Mike Wilson: Vehicles I’ve known and not necessarily loved – Salisbury Post


Mike Wilson: Vehicles I have known and not necessarily liked

Published at 00:00 on Sunday, October 9, 2022

By Mike Wilson

There’s a striking and memorable image in “Sensation of Velocity,” an avant-garde 1920s poem by Jorge Luis Borges: that of a sleek sedan rolling the road ahead as it hurtles toward the horizon. I know that feeling; when I drive north on I-85 at 6 a.m. en route to Catawba these days in my new F-150 on cruise control, it seems like nothing can stop me.

As I approached retirement, I finally peaked in vehicles, but it took me about 50 years to get there. I finally broke down and replaced my 2001 Ram when I was faced with 100 degree trips and an A/C repair estimate of around $2000. I had bought the Ram new to replace the Blue Thunder (see below).

My first car was a 1962 Corvair Monza that I bought in 1970 with a $100 gift from my grandfather. (Yes, at that time there were plenty of used cars available for that amount; a friend of mine bought a brand new VW Beetle for $1750 at the same time.) The brown Corvair had a “four-on -the-floor.” I washed and waxed it frequently I was totally unaware of Ralph Nader’s documentary “Unsafe at Any Speed” which included heartbreaking statistics of fatal accidents caused by this model’s fishtail on curves The defect I discovered had nothing to do with the heavy rear – the drive axles were attached to the frame by a relatively unreliable pressure bearing. I confirmed it one day while crossing a bridge and j noticed in my rearview mirror that the right rear tire was sticking out about 8″. Next thing I knew, the wheel had come off and I pulled to a stop, almost off the deck. Goodbye, Corvaire.

My next $100 car was a white 1962 Fairlane with a “three on the tree” that had already been heavily worn by its previous owner, Memphis Light, Gas & Water. It tended to collect moisture under the distributor cap, so whenever it wouldn’t start, I opened the hood and wiped the cap. A more concerning flaw was that the gas gauge didn’t work, so I had to rely on a calculation of gallons purchased (at 0.23, sigh) versus odometer readings. I’m still mad at my sister for using it without my knowledge and leaving me with an unexpectedly empty tank, causing me to seek help right after a high school basketball game. Luckily, my favorite math teacher drove by, so I didn’t have to use my “Arkansas Credit Card” (siphon pipe). My best friend drove a Bel Air of the same vintage with the same manual transmission. It was fun to watch the acrobatics required to shift gears with his left hand while trying to keep his right arm around his girlfriend.

I knew a little about car repair at that time since I helped my father with old cars that he bought to repair and sell. We had a good friend who worked in the paint department at the International Harvester truck plant, so if we showed up at 5:15 any afternoon, he could spray a coat of leftover red over everything that we fix. We once fixed a great looking Impala convertible with a big V-8 that only needed a carb kit, but the first time I hit the throttle I accidentally landed rubber halfway up the block just past my dad. This car instead went to a young man who was looking forward to driving to Canada yesterday.

We then had a real cream puff of a ’62 Galaxie with beautiful dark green paint and black interior. This one needed an engine rebuild, so my dad’s best friend, a jet mechanic, was brought in. One very cold evening, they both had a meeting at church, so they left the job of tightening the acorn nuts to me. I must have missed or under-tightened one; During the test flight on Poplar Avenue a few nights later, I heard an increasingly loud tapping sound, then suddenly stopped dead and all the lights on the dashboard were red. The engine had seized up. Goodbye, Galaxy Cream Puff. It always hurts to contemplate the effects of a loose five cent nut.

I didn’t take a car to go to college. On the one hand, I didn’t think my usual clunkers could make the 24-hour trip to LeMans. When I came home during breaks, I could choose something from the fleet. One summer it was an old VW Beetle with only one flaw: the flywheel was missing a few teeth, so every time it wouldn’t start I had to upshift, grab the rear bumper and pull it up. the back. a few inches. Worked like a charm! My VW indignities were nothing compared to those of a friend whose throttle linkage broke. In his destitute state, he resorted to running a cable along the outside of the car which he would pull forward with his left hand through the window to accelerate. I was with him one day when he stopped crawling towards a traffic light on an uphill grade. Not pretty.

Our wedding was my graduation weekend in 1976. We thought our best friends would already be there. My parents wanted to prepare me for real life with a decent car, so they came to Massachusetts towing a ’66 Impala my dad had fixed. They were accompanied by my aunt and uncle, who followed, towing a large motorhome to use along the way. The story of how this caravan was denied access to the Holland Tunnel because of propane tanks and traffic jams caused by their attempts to perform a U-turn is part of the family lore.

Julio was a 1977 Grand Prix, Tanger Orange with a cream colored vinyl top. It had the biggest V-8 available at the time, and with chains and a trunk full of cinder blocks, it was a real dreadnought in the snow. There was an old Pontiac dealership nearby with a lot of loyal customers that used to trade in at around 100,000 but I knew with proper maintenance they could drive them at least another 75,000 or so so I got several successive cars from them. I was driving the family through the mountains of Virginia on I-81 on a hot day when I got an overheat light. I stopped to open the hood and saw that a water pump hose had split near its end and there was enough slack to fix it, so I just had to wait a bit for things to cool down. I should have waited longer: when I pulled the latch on the radiator cap, I was sprayed on my stomach with hot and scorched coolant. Unfortunately, I had just scalded the same area about 10 days earlier when I accidentally dropped a whole Smithfield ham into a large pot of boiling water while trying to carefully lower it. I finally fixed the pipe and we were on our way. While the car was big, long and heavy, it wasn’t particularly roomy inside, and when our third daughter was born, her sisters and her car seat just wouldn’t fit in the back. I swapped again, and soon Julio was spotted delivering pizza.

Blue Thunder was a ’66 Chevy S-10 that I loved. My dad had found it on a church friend’s farm with weeds growing through the bed and decided to fix it for me to use when we got back from Mexico and moved to Massachusetts to resume our higher education. He actually consulted me on the color and bought some paint, which our friend IH kindly applied. When our first child was born in August, I drove this truck from Memphis to Chicago to Western Mass pulling a U-Haul without a single problem. For the record, my wife made the same trip with our newborn. Apparently, I got the better of the deal… A few years later, it took our relatively meager possessions from Massachusetts to Virginia. I rode it for 22 years, including hauling my duck, and it finally gave up the ghost when it became number 3 in the fleet and the fuel lines got gummy. It expired spitting out very noxious fumes one afternoon in the middle of the West Innes/Statesville Boulevard intersection at 5am sharp, and I only had to walk another 50 feet to reach the Exxon station on the corner. Drivers who couldn’t move seemed very upset.

Mike Wilson is Chair of Modern Foreign Languages ​​at Catawba College.


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