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t’s not always easy to pinpoint the beginning of a love affair, especially one with a car. To even have a love affair with a car is completely absurd but we do it all the time. Some of us are polygamists, others monogamists, and some are rapacious flirts and heartbreakers, racing from one car to the next –– leaving jilted lovers to rust in backyards, molder in garages or be sold off.
I have to say that that falling in love with “nono” took a little time. Really, it was a combination of drive, looks, brains if not brawn, and a solo drive across the west to visit friends in St. Louis, Missouri, that did me in. It was on this trip that we made our “love connection” — there is something to be said for driving the prairies with a battery-powered AM radio cradled between your ear and the doorjamb in a 1964 Dodge Dart station wagon.
Now, I am hopelessly in love, but I am wondering if the end is near –– for when it comes to ending the love affair, sometimes it is the car that forces the issue; usually by breaking down one too many times, pushing the affair into the frustration zone.
Nono has acted up before but never like this. The backtalk and sass I’ve come to love became nothing but doom, nay-saying and trouble. The carburetor worked fine one evening, then not at all the next morning. With gentle coaxing a cross-town drive could be managed. OK. This I can live with, I’m not that uptight, you know? Anyway, it gets to the point where she won’t even talk to me at idle and I’m like, “Really? Go, go, go is all you want?” and she says, “yes”, but in a limp, wet rag, kind of way. All right, I can live with this too. Maybe I’m whipped, but I can do it.
Then it really gets bad and we are not even talking anymore. We’re shouting and gesticulating at each other like Falk and Rowlands in Cassavetes’s “A Woman Under the Influence”. It’s a total black hole. I uncharacteristically give up momentarily and then try one more time. Multiple carb rebuilds and clean ups in one day. Peachy one second, a viper the next. I’m reaching the end. Should I roll her out onto Adeline and set her on fire? I think, “No. WHAT! Are you crazy! Throw her away just because of a lousy carburetor?....sheeeesh! PFFFFFFFFFFFT! No way!”
I go back into Classics by Steve’s carburetor graveyard, pull out a ’70s vintage Holley one barrel, slip out the throttle shaft, slip in the shaft from the ’64 carb –– so I can use the funky linkage, (hot tip here folks! Stay alert, now) bolt it onto nono’s manifold and BOOM! She’s my old girl again, purring away like it’s honeymoons forever. I didn’t even clean the thing! Like putting on dirty socks or something, but hey, it works. Mileage is up, idle is silky smooth, power is outrageous…for a slant six.
Then it happened. No, it wasn’t jealousy over driving ‘Yaller to Santa Cruz. I still don’t know why it happened, but nono began slipping up on the old 2-3 shift. Then it was no third gear at all. Then no reverse. Black, burned fluid, full flow from the oil pump, a perfectly good trans cooler, a cool running engine. WTF? This is what I get? After the whole carb drama and a set of new tires over the winter, I get this…and the trans is only three years old.
Now things have gone too far and I’m broke. Another transmission. Should I try my luck at a junkyard and look for a decent cable shifted 904 Torqueflite? What, you didn’t hear? They grow on trees! I’m burning up. The California car crush program is offering a grand. That’s right, $1,000. I can limp her in, and as long as she gets in under her own power, I can have her old, rusty, full-of-holes body, crappy brakes, dented bumper, fogged glass and rotted weatherstrip self-crushed into a cube they add water to and make a Hyundai out of. Who says crusher programs are bad…this is looking good here, folks. Think about it.
Then I looked her in the bug eyes and her little one tooth grin and I went all mushy. I’ve had so much fun in this car. Of all the cars I have owned this is the one that gets the most smiles, makes kids laugh and prompts people to tell great stories. Sure, she’s a rust bucket, she’s old, she’s not very “adult” or professional looking, she can’t get out of her own way when she’s cold and the brakes don’t stop the car, they slow it down. But, I love her. I broke down.
I called my trans guys and told ‘em what happened. Even though nono was past warranty the good guys at All-Transmission in South San Francisco generously said, “Bring ‘er in and we’ll make it right for you.” I sold a guitar amp out of the collection to cover costs and nono is going to see the road once again…and I promise, I am going to go all the way through the brakes.