I admit, I loved my old ’66 Ford Fairlane. I’d got it off a friend, who was more fond of his alcohol these days than he was of driving and was getting up in age to where his creature comforts were few enough between anyway. But it ended up being traded away when I discovered registration loans. Scottsdale, Arizona in the 1990s wasn’t exactly a prosperous town, and the dry heat had rotted away her tires and crusted her hoses. I was between jobs, and the money came before the car.
It was a beat up car, sold by a man whose liver wasn’t looking to last as long as the car. But she was a classic four-eyed nerd, designed when people cared that cars had personality, as opposed to today’s utility bubbles. We’d fixed that car together a couple times, pulling up in his driveway later and vocally making the sound it used to make, to the amusement of his wife and kids. By then he considered the car as much mine as his, since my wrenches and elbow grease had been integral to keeping it running.
I got it back, of course. The next job came through thanks to that little boost, and I bought off the title and got her back, this time wondering what I was to do with it. I could sit behind the wheel and pretend I was in American Graffiti, thumbing the radio through Buddy Holly and The Platters. But nothing came on radio stations anymore but Clear Channel and bubblegum pop music that sounded like a catfight on acid. The motor was a straight six, a sheer joy to work on. You had so much room under that hood, you could crawl in there and take a nap, nuzzling the engine block in your dreams.
I finally did fix her up again, only to crack it up in my only car accident. Six AM, desert sun in my eyes on a 100-degree day, and coming up on the only intersection for a mile. There’s the stoplight, and one guy in a green pickup facing me, waiting to turn left. The light was just turning yellow as I crossed the finish line, so out of courtesy I gunned her a little to get out of the gentleman’s way. Apparently he was from a planet where left turns do not yeild to the straight through traffic. He flipped it right in front of me. I had no time. I stood on the brakes, skidded five feet, and centerpunched that stupid fool at 45 MPH.
The Fairlane took it gracefully. I didn’t feel a bump. The pickup spun away, batted off like a gnat, while the mighty Ford engine screamed as the radiator was driven into the front of the engine block. She could still have been fixed up, but by then it was clear that her story was over. That car was my friend, it had carried me in so many ways. I couldn’t help but look after it as the scrap tow truck hauled her away, with me holding the last fifty dollars she would ever make me.
Photo: Moyan Brenn