I first fell in love with cars as a little girl at West Point Military Academy in 1962-3 when my Dad was the Head Coach of the Army football team. Inside the Thayer Gate to enter the post, there was a huge parking lot. Every June, the lot would be full of brand new Corvettes in every color of the rainbow! The cadets would receive these
as gifts from their parents for graduation! They would be washing, waxing, and just basically adoring their new charges. I said to myself back then, at the ripe old age of 12, I want one of those one day!! So began my lifelong love affair with automobiles!
Throughout my father's thirty some year career of being head football coach at Army, LSU, and USC he would receive a brand new car from one of the large dealers in the areas where he coached. They would then sell them a year later as a "pre-owned" car, of course driven by the coach. I loved each and every one of those cars!!! I remember one of them my Dad received from Ron Lanthier, of Lanthier Pontiac in upstate New York, was a giant boat of an automobile, but what a fabulous car!!! The back seat was like a couch!
Moving forward ten years, I finished my college studies at the University of Miami, Oxford, Ohio....I say finished, I am a professional artist, and my Dad was then the Head football coach at University of South Carolina, and needless to say was NOT making the million dollar salary they make today, and I felt I would be an artist whether I had a degree to prove it, so I finished my third year and left. My Dad was honest and generous and gave each of his two children a new car, within reason for college graduation. My brother graduated with honors and received a brand new red 1972 Buick skylard convertible. I loved that car!! Because I did not graduate, my father bought me a car too, as I would have to have something to drive to work. He took me to a little gas station on Rosewood Drive in Columbia, SC. owned and operated by R.J. Moore, one of my Dad's good friends. We drove up and there sat my "new" car....it was a 1936 Ford, with the soft top...gun metal grey with a red pin stripe!!!! I was so excited I could hardly breathe!! I thought THAT'S MY NEW CAR?!!!! WOW!!!! Again, fuel for the fire of my burning desire for cars! I truly loved that car! It had beautiful mohair coco brown upholstery with chocolate brown piping....the back seat looked like a loveseat! The front windshield had a twist handle in the middle of the flat dashboard...all original dials with the little yellowed plastic knobs. The radio would only pick up am stations, but in 1973 that was no big deal! The battery was under the floor pad of my feet, and I carried a pair of pliers as sometimes it had to have a little help getting the spark to start it. I would go 65 on the highway. I got stopped one evening going home from work....the policeman asked me if I knew why he stopped me, and I said because I ran the yellow light? He said, "No, just wanted to see your car!" The hood had the two handles that pulled down then up, and if one wasn't careful, the paint would get scraped off....had that repaired many times. It had twin chrome plated carburetors... nice car!!
Moving forward five years, I moved from New York City, to work at a small quarter horse race horse farm with a friend who knew the owners, outside of Houston, Texas. I was the groomer, trainer, and cook for the owners. I had no wheels...first time in my life. I got a ride into town one morning, La Grange, Texas. Lovely little town, one that we used to see in movies or remember from old childhood days. A little green in the center of town, little shops and stores, a bank and town hall around the square. I walked into the bank and told the bank operator that I had found a car that I would like to buy, but I needed a small loan...he said "Sure, we can have the money in your account today!" I replied, don't you need to know my name?!
I received the loan that day, and I went to purchase my 1962 Chevrolet Impala. It was silver with the white cove down the sides, shiny grey interior, with the "big" square speaker in the middle of the back seat. What a GREAT car that was!!! I loved it as well. You KNEW you were in a fabulous automobile driving this Impala as it just lumbered and floated on the road at the same time! So just roll down the windows, turn up the radio listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Texas Flood, and let the world fly by! Because I was so far out in the country with real horses, and not just the ones under the hood, I changed my own oil and did most of the minor maintenance myself. I had many a wonderful long ride through the rolling Texas country side to visit friends at other farms.
Fast forward ten more years, I returned to South Carolina, met and married the love of my life, who was a car nut just like me! His dream car was a 1965 GTO which he had in high school. His father had a horse in their back yard and, my husband left the car parked a little too close to the fence and the horse leaned in and took a big bite out of the back seat one afternoon! That was the end of that car and my husband enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and found himself in Viet Nam. But I digress....
When my husband and I dated we visited car lots on Sunday afternoons so as not to have to deal with the hype of the car salesmen...other people thought we were just weird, but we had a blast!
After our son was born and was in middle school, and I was tired of driving my minivan, another car was in order. My husband asked me what I wanted, and I told him, a REAL car....not one of these plastic things that looks like everything else on the road! So as was our usual "getaway weekend" we went to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. I found a gorgeous little '69 Camaro convertible...which was as similar to a Corvette that we could afford at the time, and my husband found the 1967 Oldsmobile 442 Cutlass Supreme....which was similar to his GTO dream....same kind of body style!!! So, we argued back and forth and finally agreed on a price, and drove the "new" car home that Sunday evening. I got to drive it home!! WOW!!!! I do not remember when I have felt so much power in a car as in that car the day I drove it home!!!
It FLEW down the highway and of course I got thumbs up from practically everyone on the road that I passed....and I say that I passed....no one was passing me in THAT CAR!!!! What a BLAST!!!!
We took our "new" car to all the shows we could think of to enter it into....around Charleston, in Charlotte, and various other towns in South Carolina. It won Best in its Class in most of the smaller shows, and Best in Show in Charlotte with some stiff competition. We even had T-shirts and I had some stationery made for my husband with a pic of the car on it!
But the most memorable of all the awards with this first of our collection of muscle cars was the one we won when we took it to our very first show, right after we bought it. It was in Charleston at Maurice's BBQ on the Wednesday night car show, which is sponsored by one of our car clubs here in town. We won Best in Show and got our trophy to commemorate the event. We were kind of chuckling on the way home at how excited we were to have this big expensive car win this little plastic, wooden, and marble trophy!!! When we turned the radio on and we were still having fun about our win.....there it was....the song....."This Magic Moment"!!! We looked at each other and laughed until we cried....and I will say it was truly a magic moment!!!
Fast forward to today....That "magic moment" is in my treasure trove of memories of wonderful and memorable moments with our cars. My best friend in cars, the love of my life, my husband of twenty-five years, passed away in August of 2010 from a long and very difficult three year battle with bladder cancer caused by his exposure to agent orange during his two tours of duty in Vietnam. I now have my dream car, a 2004 candy apple red Corvette, his dream car, which will be finished and ready for me to test drive soon, the 1965 GTO, a 1985 Cutlass Salon, and of course the 1967 442 Cutlass Supreme, in which one of the most magic moments of my life occurred. So, as all this can attest, I am still CAR CRAZY after all these years!!
Semper Fi all you Marines out there!!