Friday, August 10, 2012

Supersonic Little Red Car

Is it possible to fall in love with an inanimate object?

Cars are a part of my DNA. Both of my parents were motor enthusiasts or “petrol heads” as they call them in Britain. In fact my parents fell in love over the engine of a 1969 Corvette Stingray.

My dad was a genius for anything mechanical and Mother was a bit a of a speed demon. A lot of people are surprised to learn that inside the body of a 5 foot 2, somewhat introverted school librarian beats the heart of a Formula One champion. Mom was an amateur driver, who in her earlier years could be found at the track on Saturdays blowing out the competition.

ferrari formula 1They met at a church social. Both at that point were considered to be a “menace to society” which is the Mormon term for those not married by the age of 25. Dad noticed a cute little brunette in the parking lot with the hood up on her sports car. He swooped in to save the day and show that little miss just what a knight in shining armor he was.  He was stunned to find that no help was needed. Mom proceeded to tell him exactly what the problem with the carburetor was and fixed it in front of him in no time flat. For dad it was love at first spark plug.

 With that background it is easy to see why I have an affinity for cars. I grew up with picture of a Ferrari Testarosa on my wall instead of the Backstreet Boys. Our family listened to the Indy 500 every year on the radio and we often found ourselves at the Meridian Speedway near our home. I was pre-programmed to drive fast and to drive well and I couldn’t wait to get on the road myself. My parents knew this and it was reason they bought “the boat”, our butterscotch colored, purple tinted window Brady Bunch Wagon. (If you want to know more about that story please see my earlier post Boating on Memorial Day.)

Anyway, fast forward a couple of years and the summer after my Freshman year of college found me with recently acquired cash and ready to buy my first car. I had $2000 and that procured me a 1985 red Toyota Tercel, with the hatchback mind you. Granted it was not an Escalade, but it was peppy and fun and I loved the new found freedom it afforded me.

The Little Red Car, or LRC as it soon became known, was with me when I moved to the mountains of eastern Oregon and met my future hubby Buns. Much time was spent completing doughnut contests in the ice covered parking lots LaGrande during our courtship. Much time was also spent in meaningful "conversation" in that car during that period of time but we aren’t going there.

It was there on our wedding day and due to an electrical problem had no tail lights. Buns wasn’t one for driving a standard in those days and so as we exited the church, our friends throwing rice, blowing kisses, and well-wishes much to the crowd’s amusement, I got into the driver’s seat. The car was completely covered in toilet paper, balloons and shaving cream and had the obligatory contingency of cans hanging off the back bumper. I drove us away into the night, hazard lights blinking so someone didn’t rear end us on the dark roads.

In those early days of marriage the Little Red Car became our ATV as well as our regular transportation. Weekends would find us with camping gear stowed in it and on top of it, crawling up the Jeep trails of the mountains near our home. I can’t tell you how many times we passed hikers who just stared at us in slack-jawed disbelief as the LRC growled its way past them on grades that would make a normal person break into a sweat and start praying. Logging roads, horse trails, ravines, it gamely conquered them all.

Time marched on and little ones arrived. The LRC, now with 2 car seats in the back was beginning to be a little cantankerous in its advancing age. First the shocks went out which created a ride that was comparable to being shaken to death by an 8.0 earthquake. Then the muffler died and the engine was so loud that you could hear it in the next county. The accelerator also had the bad habit of once in a while sticking and you would have to pry the gas pedal up off the floor with your toe to avoid climbing a nearby tree or flying off a cliff as it raced into the distance. The windshield was cracked and a few dents had showed up. Never mind, in those days such things as shocks and mufflers and accelerators were luxuries and could certainly be lived without.

It was while driving down the road with my precious boys in the back one day that we began a tradition. With the muffler roaring I found myself having to yell to be heard by the kids in the back seat. They were “breathing each others air” or some other unforgivable sin and had broken out into a slap fight. Not very effective when both parties are chained in their car seats, nevertheless a distraction technique was required. I revved the engine until it reached jet engine decibels and then sang at the top of my lungs “Supersonic! Little Red Car!”

All fighting in the back ceased immediately. “Do it again, do it again” they cried. This time they joined in. “Supersonic, Little Red Car!!!”

Every time we would get into the LRC we would have to do this ritual several times a trip. Our neighbors thought I was completely insane. Here I was driving a decrepit little car and racing the engine as if I were and Indy driver every time we came around the corner.

Just about the time I took a picture of the odometer turning over 300,000 miles the LRC began smoking. I don’t mean a little exhaust smoke, I’m talking blacking out the entire neighborhood for 10 minutes after you’ve gone kind of thing. The neighbors also appreciated this. The reality of the impending demise of my little car finally came crashing home.

We had talked about getting a different car in the past but that had felt like I was betraying my best friend, and so it was always nixed immediately. Finally the time had come. I tearfully waved goodbye to the LRC as Buns drove it off in a farewell cloud of smoke that looked almost beautiful in the sunset on its was to the junkyard.

I adored that little car. I cherish the memories I have of it and all the silly, fun, and crazy things we did in that car. I  have feelings of fondness for the fact that it is so representative of who we were and where we came from. I tenderly recall the simplicity of life that the LRC was a part of. So is it possible to truly love a hunk of inanimate metal and parts?

You bet your fuel injector it is.




  1. I love reading your blog. PLease never stop writing it. Even if you die, please figure out a way to write posts from heaven, m'kay?

  2. “Is it possible to fall in love with an inanimate object?” – Well, it is quite hard not to when you are dealing with awesome cars! I share your sentiments about cars. But mine is rooted in my childhood. My father was a car enthusiast and he also took me on trips using his beloved Mustang. My fascination with cars stays with me until now. It is a joy to see these mechanical masterpieces running on the road.

  3. I agree with Delsie. There are instances when people form attachments with their material possessions. There is a lot of reason behind this. One example is recollection of childhood memories and good old days. It can also be a reminder of triumphs and struggles of the owner. And yes, being attached to awesome and beautiful cars is not a bad idea!

  4. We are on the same page here, Delsie! Like you, my love for cars started during my childhood days. My father was a mechanic, and somehow, I inherited his passion for cars. There was one car in our garage that captured my attention then. It was an old Dodge that was sitting there for years. I tried to restore it when I became a teenager. It worked for a good number of years and I was very happy using it.


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