Ah, the cars of yesteryear, with their wide chrome mouths, bug-eyed headlights, and that Naugahyde upholstery. Boy, if cars could talk, imagine the stories they'd tell!
On Pacoima Court in the 50’s, the first car I remember was our beat-up Ford, with its tired blue paint job, a taillight that was busted, and the ripped upholstery. Still, it got us to the beach, and back, and at that time, that's all that mattered. Even when we came home from the beach, no one cared that there was about 2 inches of sand on the floor, as it enabled us to continue making sandcastles as the car lumbered over Sepulveda and wheezed its way into the SF Valley.
The second car I remember was a Renault Dauphine, a bubble-shaped beige car that was used to help my brothers and sisters learn how to drive. Imagine four teenagers trying to shove a stick shift into submission as they flexed their navigation skills down Ventura Blvd. toward Carpenter? The car would cough and lunge as they tried to slam the gears into first, and then of course, it would stall.
I remember my older sister Lynn driving us to Walter Reed in the Renault, cloaked only in her bathrobe. Luckily she didn’t get pulled over. I can just imagine her mug shot with all those huge rollers in her hair.
Our third car was a sleek Studebaker, two-toned in yellow and white, and worthy of the Jetson’s consideration. When my mom purchased it, she wasn’t aware that it was probably possessed like that car Christine in Spielberg’s movie. The car would “race” when it was in neutral at about 8 miles per hour. Maybe an Indy driver owned it previously, and the car missed him.
I remember my mom smoking all the time, and once, when we were near Beeman Park, she ran a red light when she dropped her butt on the floor. She was quickly trying to rescue it when we began entering the intersection. It was a close call, and I’m sure we blamed it on the possessed Studebaker. After that, she unloaded it for about $10.
Finally, Teresa and I got our drivers license, and my mom purchased a 1953 Oldsmobile, some shoddy shade of gray for about $300. My sister says it cost $50, but maybe that was the price for getting an immediate overall, since my brothers weren’t having much any luck in getting it to run.
But it became our go-to vehicle to attend North Hollywood High School when we got tired of riding our bikes or taking the bus. This car could do no wrong. It could easily seat six teen-agers, do donuts in the dirt lots, and we never had to worry about it being vandalized or stolen, since it was already 20 years old. We’d take it to UCLA to visit my mom when she was hospitalized, flooring it so we could get over the hill.
My mom finally came into some money after her surgery settlement, and we finally got a new car, a forest green Chevy Malibu. The car didn’t smell like some combination of sweat and old dog, and for the first time in a long time, I felt our family was styling.
But, it’s the old cars that I really remember, for isn’t it the struggle that makes every journey worthwhile?