My first car…

My recollection is that I got my first car when I was 14 or 15 years old. My dad actually gave me a car. Note that I said he gave, not bought, a car. I was happy regardless; I had a car. The car in question was his well-used 1954 Chevrolet. If I was 15, the year would have been 1968. The ’54 Chev would have been one year younger than it’s new owner. Dan Rather once said, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.”. This particular Chev couldn’t decide if it had rusted or was worn out.

My driving was limited to the boundaries of our yard. At the time, the Ontario law was vague and lightly enforced, in my mind. I was, by decree, unable to leave the yard, and my mother was the issuer of said decree. Like most less-than-certified drivers, I took the occasional sojourn out on the road for a wide U-turn. My slightly expanded terrain was further limited by the decree to never drive again for a yet-to-be-determined period. While my new car and I festered under this new decree, we began a very ambitious maintenance schedule.

Unless one lived during the bias-ply tire period, you won’t understand what a problem tires were. They didn’t last long, they didn’t hold air well, and they were shitty tires. The right front tire on my new and imprisoned car did not hold air for even an hour. When I was able to drive, I could make a couple of laps of the yard and had to stop and air up. My dad was a mechanic, and he was a small-town local mechanic, so he did yard car repairs for others.

He had granted me my driving decree restrictions. I could do repairs as long as the vehicle did not move, even by 1 inch. I found a much improved shitty tire to put on the front in place of the tire from hell presently on the drinker side front. Do you remember the bumper jacks of this era? As the name implies, they jacked against the bumper.

These jacks had a small base, a 3 or 4 foot shaft, and a device that lifted the car. The device used the lug wrench as a lever to raise the car 1 inch at a time, only to fall back half of that to click into the next cog. While this lurching was going on, the vehicle would be in a state of jerking, falling, and bouncing around. While this jacking, jerking, and bumping was under way, chunks and rust were falling and gathering under my new car. I, however, continued blissfully jacking and jacking, trying to get the offending wheel off the ground.

Finally, I was at the top of the jack. The wheel was still in contact with the earth. My new car had assumed an overall grimace—a freaky, twisted Stephen King-like smile. At that moment, foreshadowing an even more devastating event, the right headlight dropped to the ground. It fell far enough and hit the earth with enough force to break all the glass. Just as all the glass broke, its wire suspended the fall with a twang.

The easy way to get the car down from this type of jack was to start it up and back it up, and the jack would tip out. But I was restricted in my ability to move the vehicle, even by 1 inch. If you have a recollection of these jacks, you may recall that to jack the car down, one had to flip the little lever, reverse the lug wrench configurations, and come down with even more jerking and undulations. I was unable to get her down quick enough. The car began to groan. A hideous and mournful groan like the sound of a ship sinking or the lid of your coffin closing. You get the idea.

The previously mentioned grimace was contorting and further twisting before my eyes. Then suddenly, with the sound of a cork popping on a champagne bottle, the windshield jumped out onto the hood. The entire windshield lay on the hood without breaking or even cracking. The car continued to twist, and then the jack fell. The dust cleared, and the car was resting back on the ground with the tire from hell intact, just as my dad came home from work. He slowed to a stop, walking in for his lunch. His eyes strayed from me to the headlight hanging from its nerves and the windshield rocking on the hood.

What could I say? “Changing the tire,” I said. “Oh, good,” he says. “I was worried that something bad had happened.”

My dad sold the car that afternoon to someone who wanted the windshield; the car went with it…