Friday, June 8, 2012

Hot Rods, Ugly Cars, and Sugar-Daddies

Texas Daisy
My wife loves her 1959 Ford Ranchero. It's partially restored, but it still sucks money out of a bank account faster than a Hollywood starlet with a sugar daddy's ATM card. There's the Ford Explorer engine and drive train; the front disk brakes; the quarter panels and bed sides; the new dashboard; and the headliner and seat covers.

It's now sitting in the front yard because something in the electrical circuitry is keeping the alternator from charging the battery while the vehicle is being driven. Off to the shop it goes. Again.
While I was contemplating possible cash outflow, our neighbor drove up in one of his two Pontiac Azteks, a vehicle often voted to a place on the list of the ugliest cars ever made.

Yes, I said he owns two. Apparently he has never heard of the aphorism, Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The oddity of this situation is that the man has the best landscaped lawn in the small neighborhood where we live. We are minimalist in landscaping, highlighting our two-and-a-half acres with large limestone boulders and a white picket fence.

Our Aztek-owning neighbor has assorted greenery and flowers, a beautiful vegetable garden, maple and walnut trees surrounded by cultivated flower beds, and manicured shrubs surrounding a sunset-facing veranda.

Perhaps it is difficult to appreciate both horticulture and mechanical beauty.
Of course, as country folk say, Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder. 

Another car that regularly appears on the list of the "ugliest of all time" is the much maligned AMC Pacer.

But I like its funny little bulbous shape. It has the charm of the humble little guppy, the one aquarium fish I was never able to kill through over-feeding, under-feeding, improper water temperatures, or cats. Guppies even reproduce like cats, something AMC wasn't able to do in spite of Mitt's father's best efforts.

Of course, my appreciation of cars has always been either slightly behind or ahead of times, which  a fact which lingers somewhere in ironical country considering I haven't driven a car since 1959, the year my wife's Ranchero was built. 

I like the 1956 Chevy better than the classic, ever-popular 1955 Chevy. And I prefer the Nomad wagon, thank you. Corvette? Forget the high-dollar, made-one-year-only and thus exceedingly rare split rear window 1963. I'll take the 1953-54 Blue Flame 6-banger.

Of course, all this nostalgia bears a lesson. I always wanted to build a hot rod. An acquaintance from high school and his father put the V8 engine and hydraulic brakes, and other amenities, from a 1948 Ford sedan under a 1932 Ford three-window coupe. I was jealous. I tried to convince my father that our driveway had space for a 1947 Pontiac fast-back available for $50, although it "needed a little work."

Now I have a wife who likes cars. She wanted a VW bug. We bought a 1969 for $900, invested a thousand more in it, and sold it for $1,100 because she has Raynaud's syndrome and the VW heaters are notoriously inefficient, even on a 40-mile commute. Her next ambition was a classic BMW convertible. We couldn't afford it then, and so we bought a dog and named him Beemer, a dog that led to the replacement of living room carpet with tile flooring: $1200.

But now we have the Ranchero, the trifle we spent on VW reaffirmed its status as an economy car, and I need a sugar daddy to support the hot rod habit.

Make that a sugar momma considering that I bat for the other team.

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