Thursday, February 17, 2011

OLD BLUE

When I had saved enough money to buy my very first car I was excited.  Barb and I had been using her seventy one Nova for transportation for more than a year and my future father in law was getting anxious for me to take the reigns as far as driving was concerned in our relationship.  Even though we never told him I think he suspected the fact that I had been taking the reigns driving but I was driving that precious Nova instead of a car of my own.

I began looking in the newspaper want ads for a car to buy.  I had a very short but detailed list of what I wanted in a car.  First off it had to be a Chevy.  Barb's dad was a Chevy man his whole life and if I came calling on his daughter in anything but a Chevy my value in his eyes would drop dramatically.  It also had to be one of Chevrolet's hot looking cars.  Back in seventy four Chevy had a few of those.  The Malibu, The Nova and the Camaro all would fit the bill nicely as far as I was concerned.  I also thought it would be nice if the engine had a little gumption to it.  A sound all it's own that was not exactly quiet and sounded something like a dragster over at the I-70 dragstrip would be nice.  If it had a stereo already installed then that would be a bonus.  I felt like I was capable of installing a stereo loud enough to overcome the sound of the engine in my car.

As I searched the ads in the paper I came across the perfect choice.  It was a nineteen seventy Chevy Chevelle that had an asking price of $850.  The Chevelle was the same thing as their Malibu but a hopped up version of it.  They were nice cars that weren't too big but still had enough room for the long legs that would drive it and plenty of room for the goal of marathon make out sessions with Barb.  Barb and I decided it would give her father, Harry, a sign of respect from me if I took him along to check out the car with me.  So on a cloudy muggy afternoon before dinner Harry and I set off for the used car dealer and that magnificent Chevelle that was waiting for me.

I had called the dealership earlier and told them to be expecting us.  When we pulled into the lot on Highway 50 the Chevelle was sitting right out in the middle ready for a test run.  It was as black as black can be.  It had two racing stripes starting at the front bumper and going over the roof of the car to the rear bumper.  The body suggested that the car had met other cars or foreign objects in a violent matter but all the fenders were still on it.  I was in love with it as soon as I stepped out of Harry's car. 

As I walked around the car the salesman began giving me his pitch on the car.  Good car that ran good.  Very dependable and even though the gas mileage wasn't great you could get to where you were going very fast somehow saving me gas in the drive.  I could see that point easily as I was blinded by love at that moment in time.  Harry walked slowly over to it with his hands in his front jeans pockets.  He stood at the side of the car and gave that look that only Harry could give.  Yes it was a Chevy or had been at one point in time.  The back end was jacked up with those old air shocks making the front of the car point almost straight to the ground.  Harry looked at it slowly without moving.  His head moved from the front of the car to the back of it and his expression did not change.  His lips were straight and tight and the only words he could muster in a somewhat incredulous tone of voice were "So this is it?"

After the salesman offered to start it up and let us listen to the how it ran Harry shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head.  I could see his thoughts as sure as if he had said them. "Sure... why not?  I wonder if it will start..." and so forth.  I could tell that this car was not impressing Harry in the least bit.  The salesman started the car and it sounded just as I imagined it would.  It was loud and rough.  The car rocked from side to side as the salesman punched the accelerator.  It was then that I noticed Harry had quit looking at my car and his eyes were wandering around the rest of the lot.  I was still believing that Harry would love this car and give me and it a blessing. I was in serious denial.

As the salesman continued to talk to me about the car, Harry started wandering around the lot.  He was gone for about five minutes when he came back and asked the salesman about a car way back in the corner.  We walked back to an old sixty seven Impala.  It was a tank of a car.  It looked to be half again the width of the Chevelle and twice as long.  There were four doors hanging on it and the front fender was dented just a bit.  The paint on it was sky blue or had been at one point in time.  It had faded like a pair of old blue jeans so that you could tell it was blue but you couldn't exactly figure out what shade of blue it was.

Harry popped the hood on the car and checked the oil.  The dipstick came out with oil so clear you could have used it on your hair.  He checked the transmission fluid and it was in a pristine state as well.  The engine in the car was a small straight six cylinder that became lost in the spacious area where a huge V8 would fit nicely.  Harry looked at the salesman and without even glancing at me told him we would give him $200 for it.  The salesman looked at the car and informed us it had just arrived a day or two earlier and a price hadn't been set on it.  He would go talk to his boss.

While he was gone Harry told me that the Chevelle wouldn't last a year but this Impala was a real car.  This was his choice for his daughter to be taxied around in on Friday and Saturday nights.  I knew that I was sunk.  Harry had his mind made up and to be honest, I trusted his judgment without doubt.  I knew that I would be driving this car home if the price was anywhere near $800.  Harry had a smile on his face because I think he realized exactly what I was thinking.  The Chevelle was gone and the Impala was in.  My love affair with the black car had last barely thirty minutes.

The salesman eventually returned and gave us news that neither of us were expecting.  They would let the Impala go for $200 just as Harry had asked.  Harry shook the man's hand then motioned for me to shake his hand as well.  I did so without much enthusiasm.  We went into the office and did all the paper work that the state of Missouri requires.  I wrote a check for the full amount and the keys were handed over to me.  I followed Harry back to his house with a rather heavy heart that night.  I was driving a "grandpa car".  It wasn't meant for a teenager to drive.  It just wasn't right.  I could not have been more wrong.

Harry's wisdom that evening gave me a car that would last for years and earned a nickname of "Old Blue".  Harry even referred to it as Old Blue when he would ask if I was keeping maintenance up on it.  It was easy to work on as you could sit in the engine compartment with the engine and have plenty of room to work.  You could actually reach the oil filter without sliding under the car for oil changes.  The gas mileage on the Impala was unreal.  It gave me twice the mileage that Barb's hot Nova would bring us.  It crossed the state back and forth several times without coming close to breaking down.  I eventually put a stereo in it and the engine was so quiet I did not have to crank it up at all.  I would eventually take the back seat out of it at given times and be able to haul things that a small pickup could haul.  There was so much room in that car that Barb's dog, Babs, would stay underneath it and walk around while were were out driving.

Looking back it was the best car dollar for dollar I ever owned.  When I eventually got the urge to buy a brand new car that had never been driven before, Old Blue was still running as fine as the day I had bought it.  I went to the lot and bought Old Blue's replacement.  "NEW Blue" was a Chevy Malibu, the same model of car that the old Chevelle was based on.  It was not jacked up in the back though and did not have a huge engine.  It ran quietly and smoothly.  I finally had my Malibu and it looked like a car my dad would drive.  I had indeed grown up I guess.

I eventually sold Old Blue later that year.  I sold it to a kid named Jack at the office who was just starting his independent life.  He couldn't afford a lot for a car so I sold him Old Blue for $200.  It was the same amount I had paid for it.  In a way Old Blue was a free car for all those years that I drove it.  We don't know what came of Old Blue though.  Jack was driving it on the highway one night and ran out of gas.  While he was walking to a gas station Old Blue disappeared and was no where in sight when Jack came back with a container of gasoline.  I think it is best that I don't know how the end came for that old car especially if it died in an accident that tore it to shreds.  This way I can keep Old Blue in my memory exactly as I saw it that first time in the used car parking lot and I can still love it.

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