I began my history with the automobile before I had a driver's license.
My Dad towed home an old 1950 bullet-nosed Studebaker and parked it in the backyard.
"Get it running and maybe I'll let you drive it," he told me.
My pop was a pretty good mechanic, but he was not offering any help. It's broke - fix it! I did manage to get the old flat head six running, but it was fairly terminal.
Once I had my driver's license, I was the proud owner of a 1951 Hudson Hornet. It had a big fan in a barrel outside over the passenger side window. I loved all of the gizmos on the old cars, but am not so sure about the improvements we get with the newer models.
My Ford Explorer seems to spend an awful lot of time locking and unlocking itself. I'm pretty sure one day I will have to break a window to get in. I miss the old style door lock knobs. When I was a kid my buddies and I spent a lot of time trying to find really cool knobs to screw onto the door lock pins. Dice was good and baseballs were popular, but the ultimate was skeleton skulls.
Eventually, I would own a 1954 Studebaker. It had a handle under the dash that you could pull to put the car into overdrive. That worked just fine. I bought curb feelers for it that reflected the light. That let everyone know the boy tooling past was very sharp.
Somehow after that I went backwards and bought a 1949 Pontiac with a straight eight engine. That car had a big visor out over the windshield that made it very difficult to see the red lights. Pontiac solved that by mounting a glass prism on the dash. That allowed you to see the traffic signals without craning your neck.
People sometimes ask me how I fell in love with cars at such a young age? The answer - Girls! In high school it was very obvious that the fellows with the coolest cars had the prettiest girlfriends.
My buddies and I worked very hard to try and get our old junkers looking good, but for me it was pretty much futile. One evening I summoned up all of my courage and approached my dad. "Pop," I began. "The fellow at the used car lot down the street said that he would take my car in trade and let me have that red and cream 1955 Chevy convertible for $27 a month" The old man looked up from his newspaper. "Where in hell are you going to get $27 a month?" I had no idea.
My dad's bark was much worse than his bite and soon I was the proud owner of the convertible. It never did run very well, but sure enough when I could get it to the hamburger stand the girls would get in. My spirits and my love life soared. Soon I was able to afford a set of spinner hubcaps. I liked them so much I mounted little lights under the fender wells so the girls could see them at night. I have always loved the good throaty sound of an engine and soon I bought Glaspacs to make my Chevy sound better. When I took off the perfectly good stock mufflers to install the Glaspacs my dad just shook his head in disgust. I sure did love that Chevy.
I worry about the kids these days. There is sure not much a kid can identify with in the used car lots. Will those hybrid things even spin the wheels? A young fellow must be able to spin the wheels. Some things just can't be compromised.
If you enjoyed reminiscing with me a bit, you might like to be a part of the Birth of Rock And Roll classes at the Casements at Ormond Beach. Darryl Gentry will amaze you with his knowledge of early rock and how it all began. Classes are each Tuesday, beginning Oct. 9, through Nov. 13. Call (386) 763-4152 to reserve your spot.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society, The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of a fishing book.