Seeing a classic or antique car always reminds me of someone. That someone is most often my father.
“That’s a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air,” my father would say. “Most people preferred the 1957, but I never understood why. The ‘55 is a much prettier car.”
He was right. The ’55 is prettier.
Cars are a connection to our past. I can think of no other item that we buy, use and then sell, that lingers with fondness in our minds.
I’m not saying that every car we ever own is one we liked. The 1977 orange Chevrolet Vega station wagon I inherited is proof of that. But most of us pick cars we like, so the memories of our vehicles are like a hit song. They take us back to happy times.
I’ve owned over 30 vehicles. This number is directly related to the love of classic cars my father instilled in me. Some people collect thimbles. I collected classic cars for many years.
There was something therapeutic about replacing a carburetor on a 1966 Ford Mustang, or a blower motor on a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sport Coupe. It reminds me of my father showing me how to work on cars.
“The brake pedal is going to the floor, Dad,” I would say.
“Come on. Let’s bleed the brakes,” he would answer.
Americans not only love their cars, they also love movies that feature cars.
The Burt Reynolds movie, “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” featured a 1955 Oldsmobile that was amazing. Steve McQueen drove a great 1968 Mustang in the movie “Bullitt.”
But probably the best movie car of my lifetime was the 1981 DeLorean in “Back To The Future.”
The car itself was a flop. It was underpowered, riddled with build issues and prone to electrical problems. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the car’s namesake, John DeLorean, got caught up in a cocaine scandal.
The Michael J. Fox movie about time travel is what immortalized the stainless steel DeLorean.
“Back To The Future” brought together a perfect story with a great looking time machine car. I remember walking out of the movie theater in 1985 and saying that I had just seen one of the best films ever made.
I still believe that to be true.
I’m not the only one. Two men were featured on the web show, Jay Leno’s Garage. These guys were so dedicated to the movie car that they bought a DeLorean and made a replica of the car that was in the film.
They did such a good job that one of the film’s producers hired them to restore one of the original movie cars. The people at Universal let the original sit outside in the weather for over 20 years.
The rodents and birds were the only ones who thought leaving it outside to rot was a good idea.
The original car is now in a museum. Their duplicate is for rent and has been used at The Oscars and by Nike for promotional purposes.
I had a chance to buy a DeLorean in 1984, before the movie came out. I didn’t do it. The next year I regretted it.
My dad loved watching old movies just to see the cars. He could always tell me what make and model a vehicle was when it appeared on the screen.
“That’s a 1938 Buick,” he would say. “Great car.”
“Look at that Model A Coupe,” he would say while pointing at the TV. “I wish I still had mine. Maybe I’ll get another.”
Maybe I’ll get one for you and restore it, Pop. I might also get a DeLorean.
I just wish you were still here to help me bleed the brakes.
John’s book, “Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now,” is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can reach John through his website at www.TheCountryWrit er.com.