December 9, 2006

The Greaser's Daughter

My husband and I went to the L.A. Auto Show this weekend. For a girl who knows next to nothing about cars, I was surprised at how strong of a reaction I had to these metal monsters. Although I couldn't tell you the difference between a carburetor and a transmission, I can tell you that I love power. I love speed. I love muscle. I'm into hot colors - oranges, yellows, reds. I'm all about a compact interior so you can lean over and plant a huge kiss on whoever is sitting next to you (preferably someone you like, but when you're doing over 90 mph anyone will do).

The Ford Mustang GT Coupe Concept was the glorious union of all these ideals (see picture). It's sheer brilliance. Even though it's a concept, I couldn't stop the drool from oozing out of the corner of my mouth. I had the strange, wild urge to lick the darn thing but was frustrated by the railing surrounding it. The car is lust embodied. Spike eventually had to grab me by the arm and drag me away before I made a scene. My overwhelming desire for this piece of metal surprised me - but then I remembered - sports cars are in my blood.

My dad was a self-diagnosed "Greaser." In his early years he built cars to race in the "hot-rod" division at the drag-strip in Oswego, Illinois. He was a genius with refitting a piece of junk car with high-performance organs and amassed an impressive collection of racing trophies. He once bet his friend cash that he could put together a transmission blindfolded. His friend, knowing what a stud my dad was with cars, wouldn't take the bet.

Not all his racing was on the track and he will admit under duress that there were times when an abandoned road late at night accommodated his high-octane needs. He and his opponent would line up in both lanes with someone standing between the cars with a flag and when the flag dropped he'd pop the clutch and leave his friends gasping in the smoke from his tires. He prided himself on making hot rods that could do wheelies (when the front two tires would pop off the ground when you hit the gas). From the time he was 16 to the age of 21 he had owned approximately 25 cars and a slew of motorcycles.

He gave up racing at 21 when he decided to sell his prize '65 Chevy hot-rod and Harley CH motorcycle in order to pay for a two year Mormon mission. Afterwards, he married and had nine kids, but the Greaser inside refused to die. His need for speed has manifested itself in a long line of jet boats and sports cars. Even though he rarely talked about his racing exploits with us kids, I inherited his mania. My Dad still hasn't forgiven me for getting him a traffic ticket when I shamed him into going way over the speed limit in his Corvette a couple of years ago on the freeway. But honestly, what else are those cars for? Cops should give you a few freebies if you have a sports car.

With a dad like mine, I was doomed. At 18 I was driving a piece of junk Ford Cavalier, but I could make that baby fly. I discovered that if you got on the freeway downtown late at night you could scratch up some pretty good races. All it took was making eye contact with another driver with a similar wild look in his eye and jamming the gas pedal a few times with a grin. Then hopefully an impromptu race would ensue until we caught up with traffic. I know, I know, it's a ridiculously stupid thing to do, but I worked hard for my "Worst Driver" title at my High School graduation and wasn't ready to give it up. It wasn't about beating the other driver - it was about feeling the engine explode and getting the needle to the end of the speedometer. It was about adrenaline.

Everything changed once I had a kid and couldn't justify stupidity for stupidity's sake. I slowed down but I still can't help feeling wildly jealous when motorcycles and punch-drunk motorists blast past me on the highways going WAY over the speed limit. Rationally I know they are going to kill or be killed eventually but the freedom of living in the moment can be insanely attractive. Like my Dad, I've tried to hide my lust for speed under layers of responsibility and tsk-tsking but the Ford Concept car brought it all back to the surface again. I need it. I must have it. Can't I at least lick it?


Anonymous said...

Great post/pseudo-tribute to your dad! And you're right--there's something so delicious about a hot car! Makes me think of Cake's "Stick Shifts & Safety Belts" or "Race Car Ya-Yas."

chronicler said...

Oh my, we could never go driving together! It would end up in a race or worse, getting tickets. Yes, I mean ticket(s). I cannot control myself if I'm with someone enjoying the ride as much as me.

For now, I will, on occasion scared the death out of my husband. :-D

Adrienne said...

Man, I'm surprised your dad and my mom never got to talking cars. Mom used to do road and drag races in her Mustang with her boyfriend as her mechanic. Which, of course, is a story she conveniently neglected to share until I was well into my twenties and driving... a Hyundai. A car that would only hit 80 if I drove it into a crowd.

Lisa M. said...

I wish, I had all of them for your Dad.

This was just neat.

Cobalt is my favorite color on cars, though orange is quickly gaining pace.

A Payne said...

I hope you get your Christmas Miracle and your dad's trophies return home and you get interviewed by Carlos Amezcua on Fox, or Uncle Carlos as we like to call him and the Today Show picks up on it and you get to sit across from Matt Lauer and tell your story and the letch asks you out and you say, "Thanks, but no thanks, Matt."
Oh, to dream!