Friday, September 25, 2009

Memories: My Mother and the Cars

I lost my Mom this week; she was 83 and she was happy to very much the end of her life. Since this blog is automotive in nature, I will limit my reminiscences here to her views of motor vehicles.

Mom was a firm believer that "a heavy car holds the road better." Since she grew up riding in her father's Packard, I suspect she knew what she was talking about here.

She was savvy enough about autos to immediately recognize that the first car I dragged home, a 1958 MGA, was a worthless money pit.

Nonetheless, she was intrigued by "little British cars" and would comment every time we passed a Mini.

Despite her misgivings about its value, she asked me to take her for a ride in my MGA. I took her for a gentle tour around the block, during which she asked me to "really go around a curve."

I took the next 90-degree right-hander in third gear at about 1,100 rpm. City buses are far more exciting.

"Gee, that wasn't so much," she commented. Later, I learned to downshift for corners, but she wasn't along for any of that, thank God.

She had her first, and only (as far as I know) traffic accident in a '59 Chevy. The city had "blacktopped" the roads, which consisted of brushing some tar on the pavement and sprinkling it with pea-size gravel. The thin tar quickly gave up its grip on the gravel and we would rip through it on our bicycles, locking up the rear wheels to see how far we could skid.

The Chevy skated wide on this stuff and put a dent in the driver's side door of a Ford. The insurance company paid the Ford owner $500 for the dent, a lot of money at the time. My mother commented that the fellow "seemed like the sort who would just keep the money and never fix the dent."

Although she disapproved of such behavior, I took careful note and, decades later, when an insurance company gave me $500 (no longer very much money) for a dent inflicted on my car, I kept the money and never fixed the dent.

After the accident, Mom gave up driving for a period of years, but returned to it. The first car purchased specifically for her use was a very used 1958 Ford Thunderbird, a gas hog with doubtful brakes, and a broken transmission that meant it had no "Park" gear. You pulled the emergency brake on to make sure the car didn't roll away when you left it. My mother afterwards religiously used the parking brake, even on cars that would have stayed put in Park.

I think her next car was a Ford Mustang II with a V8 engine, another gas hog. It was worse, if anything, because the gas gauge was rigged to linger near the Full mark until most of the tank was empty, at which point the needle would plunge to "E".

This contributed to my mother's habit of keeping the gas tank at or very near maximum, again, even in cars with honest gas gauges.

Her final vehicle was an Acura Legend, a vehicle so wonderful that I have asked myself often why anyone has bothered designing any car since. It was perfect in every way.

So, in my opinion, was my mother.


  1. Anonymous9/25/2009

    I'm sorry for your loss. That was a very nice post!

  2. Bonnie9/25/2009

    I'm from Venus, where cars are just things you use to get from one place to another. But even I found this automative recollection very touching. I was, however, waiting for a reference to the Queen Mary.

  3. "Anonymous said...

    I'm sorry for your loss. That was a very nice post!"

    I cant put it any better than that Dave.

    All the best

  4. Sorry for your loss. Nice post!


  5. Anonymous9/27/2009

    Sorry for your loss David. Very nice post!

  6. My condolences David. That was a fine tribute to your mother I'm sure she would be proud.

  7. Anonymous9/30/2009

    Grandma was a sensible woman, indeed! This was a great peek into how she developed all those habits to which she was so attached. :)

    Thanks, Dad.

    - Erin

  8. Anonymous10/06/2009

    Like her car, she was a "Legend!" :) Thanks Uncle David. I miss her every day, but reminders like this make it easier!

  9. As has been said, this is a very wonderful tribute, David. It takes me back to the great cars my parents had -- the black '54 Chevy, the '60 Chevy station wagon boat I took my driver's test in, the blue VW I sort of killed (not my fault except I was behind the wheel) and then its successor, the red VW bug. Anything after those classics were just plain get-around vehicles, imo. Sandy

  10. Anonymous10/06/2010

    Nice to see all these nice comments about Mom. Now we are at the one year anniversary of her loss and miss her more than ever. Phil


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