I am old. Brief moments of thought bring me great pleasure and, too, smells, feels and sounds. The steaming canopy of summer lays heavy here on Cape Cod. I took off my sneakers earlier, because I like the feel of my bare feet touching the ground, like dancing naked with a woman.
Life is about things in context that jolt your brain to reminiscences.
Here is one: I’m looking into the engine compartment of a very unique old car. Priceless, they say. This simple mechanical structure creates full sensory memories—smells, sounds, touches, textures, rhythms, heartsongs. This is a privilege. We took off the hood several months ago and dropped in this engine. Now we are like two surgeons—having opened the patient, done what was necessary and, slowly nodding, examining perfection. Scarless. The patient will run again, better than before.
This is not just any patient. This is a 1932 Ford 3-window coup with all the accoutrement of hot rodding at its classical best. This genre of Ford is called a Deuce. This one’s a freak of nature, like the best bucking bull of all times; things have been bred into this creature that give it a look of regalness, even godliness. As you look at it you know something very special is going on here. Harvested power under control. It feels like standing next to a swollen-withered Brahma bull, sides heaving with anticipation, about to be shot from the holding pen into the arena. Add some music and you’re lying next to Angie Dickenson in a state of dé shabillé in her bedroom amid twisted satin sheets—light pink—1965. The Dixie Cups sing “Chapel of Love.” She breathes. Can you hear it?
The engine—the heart—is a Ford Flathead. They don’t make them anymore . . . too primitive, but special . . . like the pyramids or Stonehenge. Special. From 1932 to 1953 the Flathead was “go-fast power on the cheap.” Some say that 1947 was the best year for that engine. Something about engineering technology of the time. Motorheads argue about that. But motorheads argue about everything. Invisible to all is the work that has gone on inside this motor . . . bored and stroked— steroids. The engine was a virtual heart transplant for this car. Painted glossy engine black with chrome heads, chrome manifold, two chrome Demon carburetors, and chrome thises and thats on and around the engine. An authentic 1950s metal beer can is strapped to the lower right corner of the radiator with small hoses to receive the run off (Pickwick Ale, it says). Blue wires encased in chrome tubes run to the spark plugs. Exhausts like chrome intestines run from the motor through the frame, beneath the car, and subtly peek from beneath the rear bumper, purposefully like a popped button on a summer sleeveless blouse. Chrome clips on the firewall hold meticulously guided wires to dark cavities as blood vessels and nerves in a heart transplant. It breathes like Angie breathes in seductive repose.
The transmission is from a 1939 Ford because—arguably—1939 was the best year for Ford transmissions. This special Deuce has painted 16 inch wire wheels purchased sometime in the 60’s when it was first converted from a gangly, teetering old-fashioned 1932 Ford to this—this creature. A record exists of its owners—Spinny, Simard, Nixon— giving it a pedigree. In hot rod talk it’s called a history car. Original mohair upholstery with a draw shade for the rear window, hand operated by a woven tassel—a real frickin’ don’t-touch eighty-year-old woven tassel. This is the Hot Rod’s hot rod. Just imagine driving this car to pick up your date. How the car and you and your date become a descriptor of a metaphor. . .a sociological ka-thunk heartbeat.
Reminiscences stream from this deuce like a humid early morning mist. Music oozes. Lyrics of love, of romance, of maleness. We hum and step back to experience the car.
Oh God, let me drive it, I whisper.