The Edsel I Loved
If you look back at my first installment of this blog, My Affair With An Edsel, I mentioned that I had acquired this strange habit of testing out other people’s cars when they weren’t looking. I did this, even before I had a license. The Edsel I drove was the property of a film company.
My father was the cameraman.
I worked with him (sort of, he wasn’t crazy about tutoring me), and the setting for this shoot was a little cafe near a city called Peterboro, Ontario, where the action was to take place. Honestly? The action isn’t worth mentioning, but the car, featured in a number of shots, is.
I’ve already mentioned in My Affair With An Edsel, that when I drove it I was hugely impressed by its power, not to mention its sex appeal. It gave me a hard-on. Crazy what testosterone will do to a young man!
There was also a Packard,
a fine brand that has been mostly forgotten, which I drove around the lot at a different movie studio – a short ride, and the power really went to my head, not to mention other parts of my body.
I found myself without any kind of training or experience in the workplace, and the movie business, such as it was, wasn’t about to explode with new jobs. My only option as I saw it then was to get a license to drive a taxi.
I drove all kinds of taxis. There was the 1978 Plymouth, which I actually quite liked. The V8 had lots of power!
Other taxis I drove? Funny, no Fords, in fact most of the cars I drove were Chrysler products. Hm. Can’t say why, Chrysler never really spoke to me.
There was a long gap after the Cortina debacle. I didn’t own a car for several years, and I was spared the heartbreak of continuously losing cars, one way or another. I drove taxi, so that was my entire experience driving during that time, and I learned plenty of useful driving tactics, such as how to cut off drivers in rush hour traffic, and to squeeze in between a streetcar and a parked vehicle, with millimeters to spare. And I was fond of getting the jump on traffic next to me when the road narrowed to one lane, and I learned how close I could squeeze in between a streetcar and parked vehicles, and sometimes I didn’t quite make it!
I wasn’t the most considerate driver, I have to admit, and I gave some passengers a fright with my unorthodox driving.
This was the ADHD acting up. I took risks. And when my father died, I took to my taxi with a vengeance. I guess I chose to “act out.”
It was lucky the cops stopped me before I’d done any serious damage. You got it, I was arrested for drunk driving. That was the first and last time I ever allowed that to happen.
Can You Believe I Became A Driving Instructor?
Believe it or not, after insulting and enraging most of the city’s drivers with my chaotic driving, I decided to be a driving instructor. I took a course in how to teach driving and for that I bought a 1987 Pontiac GrandAm.
I already owned an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I’d had it restored and it was a great car, lots of power, but I needed an automobile I could use for teaching.
Eventually, I became a nervous wreck, not to mention the wear and tear on my GrandAm. I was required to teach students emergency stops and brake & swerve techniques, which had a HUGE impact on my car but very little on any of my pupils. I took a job as a messenger, and my poor car had to take even more abuse. In the end, the engine seized up and I had to abandon it.
So after running my GrandAm into the ground, I signed up for a new car. I knew I was heading for trouble. The messenger business was drying up, there was too much competition. Established drivers, who had been with the company for a time, were fond of deriding me over the air, trying to confuse me with false directions!
Nice chaps! Looking back, I can see that it was a defense strategy. As we were all self-employed, it was dog eat dog, more or less, and the really good “runs” were often passed on to drivers quietly, on the side. The dispatcher would hand them the orders when they were called into the office. This, while I sat for hours in my car, reading, while the bills piled up and my morale sank to a new low level.
My Last Automobile
Yes, friends, I finally reached the end. In 1995, after a year or so without wheels, I saw an ad for a 1980 Buick Riviera, which didn’t look as nice as the one in the picture. In fact, if anyone reasonably intelligent had been there with me when I laid out the $2,500 for this pile of bolts, maybe they would have prevented me from making another historical mistake!
You see, I had a thing about the Buick Riviera, because my father had owned one and which I’d driven, a 1963 model, and when he died I inherited it – for a while, anyway.
The repairs mounted up, but I still kept faith. What an idiot! The mechanic said to me, “You paid for this car?”
Believe it or not, I haven’t driven a car since. That was in 1996. Go figure!
This last transaction reminded me of my first one, the day so long ago when I purchased the Benz, in my youth, and drove it without understanding that I was possibly going to die in it.
The Cars My Father Bought
Before coming to Canada, we’d spent more than a decade in England, as a family – I was only one year old when we emigrated from what was then Palestine – and the post-war period was not a happy one, in the UK: I actually remember my mother shopping with ration cards, which persisted into the year 1954!
Wow! Looking back now, it seems crazy. While over here in North America, the standard of living was spiraling every upward, in the British Isles, things weren’t too chippy.
So, I guess my father must have got used to the poverty. (As a matter of fact, my parents and I occupied a single room for twelve years!) Sadly, he opted for second best, or worse. He’d gone through the war, been a prisoner in a Soviet Gulag when a lot of Poles were captured by that bunch, and he’d served on the North African front as a combat photographer. He had had something vital drained from him.
So, having so little money and even less ambition, he stuck to what he could afford, which wasn’t very much.
His first car was a 1938 Morris 8.
Mind you, this was in 1952, as far as I can remember. Then, some years later, we graduated to another Morris, but it was a decade newer: 1948 Morris 8.
As you can see, we weren’t exactly on any fast-track to somewhere, every day was a struggle for my parents.
It was a year before we immigrated to Canada that my father just about brought us up to date and purchased a brand new Morris Minor, in what they called shocking blue, in 1956!
The New World
In November of 1957, we moved to Canada. After much tribulation and hardship, my father had finally figured out that maybe England wasn’t the best place to be. Much can be said about my voyage, on one of the last Cunard Line steamships to cross the Atlantic, but that’s another story.
My father (God rest his soul!) had a thing about British cars, which persisted into the new country: he stuck to what he knew. In succession, we owned some kind of Austin, first, followed by a new Morris Minor station wagon –
in England it was a “shooting brake.” It was terrible. English cars weren’t made for the kind of climate and roads we had in Canada. The electrical systems, even in the most expensive cars like Jaguar, would fail.
Well, the Morris packed it in one day. My father had made a trade, now for a Vauxhall -a General Motors from England – and the problem was that the Morris was in such poor shape, he had to drive it into the dealer’s basement garage, careful not to use the accelerator too much as the tailpipe was gushing out blue smoke. That only meant one thing: the motor was busted, kaput! And the salesman who had made the deal was concerned lest someone notice.
One day, the Vauxhall almost went up in flame when the electrical system fails and caused a fire, strangely, while parked!
My father rewired the entire electrical system! I don’t know whether to be proud of him or to deride him for being so cheap! (He never bought new tires, only the retreads, which in the end were crap.)
The Grand Finale
Late in his life, in fact a couple years before he died, my father bought a 1963 Buick Riviera. I acquired it when he passed away. It was all I had left of him, and I tried to do it justice. But I had no money. This being a luxury car, parts were expensive. I had to sell it.
Well, the epic story of cars I knew and loved, or hated, rolled on.
Please stay tuned for more. I welcome any comments you may have. Certainly, if you’ve had any similar, completely crazy stories to tell about car ownership, I’d love to hear them.
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel (when it was still Palestine, a British protectorate. I was 1 year old when we moved to England, where I grew up. At age 12, we left for Canada and I’ve lived here ever since.