Last month I talked about buying the right car. This month I am going to talk about the absolute best way to get a car: have your parents give it to you. Here are the rules:
1. Make sure the car they give you is clean, only wrecked once by your mother.
2. Make sure the car they give you is the car you drove in high school, even if it was a family car and your mother drove it. (Of course she would have to drive it to wreck it.)
3. Make sure the car they give you is from the sixties, uses a lot of gas and is a convertible.
Yes, that is the best way: Get a fantastic car from your parents that has history and will have attracted attention when it was new and attracts attention now that it is "mature".
I did it. Maybe you did it too.
My father Sam Jr. (yes I am the "III") wanted to buy a '62 Bonneville convertible. The salesman helpfully suggested the '63's were right around the corner and he could order one. It obviously made sense to him because that is exactly what he did. I was with him at the dealership in the summer of 1962 when he bought it. I was almost 16, which of course meant I was 15 2/3 or so. So close, but so far away.
Regardless of my age, I was determined to guide the purchase. I said, "How about a four speed?" Of course my father was not stupid. He politely suggested my mother would not be able to drive a four speed. He, regrettably, was absolutely correct. My dear mother did not learn to drive until she was 25 or 26 and even then she could hardly drive at all. So the four speed was a no go. After that failure, I then inquired about the 8 lug aluminum wheels. He countered with less expensive spinners. I accepted.
Then, in a turning point in my life, he looked over his glasses, stared straight at me and said, "buckets or bench?" I was totally unprepared for the question. The possibilities and probabilities raced through my head. But, in the final analysis, coolness was way more important than my grim love life, which at 15 was nonexistent.. I chose "buckets". This was an excellent decision as it turned out. The console was flat and could be used as a seat. In effect, I got the best of both worlds.
The car came in October of 1962. I still could not drive, but only dream. Finally, after an eternity, I turned 16. I quickly got my drivers license and it was time to take the car out for the first time on a DATE and at NIGHT. Remember, that first date in car????
As I pulled out of the driveway, my dear mother warned me that this car was the only new car she had ever had. There were some other words, but I got the message; Mess-up the car and you are toast. I remember who I took out, where we went and where I parked the car. I remember nothing else about the evening. I do remember looking at the car before going into the movie and determining I parked the car out of harms way.
I was able to take the car on dates and sometimes out on the weekends with the guys. I was as cool as anybody in the universe. NO check that, I was cooler. I did not know it at the time but I was enjoying my peak of coolness. It's been all downhill from then.
My father later commented that the first set of tires only got 10,000 miles before replacement. Since I was then in my 30s, I could tell him, "Of course, because every light was the beginning of a new race. What would you expect?" We both laughed.
The car is in my yearbook. I can show you the pictures. The car went to the prom. I was the car and the car was me. I always felt good driving it.
In the interim my folks bought a Sprite. That was supposed to be my car. I happily drove it to school and my first year at Cal. But the car was tiny. A far cry from the Bonneville land yacht. The only advantage is that because I went to school early, I was able most mornings to park for free in front of Harmon Gym. There was a street there at the time and the car was so small I could fit in between the UC employee's car that had parked there over night.
When I lived on campus starting my sophomore year, I was carless. But as it became clear I would graduate and I turned twenty-one, my folks said I could have the Sprite as a graduation present. Pretty nice. But that did not keep me from asking if I might have the Pontiac instead.
They said OK. I had a 5 year old still really cool car and it had about 48k miles on it. So, the second chapter began.
More on that next time.
Photo Albums: Downtown Grass Valley Car Show • Alta Sierra Wine Shop
Hub Society Report • Acquiring a Bonneville • Document Your Vehicle • Gas Tax Cap