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Most people would probably choose to buy a new car every three years or so if they could afford it, but some of us have an appreciation for older cars — much older cars. While I love, love, love them, I know next to nothing about restoration or upkeep, so I always admire them from one lane over or across the street. But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, I used to ride in a lot of older, beautiful cars, but I was much too young to appreciate them at the time.
While I don’t remember the Impala’s exact year, I remember the model because of the back end. The downward swoop of the trunk brought to mind a unibrow or an owl’s face. I also remember the curved window in the back and the blue hue of the glass that came from the interior’s reflection. However, the difference between the one in this picture and my dad’s was that my dad’s was massive.
His Chevy demanded attention. Either you looked or you were blind, but there was no way to ignore it. He painted it a dark, deep, midnight metal-flake blue on the outside. The steel bumpers and metal hubcaps were like mirrors. His car was always clean and sparkled in the sun. He only took it out on summer weekends or when my sisters and I stayed with him. And no matter how clean it was, it always got a bath before he took it out.
The interior was also something to behold. He upholstered it with a lighter metal-flake blue vinyl, and he diamond pintucked the interior with buttons. To my young mind, it looked like the midnight sky filled with stars all inside the car. Tiny pieces of silver and gold mixed in with the blue begged to be touched, and touch I did. The coolness of the vinyl felt good on the back of my hand. It was cushy and smooth. I liked to press my cheeks against the seat backs and feel the give of the cushiony tufts. Not only were the seats done up like this, the inside door panels were also pintucked in the same material. Don’t ask me what the rest of the interior looked like — I don’t remember anything else except the look and feel of the upholstery.
It took me a while, but I found something similar to his Chevy’s interior on a website that features custom chopper metal-flake seats. (I just had to find something to share with you guys, because dad’s car was so beautiful inside.) This seat’s color matches almost exactly what I remember, except the diamond shapes were bigger and they had buttons in the tucks.
The next car I remember was dad’s 1963 Corvette Stingray Coupe with a split window in the back.
While the Impala fit three kids much better, we loved piling in the back of the Corvette and having him drive fast down the canyons. We’d hang on to his neck from the back seat, if that’s what you could call it, and scream with joy as he took the steep curves quick and fast just for us. We’d also lie down and look out the back windows and watch as the tree tops whizzed by. Now that I look back at that, I’m sure my mom would have killed him had she known, but those joy rides left me with great memories.
My dad also pintucked the Corvette’s upholstery, except he did it in black leather, smaller diamonds, and no buttons. He chose another beautiful color for the exterior, too. He painted it a deep, dark eggplant with a hint of metal flake. What made this car different and special was the painted areas of the car that you couldn’t see until he opened a door or popped the hood or the trunk. He painted these areas the same color except he overlaid the eggplant with a black lace stencil. Now that I look back at this, it was outrageously sexy. Dad, what were you thinking?!
The engine was just as beautiful, and as clean as the rest of the car. Everything was shiny under the hood. The air-filter holder was metal and didn’t have a hint of grease or dust on it — ever. He always built his engines entirely from scratch and cleaned everything. He took such pride in his work.
When the Corvette started up, the engine was so powerful I could feel the engine’s rumble down to my bones. It’s like I had rockets inside of me and I was ready for take off once he pushed the gas pedal.
Like the Impala, the Stingray demanded attention. You could hear the low rumble of its powerful engine before you even saw it, but once it turned the corner, people literally gasped — it was that beautiful. We loved helping him pull this car out of his rented garage and wash it inside and out before we took it on the streets. This one was his baby.
So, what does a young, first-time driver get as her first car after she’s been a passenger in such enviable vehicles? Don’t laugh, but my older sister’s first car was a 1976 mustard-yellow Chevy Vega (not too different from the one shown at right).
The memory of this car is what made me think of my dad’s cars. We were a Chevy family, so of course he bought her an old used Chevy. It had belonged to his sister — our aunt — so we knew it already. We loved it just as much as we loved his classics. It also brings back just as many good memories too!
It had an eight-track player, so we thought we were really cool when we all piled in the car and blasted our eight-track disco tapes instead of the FM radio. We’d fit as many people as we could in the car and off we’d go, an accident waiting to happen. (Luckily, one never happened.)
I’m happy to say that I lived to share these memories after having been a passenger in that car. It had so many problems, and it eventually died a fiery death! The engine caught fire after about 18 months, and it finally gave up the ghost.
Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have a more classic Chevy, but even if I don’t, I have many wonderful memories of all the Chevys my dad brought into my life — including the Vega.