First Cars

My mind has been musing upon my first car, since awhile back, after watching two young children get their motorized tot-car out of a muddy section of back yard pasture land.

At first viewing, I was tempted to comment on the cute video, shared by a family member, with the question, “didn’t they have burlap bags in the vehicle for such emergencies??” followed promptly by the thought, “now, where did that come from??

1977 VW Scirocco

I knew why – my first car. 1977 VW Scirocco.

Long ago, a local friend of the family ran a used car business, my mom and I had been juggling work schedules in order to share the family van to get to work and we had both had enough of that.

Neither of us had saved up enough $ to simply purchase outright, vehicle of our own. The panel van was purchased for back up vehicle for my Dad’s Plumbing business – and, when not needed, was free to be used on other fronts, such as providing Mom with vehicle that gave her space and grace to take her elderly neighbors and club members all to town for shopping needs.

One extra vehicle, pressed into serve on many needed fronts, in the recession of the 1980s that hard hit construction and rural areas and grocery prices, etc.

(see? It’s not just COVID that wrecks things – It’s just more in the news for some than others – please don’t forget this – I remember well, the 1980s recession….)

My mom worked freelance, I had steady weekly paychecks.

Thus, with my mom as a co-signer, we figured out the amount which was prudent/doable to finance, and off we went to Charlie’s lot.

There were two cars in the lot in our figured out and possible price range for me to meet and not destroy her good name.

One was a rear-wheel drive, automatic, with a prettier outer shell of no dings from hail or oopsies. A classic car of graceful lines and pristine interior.

The other was the front-wheel drive, manual transmission, with some dings in the body, a fading paint job and interior areas that showed threadbare in spots.

One was a Ford Mustang and one was a VW Scirocco.

One had better MPG fuel rates than the other.

One was ‘cooler’ than the other.

Driving a ‘cool’ car in high school is rather important, ya know…and yet…..

I had to have hard conversations about resale value, looks, foreign vs. domestic, maintenance costs, performance, etc….

But I succeeded in bringing home the ‘ugly duckling foreigner’, in the end.

Yup, I chose the Scirocco.

To me, it was the only choice given what I was going to depend upon it to do – traverse muddy, slickery, icy or snow drifted roadways.

80 miles round trip on county dirt roads and paved state roads to traverse to school, then work, then back home, often late at night in areas where a helping hand most likely wouldn’t just be ‘passing by’.

Needed good enough gas mileage to not decimate my weekly paycheck just to get to work and back home, in order to earn that paycheck.

Rural Living means no mass transportation and/or easy to get employment within walking distance.

Maintenance?

Well….. I had been dating a mechanic who owned a VW Rabbit. Had learned some things during that time.

I had friends with classic cars and though the model year of the Mustang wouldn’t be seen as a classic or ‘awesome car!” on any of their fronts – It did occur to me they would set about urging and hounding me to make the affordable dream go sour by trying to talk me into trickin’ it out and upgrading some parts in order to be a ‘hot rod’. Cuz, afterall, one of them owned a Mustang that WAS a hot rod, and afterall, I was their friend and didn’t know as much on such matters as they did…It would be their ‘friend job’ to steer me into making the Mustang everything it COULD be –

I could only see huge bills for engine, transmission, hood scoops to either provide actual air influx to run the souped up parts below the hood, or just to look ‘hot’ as the case would be, long nights of wet sanding modifications cut in to ‘be cool’ and then painting them over – etc., etc., etc.

I never regretted my choice.

Even after, at times, I learned roadside mechanic ‘get er done’ skills here and there along the way.

A friend at work, who was building up a side business for custom paint jobs smoothed out her lines and dressed her up in metallic burgundy, with metallic pin stripping and “Free Spirit” hand lettered on her rear end, for cost of paint, just to have free reign to make my car his canvas.

Some of my guy friends said he was doing it for a date. I figured my car had become free advertisement for his artistry….

Turned out, my friends were right, but also turned out he got business from my cost of paint job only, and it all turned out okay….

A $9 purchase of an 8-track to Cassette converter allowed her stereo system to play the music I had invested in.

Along our way together, I learned out to switch out a fuel pump in a Napa parking lot, how bad it would blister and burn to use a rag dipped in solvent tank to remove asphalt from my arm….and also learned, when you mess up when you are young and cause damage to a brand new laid parking lot area, there are folks who forgive you for your stupidity of youth – and are befuddled when Goop and Lava soap offerings don’t work to remove asphalt from a youngn’s arm….and send ya across the street with introduction, because, hey! Solvent will get that stuff right OFF!

And you learn that your drafting teacher at school the next day is really, a coach at heart that cues in on weird, careful movements of a child athlete in their field of vision – who has a full first aid kit on hand and chews you out for being so silly as to do such things, but patches it up and promises not to tell your parents how silly you were – no sense worrying them….

Hot Rodding Benefits and Consequences

I learned how to do ‘donuts’ in reverse and how much easier they were to do in a spring snow in an abandoned lot that resembled pasture….

I learned that when you were in a hurry, she would get up and go faster than you thought she was capable of…..

….and that sometimes, law enforcement are really nice folks – who don’t write the ticket for the mileage they actually clocked you at and ALSO believe you when you tell them you were hurrying over to pick up the top cable for the speedometer you had to order in and get back to hometown in time for senior play practice.

Instead, they write a ticket you can gulp at, but afford to pay and now?

Ya only gotta keep your nose real clean cuz you are driving on 0 points license and have 5 months to go before more points bestowed , instead of losing your job because you no longer have a valid license due to ticket that was more points than you had.

In short, they believed me when, in answer to their question, “Do you know why I stopped you?” – and I replied, “Not for sure, but was I speeding? Sorry, my speedometer not currently working but on my way to pick up the part to fix it!”

Football players are really Great!

I also learned that football players were more than happy to just, one to a corner, lift my car out of a muddy ditch I had slid down into, (during which I lost the Saturday night in small town, cat and mouse game we loved to play) all while I stood aside and watched in awe, and thinking to myself, “Good purchase decision! They couldn’t have done that with a bigger car or a van….”

I learned how to tighten the stripped bolt that held the alternator assembly and belt pulley (thingee!) to keep the battery charging as I drove back and forth to work, to keep it going until my days off from work arrived and I had time to visit a friend who had the tools and know-how to help me fix it correctly.

I learned how to install new disc brake shoes and to stand up to mechanics who assured me any issue was the carburetor, when I knew my car was fuel injected and they would have known too, if they had taken time to gaze at the bling on her back end that was installed at the factory.

I also learned that having empty burlap bags, a bag of sand and a small shovel in your trunk could often get you unstuck all by yourself, in adverse conditions on the main roadway.

I learned the hard way, to pay more attention to how I used the jack, and to have it well seated into it’s base, but didn’t lose a foot over it – merely broke a lot of small bones in my foot and learned to wrap my foot, and work on it too, without permanently crippling myself for life.

I watched an antelope run right into my passenger door as I slowed to make a turn and either he was in full flight from predator and thought he could beat me, or the lights confused him, or I forget to use my turn signal in the back of beyond.

Wrecked the door all to heck it did. No body to be found, so either the predator took care of it, or the antelope had shook off his concussion and limped off before Dad and I arrived back at the scene to take care of the damage I had left behind because I had worked late and needed to make my way home over 40 miles before any home front worriers thought they ought to wake Dad up in middle of the night to go look for me.

I learned miracles do happen

God watches out for Fools and Children, because I limped into town to pick up a new air filter to replace the one that had been ruined with dead winter stalks of prairie grass

(remember the doing donuts in snow in abandoned pasture? Oh yeah, clogged that air filter right up – could see the seeds and chaffe in the air filter as I shook it out……)

And then? hauled out my ’emergency jug of water’ from the trunk and used that to ‘rinse it out’, and stood flapping that air filter in the Colorado wind until it wasn’t soggy wet, put it in, started her up and made it the last 5 miles to the Napa store – only to learn….

GASP! You NEVER put WATER on an Air Filter! You probably ruined your engine….hmmm…well….all seems okay…..what the hell were you thinking putting WATER on an AIR filter?

See? God watches over fools! 😀

I drove in her through roadside sobriety checkpoints, did a cartwheel in high heels on the line that ran by her side, one New Year’s Eve, just to quickly prove I had not been drinking, and my offer to save me time and fulfill obligations for them, in their job, actually worked!

I needed to make my way to my graveyard job early enough to change out of the costume for going out with my friends in one place into practical shoes and costume for manning the 24/7 convenience gas station 70 miles away –

I had moved and was working a lot and hadn’t made many new friends in the new area – thus, I extended my visit back home, to go out with my friends, knowing durn well, I had to leave my old home by 10pm, dead sober and drive all that way to start another 2 weeks of no days off at my new home & jobs…

I just forgot to allow time for multiple roadside sobriety checks…and by the third one of the journey, I was starting to fret over being late and thought, what the heck? Why not just say so and ask, “If I can do this in a dress and high heels, would you believe I haven’t been drinking???”

Sometimes, you just get a “Yes” to your Ask….

But I also remember that earlier time….

When I did roadside sobriety tests in front of 3 of her 4 lights because I was stupid enough to drench myself in perfume about 4 blocks away from the local bar, where the current guy I was dating was out with his friends, and I, recently off shift, in my nurses aide, baggy uniform, wanted to drop by and say hi before going home, to put get up early and replace her eye beams before a long weekend of work and traveling….

All while certain I wished to smell of something other than Vicks vapor rub, disinfectant and the other not so pleasant things one must clean up when caring for those who can’t do for themselves, before ‘dropping in on the boyfriend’ out having fun…

I wonder now, why I cared? I dropped him long before I dropped perfume wearing…..

I learned that night, that for some law enforcement personages?

The lingering smell of alcohol in perfume sprays overdone all over one, in a car, with windows up to keep out the winter cold, will put them on high alert, and they really don’t like ‘sass’ when you do the back and forth with them….

“Yes, I know I have a headlight out. Special order in and dad picked it up on his way home tonight and I’ll have it installed by tomorrow morning. No, I haven’t been drinking. I just got off shift from work”

“Are you sure?” as the flashlight blinds me.

“Yes, I am sure, you can drive over to the nursing home and check my timecard, I just clocked out.”

“Don’t get sassy with me, missy. If you haven’t been drinking, you won’t mind doing some tests to prove it! Get out of the car and stand in front of it.”

And I did the tests. I mean, taking tests are just part of being a child in school, right?

Did them in my baggy pants, big shirt and nursing approved non-skid, easy on the feet shoes and was totally humiliated because, I saw my friends and community neighbors looking out of the plate glass window of the bar, a few yards away, as I touched my nose, stood on one foot, etc., and knew, the news would most likely arrive to my parents before I drove home 10 miles away….

He let me ‘go’, but from that day forward, I had a portion of my brain and heart that spouted off warnings here and there –

“Not all folks who wear a uniform or have authority are smart or good.”

I also learned how to limp into safety of town when the thermostat froze up without overheating and blowing her engine.

And then I learned how to switch out a thermostat, do a full radiator flush and get all put back together for what would work.

I’ve owned many used cars

In fact, I only purchased a new car, once, and I will refrain from naming it, just because that POS (piece of s**t) doesn’t merit any further free advertisement on my part…

And I boycotted the company who made it, marketed that which they didn’t stand by and totally screwed the pooch on earning trust from me, long ago over that one purchase.

Over my life time? ALL the $ spent on purchase, insurance, maintenance, tow fees, etc., for all the second hand, used, POSs I could afford at the time, and drove until it cost me more to fix it than purchase yet another used, POS?

ALL of them put together, didn’t had up to the costs of owning that brand new car for just 5 years.

5 years vs…now? About 5 years out of 37 years – and that little stint cost way more than all the rest added together?

Preservation of my soft spots

I have a soft spot in my heart for ugly ducklings, salvaged, used hard and not taken care of vehicles and living things, too.

I find them much more dependable, affordable regarding the resources I have to spend and well – –

I learn so very much from them- especially when I see the possibilities and I also gain delight in proving all the status quo, marketing agencies and hoarding masses who dislike me by judging my car…..Wrong!

The quiet beauty, gifts, stalwart loyalty and dependability a soul like me needs, often comes in packages overlooked, by others.

The proving others wrong on some fronts is just icing on the cake, gravy on the potatoes or side-fringe-benefit.

This post may someday have a featured image of my car. I’ll have to wait to visit my mom and scan the picture of an old Polaroid or Kodak picture to show you.

And yes, I did LOOK for a picture of that make/model/year of car on various websites- – but none available to share, did her full justice.

Not for her – and Danny? I always loved the name you bestowed upon her, during your paint job,

“Free Spirit”.

That was her name and she defied all the ‘experts advice’ over and over while carting me from A to B and never, leaving me alone and walking alongside the deserted roadway.

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