I haven’t actually had that many cars in my life. Sometimes I rode the bus, or a bike, or mooched rides from other people, or walked.
My first car ever was a used black VW Beetle, in 1967. My father made the down payment, but I had to pay the monthly note which was between $30 and $35. I fell on hard times, however, and my aunt advised me to park it in the parking lot of the bank, then call them and say “Here’s your car back”. So I did.
My second car was a….used black VW Beetle. Bought for me in cash by my then boyfriend…I think it cost about $300. He did that because he was sick of picking me up after work so I could spend the night at his house. I remember service station attendants (remember them?) repeatedly asking me if I’d like them to check the water, ha ha. I actually fell for that the first time, what did I know? Since I didn’t have to check the water, nobody ever told me I still had to check the oil. One day, driving from the Tennessee River back to Memphis, it threw a rod. Black smoke was boiling out everywhere. I called a friend who towed me the last 50 miles back to Memphis…illegally, on a chain. We were just lucky not to encounter the Highway Patrol. Boyfriend person was not happy. The car was, literally, toast.
Sadly, I don’t know of any country music songs featuring VW Beetles.
The next car I had, once I graduated from college and got a full-time job, was a Fiat 850 Spider convertible. One day, while driving to work in the rain, distracted, the car in front of me slammed on its brakes and so did I (this is before ABS, remember). I lost control of the car and it literally climbed a fire plug, pretty much gutting the underside of the car. I wasn’t hurt…just a little shaken up. It was next door to a school and all these little kids came running over saying, “You ain’t drunk, are you? ‘Cause if you are, you need to leave now. We won’t tell on you.” Well, it was 8:00 in the morning, and so far, I haven’t ever been drunk at that time of day, not that I’m ruling it out. My insurance company totaled the car, and even gave me credit for the brand new convertible top I’d just bought, which cost me $250. As a bonus, the motorcycle cop who responded was very cute. He gave me a ride to work, and we dated for a while afterwards.
I used the money I got from the insurance company and added more, and bought a brand new AMC Pacer. Stop laughing. I loved that car. It was my very first new car and my very first car with an automatic transmission, and my first American-made car. It was like driving in a soap bubble–you could see out 360 degrees. The first thing that happened was that the salesman absconded with my down payment (about $4,000 in cash). The dealer called just to inform me, because they knew I’d paid–they had all my paperwork and I also had a receipt. But perhaps that was an omen?
One day I was driving home from work (are you beginning to see a pattern here?) and the Pacer just…stopped. On an overpass. In rush-hour traffic. It wasn’t the oil–I’d learned my lesson–and there was no telltale black smoke. I thought I was going to die on that overpass. It was snowing that day. I had the tow truck take it to the parking lot of the grocery store across the street from my apartment, because my driveway had a steep incline they couldn’t make. I’ll never know what was wrong with the Pacer, because a couple of weeks later, once the snow cleared and I had saved a little money to get it to the shop, it was gone. As in, disappeared. I called the grocery and asked if they had had it towed, and they said no. So I called and made a police report, reporting it stolen. It was never found. But can you imagine? Stealing it would have required a tow truck. And who would want an AMC Pacer that much?
After a while, I bought a used Oldsmobile Omega for $1,500, and I have to tell you, I loved it too. It was sort of ugly, but it got me from Point A to Point B, at least until the transmission went out. I bought it from the first female car salesperson I’d ever met, and I just loved her. We exchanged Christmas cards for several years. And I bought another car from her later. And the insurance salesman she brought in for me was the brother of a guy I’d previously dated, and the cousin of another guy I’d previously dated. (Okay, don’t judge, it was very much a coincidence.) The insurance guy had fairly recently left the Memphis police department. When he was there, he was only one of two Jews in the department, the second being his aforementioned cousin. Several year later, he shot himself to death.
And finally, we come to a car celebrated in country music. Well, not the Omega, but the Oldsmobile. There are no country music songs about VW’s, Fiats, or AMC Pacers. But there should be.
I see I’m going to have to do a Part III, because we are only up to the 1980’s here. More car disasters await having their stories told.