy an AMC Pacer?” Do any of you remember those? I’m pretty sure we were one of about two hundred families in the WHOLE of America that ever had one. Let me share with you a quote that I found regarding the Pacer.
“ABC’s World’s 15 Ugliest Cars.”
(Our little beauty hit the list at an unsurprising number 8.)
“When the AMC Pacer came out in 1975 it was the toast of the automotive press, which called it “futuristic,” “bold” and “unique.” AMC even produced an electric version to respond to the gasoline crisis of the 1970s. But over time, what seemed futuristic started to look downright strange, and the Pacer’s unorthodox looks fell out of favor. In the last few years, car collectors have come back to it, but not enough for the Pacer to escape the gravitational pull of our ugliest list.”
It was like a fish bowl on wheels.
This isn’t even to mention the safety hazard, the whole thing probably had only a few pounds of metal and the rest was glass. I remember sitting in the back seat flanked by my two sisters sweltering as the sun pierced through the windows turning them into giant magnifying glasses. We would sweat and whine and slide around on the vinyl seat as we chugged through town. And, of course, it had no power steering and the air conditioning barely worked. What was AMC thinking when they made this “unique” car available?
What was my dad thinking when he bought it?
Of course, to hear him tell it, he got a deal! I bet he did, and I bet the guy who sold it to him was thrilled to pass this “beauty” on to the next unsuspecting stranger. Poor momma, she drove, well wrestled the steering wheel of that car for a while until my dad came home with the next great find.
A sports conversion van.
Oh, you didn’t know they made vans in a sports model? Well, we didn’t either until daddy brought one home. It was baby blue with a fin on the back. The upholstery was plush blue velvet on the ONE seat it housed. Yes, I said one. I have two sisters. Our first thought was, “where do we sit?” Not to worry though, because he had already thought of a solution.
Yes, metal lawn chairs. Not the newer chairs that you see at ball parks that you can fold up and put into a handy bag and sling over your shoulder. Oh no, the old fashioned kind made of tin and woven plastic. So, as I remember it, at any stop or tap of the brakes the chairs would slide on the bare metal floor, being unattached and all, and begin to fold forward into their collapsed position. I sometimes wonder what we must’ve looked like, with our heads folded between our knees.
I guess we were prepared for a crash anyway.
If any turns were made, the chairs would fly one direction or the other. We braced ourselves the best we could, but inevitably we would be folded up, only this time we tipped on our side first. If only we had this all on camera today, it would be a YouTube sensation, I’m sure. But, not to worry, we were never injured in any way.
It just made for some harrowing experiences.
Some of you may read this and be horrified, but remember, it was a different day. Seat belts weren’t even required then and car seats were in their embryonic stage. Honestly, we didn’t think much about it at the time. We just got in and “held on.” As you can imagine that van didn’t last too long, mom wasn’t having it. It was then I think that dad finally brought home a 1984 or 85 Ford LTD. It was black on the outside and inside. My dad loved this car. It actually had air that worked most of the time, and he made sure it stayed washed and cleaned out. He was so proud of this car and it was such a blessing for mom to have power steering and for the three of us to have room in the back seat. Finally a car that suited our family, it was then that daddy brought home the Ford Ranger.
But, this time we were feeling pretty good about it because the Ranger was intended as a second vehicle instead of the family car.
This was a decent little truck; the only drawback was it was a standard shift. Not just any standard shift, but a testy one. You know the kind, they make you pray harder and say things you have to apologize for later. I learned how to drive in that little banged up red truck. It held a lot of great memories of my youth. I cannot even begin to count the red lights where I stalled, or how many hills I sat on waiting for a green light, revving the engine the whole time so I wouldn’t roll into the car behind me.
I learned a lot from that little red truck.
Daddy settled down some in my later years, I could tell you many stories of pushing vehicles off the road when they quit running; we were a pretty good team of “pushers” by the time I was a tween-ager. Or how many times we had to wait for him to get a car started before we could leave the house, seeing my dad lying under a car tinkering with the motor was a common sight to me. You know, honestly, I thought cars always overheated if they were left running for a while, I was an adult before I realized that not everybody’s cars had issues like ours.
It was a revelation.
Daddy and I laughed so hard as we ate today, such funny memories. There are so many, there’s no way I could write them all. We all have a story to tell, a past we think about and wonder “what were we thinking?”
All those memories add up to our journey, our history, our truth and it’s why we are who we are today.
I bet many of you could tell some fun stories about your parents and maybe your kids could tell some funny stories about you. All of our life stories interlace with one another. God uses each and every one to refine us and make us better. Sometimes we may feel the heat of another’s choices, just like sitting in the back seat of the Pacer my daddy bought. We didn’t have a lot of choice, we just felt the heat. But, it has certainly given our family a lot of laughs these days.
It all worked out and we all lived to tell about it.
Whatever it is you’re facing or whomever is making your life difficult, you’ll make it too. Just hang in there, these things are for a season and maybe one day, when all is said and done, they’ll make a great memory.
These days’ daddy drives a nicer car, but he still has an old pickup truck with a gazillion miles on it. He loves that old thing and honestly, if cars can love, it loves him too. Lots of memories ride along beside him in the worn out old front seat, it wraps him up like an old blanket when he climbs in.
It just wouldn’t be daddy if he didn’t have something he was tinkering on or riding around on a wing and a prayer in. That’s just who he is and I wouldn’t change him, he’s given me so many great stories to tell.
And, by the way, he has a boat now that he spends his spare time “fixing,” it quit out on the river a while back, imagine that?! I’ll have to tell you that story sometime.