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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Every man has a love affair he treasures

By Dick Hirsch
It has long been my contention that during his lifetime every man has an affair that stands out among all the others. I realize some will accuse me of reaching a sexist conclusion, but let me explain:
The relationship of which I speak is between a man and a certain automobile. There are always exceptions, of course, but I have never believed women had the kind of deep and meaningful fascination with a particular car that is common among men.
Women drive them. Men bond with certain cars. Both men and women eventually part with their cars and go on with their lives. But the men always seem to remember the cars and treasure the enduring memories of the time they spent together. As the years pass, they recall them on certain occasions, discussing them ever more fondly with friends, and recounting all their enchanting qualities.
The emergence of widespread car leasing has dampened the emotions of drivers. It is much more difficult, if not impossible, to develop a truly engaging feeling of understanding and sensitivity with a car that’s merely a part of a temporary use arrangement.
I have my own affair to remember, but before describing how the years we spent together raised my consciousness, let me first mention a few examples. One of the most telling is of the man who was infatuated with a Buick Reatta when they were first marketed in 1989. He desperately wanted one, but his wife pointed out that it had only two seats and it wouldn’t be the best vehicle for a family with three children, and he had to agree she was right. The car wasn’t much of a success and production stopped in 1991. His yearning for that car never ceased and 15 years later he finally bought a used Reatta, and his passion was thus satisfied. He has no plans to part with it.
There is also the saga of the man who drove two different Triumph TR-7 models, the first bought in 1982 and its replacement acquired in 1991. He rhapsodizes about those cars but never bought another because a chronic lower back problem made it uncomfortable for him to enter and leave the low-slung Triumph. He now drives a more sedate sedan, but he has never forgotten his early romance.
A ‘59 black Cadillac Coupe de Ville, the car with the fins and the “bullet” tail lights tops the list for a friend who has had many love affairs with different cars. At various times he owned four Cadillacs, all purchased used, but the ‘59 Caddie, bought in 1963 and driven for five years, was nearly 20 feet long and the enduring favorite. “It was like a living room on wheels, great for cruising down the Thruway.”
A 1950 Chevrolet convertible, yellow with a black roof, is still clear in the memory of one superannuated hotrodder. It had a stick shift, and he traded it after just six months to get one with an automatic transmission. Ownership of those cars, he said, instantly certified him as a popular guy at the beach.
For balance, I included two women in a limited survey, and, interestingly, they had similar responses, reporting memorable relationships with Volkswagen Beetles models of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Both recalled driving around with young children stuck in what was then known as “the way back,” the small space behind the rear seat. There were no seat belts or car seats so passenger safety wasn’t an issue of essential concern; it is now clear to them that the VW, though also appealing to the children, had its sinister side.
The most seductive car that I ever owned was a ‘58 Volvo, bought years before the brand emerged as a status symbol. I was captivated by the tantalizing silhouette. What a body! It was reminiscent of those Fords of the late 1940s, with a kind of hump back, and the steel...well, it was built like one of those legendary small brick buildings that are occasionally seen in rural settings. In addition to being alluring, it was speedy and maneuverable, capable of some bewitching moves. Being Swedish, it radiated warmth during winter weather. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that it was fire engine red with red and white leather seats.
After six happy years, I sold that car. Why? There was no compelling reason. It still behaved beautifully and looked good enough to often draw admiring glances. I still can’t believe I sold it. The buyer gave me 300 bucks. We all make mistakes.



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