Thursday, April 30, 2009

No, It Is Not a Nova

My first car was a Buick Apollo with puke green paint, white pleather interior and a fancy white vinyl roof. The thing was a gas guzzler extraordinaire with a 350, V8, 4 barrel carb that had a top speed of about 140, white wall tires and it had no radio, not even an AM, but man could that car fly. It was simply referred to as ‘The Apollo’ by me and most of my relations, but my grandmother nicknamed it the Green Hornet (in reference to the popular 1960’s television character) and a friend called it the Pickle since it looked just like a kosher dill when it cruised our suburban streets.

The car had belonged to my Great Aunt Agnes who had owned the coupe since its release in 1974. When I took ownership of the vehicle in the early 1990’s it had no more than 29,000 miles on it and all of its original parts. Agnes literally drove the thing to church and back on Sundays and occasionally the supermarket; neither of which was more than two miles round trip. Aside from her short bursts, the car sat tucked away in the garage just begging to be pushed to its limits or at the very least be taken on a highway once in its life.

My dad and uncle came over to give her a proper tune up, oil change and tire inflation one cold late winter morning after she had been sitting dormant for a handful of years. As I slid behind the wheel (which had a worn out, tan, cloth cover over it that shed under my hands and was removed within the first week to reveal the beautiful, skinny wheel beneath) I felt proud to own something so enormous.

The front seat was the old bench style where three people could sit comfortably, unless I was driving then sorry to all my tall friends but I had to pull that thing all the way up to accommodate my tiny little legs. Whoever sat in the middle was the one to play DJ with the boom box tape deck; I held stock in D batteries back then. The ceiling was falling down and the only thing holding the pea green cloth up was the light in the middle, or someone’s head. My favorite feature was that the gear shift was on the steering column. My least favorite feature was that it was rear wheel drive and in the winter AAA frequently got called to tow me out of my own driveway when it skidded into the ditch on the side.

The car was a necessity to get myself to and from school when it was no longer viable to carpool due to conflicting schedules but that car became a second home for me because I did everything in it that a good delinquent late teen would do -- learned how to parallel park in the city like a pro, shoplifted for food and clothes, bailed friends out of jail, raced a friend’s cousin who owned a Mustang and won, had sex in the backseat at the Charlestown Navy Yard (long before it was Yuppie land), chased down someone who hit me but took off, frequently ate dinner at Taco Bell, learned how to replace just about everything under the hood of an old American made car as each part broke, burst or simply fell off. But she rarely let me down as just about every time she broke down it was right in front of my house.

I used to carry a case of oil and two or three jugs of water or radiator fluid around in the trunk of the car almost universally. I would pull out of parking places and it became a game to see how big the puddle was; identifying which substance it was garnered extra points. The one time something major happened I was working about five miles from my house at the mall and I went to leave the parking space only to discover I could not move in reverse. Typical of older American made cars, I quickly learned that the first gear to slip when a transmission is dying happens to be reverse. As a struggling young adult in my first apartment I did not have a lot of cash on hand to have that fixed so I used to pull through parking spaces as an alternate solution; that was until the day drive also died and she got towed from the mall parking lot right to my ex’s grandfather’s garage where I think they rebuilt the existing tranny with a screwdriver and some duct tape, but that baby held until I got rid of the car so it never occurred to me to care about what they did.

When I went to be a live in nanny it was time to let my old friend go. First of all I am sure the mom would not have wanted an Exxon Valdez situation in the driveway. Also, the car was hideous and they lived in a multi-million dollar home so appearance accounted for a lot. Finally, even though I had a couple weather related accidents and the hit and run with barely a scratch on the car let alone myself, I am sure she feared for the safety of her children just sitting in that boat, never mind actually driving anywhere. My ex at the time took over running The Apollo into the ground and, so I would not feel like too much of a traitor to my old baby, I allowed the family to buy me a shiny silver, slightly used, couple year old Buick LeSabre. I felt better knowing I was staying within the family, even though the top speed on that little box was no more than 100.


Chris said...

Your car was "The Green Hornet," my first car was literally a blue Hornet, courtesy of AMC. Hatchback, quite fast, and a lot of fun. He died a slow death while I was in college, God rest his tranny.

Bridgete said...

What a fun story. =)

I still have my first car. Well, the first car I ever actually owned. The first car I drove on a regular basis was my mom's white '93 Toyota Corolla. She got totaled, sadly.

spottedwolf said...

I had a lotta cars and drove (a lotta girl's cars)....into the ditch.hahahahahah...oops! mebee I shood 'polijize.....naw.they asked for it hahahahahahah!! I think I hold the record for being upside down while driving.....holee Madre de Dumass!!! its a miracle I'm alive.
:-)but I CAN drive....hi-performance mud-racing for 10 years.

Rosebud Collection said...

Now that is what I call a car..This stuff they build today is junk..salt eats everything up..
Bet there wasn't much rust on that beauty. Enjoyed your blog, as usual..Have a nice weekend..

Winklepots said...

I'm still on my first car. Nothing as cool as yours, but hey, it still drives.
I kind of want to replace it now with a "pickle" though. I'd love to drive a pickle around my neighborhood. :o)
Great story!

Karen said...

We never forget our first cars or the experiences we had with them. Mine was a '68 Mustang. Wish I still had it :)