She’s sleek. She’s sexy. She purrs. When she’s around, he’s got his eyes on her curves and he just can’t help but touch her parts. She takes him places he’s always dreamed about and my husband is just plain smitten.
I’m talking, of course, about our, er, HIS, 1966 Mustang convertible. The Pony is his hobby, she is his passion, she is his relaxation. In a competition between me and the car, I’m fairly certain I’d win but only because the Pony has an oil leak that he’s been trying to fix for years and I’d get the extra points for being cleaner. I’d win, but it would be a narrow margin.
My husband’s love affair with cars started from a very young age and it’s only intensified now that he has the funds to feed the monster. As a boy, he played with toy cars constantly and was never happier than when he was allowed to tinker with old cars and their parts. He fondly recounts making a “dashboard” out of junk yard parts procured with his grandfather and he is very proud of the fact that he fixed a broken running light in his mom’s Dodge Dart when he was 9. His prized “possession” as a child was an old, beat up station wagon that his father hadn’t gotten around to selling. He’d spend hours “working” on the car and dreaming of the day that he’d have his own. The day he came home from school to an empty driveway (his dad had finally sold it for the tires), legend has it he cried and didn’t speak to his parents for days. A man obsessed at the tender age of 11.
Throughout high school, he owned a 1971 Thunderbird as his daily driver. I repeat: he drove a classic car. To high school. The “Big Bird” got all of 12 miles to the gallon and he used to have to fill it with leaded gas at a local airport. He was the youngest member of the local chapter of the Thunderbird club and from what I understand, his mother gave up her parking space in the garage so that his classic could be “garage kept”. Most of the stories he and his buddies recount from the glory days include the following: someone’s souped up car, high speeds, and a cop or two. For a good laugh, be sure to ask his mother about the time she caught him driving down the road at the age of 12 in the aforementioned Dodge Dart (“It wasn’t me, Mom, it was my cousin!” His cousins lived in at the Jersey shore. He did not.).
When I married my husband, I knew of his car obsession but I did not know that there are things that the Spouse of a Car Crazy Person should know for basic survival. For instance, The Lingo. There are words and phrases that should flow off your tongue like motor oil. As in, when asked about the type of engine you have, you do not answer “silver”. The correct answer is “I have a 2.0 duel overhead cam, multi port fuel injected engine”. You should be able to use the words “piston”, “crankshaft” and “resto/mod” in conversation. I have also found that throwing the word “catalytic converter” into a conversation makes you sound knowledgeable and that if you say the word “tranny” to this crowd, it’s not an insult.
Over the years, I have had car parts in my dining room, had a car actually up on blocks in my driveway (Beverly Hillbilly style), and have had an engine fire in my garage (the video is priceless). I have been to car shows numbering near 100 and have sweltered in the sun as my husband drools over the 1966 GTO. I have had many a Saturday dominated by the sounds of the air compressor and NASCAR on the garage radio. I have survived a three year engine rebuild and restoration of the Pony and suspect that there will be many a disassembled car in my future. And, considering that when my husband recently bought a new car, my son announced “Hey, Daddy, we could potentially be buying my first car today!”, I have a feeling the Car Crazy has been passed to the next generation.
While admittedly, I haven’t always been a willing participant in the said Car Crazy, I, more recently, have raised the checkered flag and have given in to the role of the Spouse of the Car Crazy Person. Given in because his passion is who he is and to love him is to love cars (or at least find a way to appreciate them). I have come to appreciate the camaraderie of car show folks and will grudgingly admit that I don’t hate the sound of a revving engine. And, while I can’t see what the big deal is with muscle cars, I do enjoy the cars of the 1950s and respect how much work goes into restoring and maintaining little pieces of history.
All that being said, though, I will never be Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. I have no idea what torque is, what “top dead center” means and could not tell you the last time I had my oil changed. But, honey, if you are reading this, a 1957 Chevy with a V8 Super“Turbo-Fire” four-barrel carburetor in two tone India Ivory/Tropical Turquoise would suit my fancy just fine….