My Monte

Monte with flames

Monte with flames

Reprinted courtesy of Axel Hoogland at

My first car ever was a 1987 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. My uncle found it in the for sale section of when I was 15 and a half years old. At the time the plan was for me to buy the car and my father or uncle would pay me back, or something to that effect? Who knows how true stories like these actually are? Anyway long story short we purchased this car from a man in Arkansas (Arr-can-sauce?), or Tennessee, or Kentucky? I can’t remember, that was 10 years ago! All the main bearings were spun on the original 305 but the body was in great shape. Growing up in northern Wisconsin I was used to copious amounts of rust on every vehicle I’d ever seen.

I purchased two used Chevrolet 350 small blocks from The Trading Post, newspaper for $400 and my dad helped me install the “new” engine in the car. Our test drive was the 2005 Hot Rod Power Tour. It started in Milwaukee, WI. We made it approximately to Tennessee before we had to go home for a funeral. The car performed flawlessly though and I loved every minute of it.

The car was my daily driver through my junior and senior years of high school. My first “real” “street race” was the summer after high school. I was on a back road and a buddy from high school was driving by with his 1971 Dodge Challenger, basically the only other muscle car in my school. In all honesty neither of us was really a fast car but hey we were 17 years old! I figured I had him since I had the 350. We both mashed the gas from a rolling start with our slush boxes and he blew me away. I was dumbfounded when I looked at my instrument panel and my heat gauge was pegged! It had never even worked before? I putted to my buddies house and we determined pretty quickly my water pump had fallen off? All 4 bolts fell out? What the heck?

While deciding what to do with my life, during the summer of 2006,my father and I took a trip to Wyo tech in Laramie, Wyoming in the Monte. On the way back I smoked a tiny antelope. Surprisingly the Monte sustained very little damage but some paint was knocked off the front. I decided now was the time to paint flames on the car rather than try to match the white. I laid out the (not quite symmetrical) flames using a car from Car Craft magazine as a reference, and went to town. I thought this was awesome!

In September 2007 it was off to college. Living in dorms and houses with 3 other guys and no garage is not conducive to working on cars, never mind the being strapped for cash part of college. I drove the Monte in spring, summer and fall and parked it for half the year during Wisconsin winters. After my sophomore year of college I took the opportunity to reward myself for all my hard work at college with a set of emissions legal headers and y pipe! I was so excited.

One great story of the Monte during college happened during the summer of 2008. I was heading back from the Iola old car show, or maybe it was the Jefferson car show? Eitherway, I ended up going east instead of west and ended in Oshkosh,WI.  This was before I had a GPS, or anything more than a trac phone. I thought I could backtrack on mapquest directions.My destination was supposed to be Platteville, WI where I was attending summer school. I finally found my heading and was going through Madison, WI when my car died and i muscled it to the right and into a parking lot as it died. I called my mother’s cousin who happened to live there at the time. We left it in the parking lot Saturday night and Sunday morning we diagnosed a failed fuel pump. $17 later and we replaced it in the parking lot and I finished my journey back to Platteville. Aren’t old cars great!

During one trip home, April 13, 2010 to be exact, I parked my car in the one spot in the yard I shouldn’t have and of course it was the one time it wouldn’t start and it was milkman day on the farm. The milkman backed into the front of my car. Luckily it was all perfectly laid out that the ONLY thing that happened was my hood folded in half like cardboard? I couldn’t think of any good analogies there. Luckily my father, being the man he was, had three Monte Carlo SS’s sitting around the yard. I “borrowed” the hood of the least likely to run car and drove my car back to college. At this point the Monte was getting pretty “trashy” looking. The flames, the rusty grey hood and the roof paint was peeling off.


Monte after being backed into by milkman

January 2012 I took that 2 weeks of my winter break and painted the Monte single stage white It looked WAY cleaner.

Monte Carlo

Gray hood


























Monte Carlo














In May 2012 I graduate from college with a mechanical engineering degree. I was able to push off starting work until after the 2012 Power Tour from Detroit, MI to Austin, TX. I was a long hauler and my oldest sister (4 years younger than me?), went with me. We had a great time.

By this time friends who didn’t understand old cars began to give me a hard time that my interior was looking “rough”. This was true but in my defense the car was 25 years old at this point. In the last year (2013) I had started to do some minor “pretty” maintenance. I repainted my faded door panels. I found the nice black covers for the interior door straps. I replaced the shattered and acid rain etched side mirrors and repainted a few of the more faded exterior components. (Door handles, plastic around the gas cap which on Monte Carlo’s is hidden behind the rear license plate, Slick!). It’s pretty incredible what the small things like this do to actually make your car appear a lot more “finished”.

The last maintenance on my Monte was replacing a starter that had a huge draw and wouldn’t turn the car over at times. I also recently “borrowed” some black rims from the same uncle who found the car for me originally (he has a few Montes himself) and changed the look of the car up a little. I have put over 60k miles on the car since I bought it and I have loved every one.

Monte carlo

Monte with black rims









Monte Carlo

Monte with chrome lug nuts, center caps and white wall wash.











I recently purchased a 2nd car, to be discussed in a future post, so perhaps the monte can be put out of commission, for a while, and made faster! I have great plans, heads and cam swap, rear gears, LS engine? Who knows.

I hope you enjoyed the story. Please share any stories of your favorite, or not so favorite car. Have you had it forever? Did you just buy it?

As always, I hope you enjoy the ride.

Visit for more articles on car shows, race cars, motorcycles and dirt bikes.

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They Just Don’t Make Them Like That Anymore

First Car: 1955 Oldsmobile HardtopIn the fifties Dad worked in automobile sales, as a Manager of the New and Used Car Department for an Oldsmobile dealership in Rochester, New York. He taught my brother and I the names of all the trucks and automobiles.

Today, I can’t tell you the names of all the new vehicles on the road.

On long drives with our parents, my brother Vince and I would ride in the back seat and guess the names of the oncoming cars on the highway.

I remember when I was a teenager he rode with us after we received our driver’s permits. Before driving out on the highway, we’d drive back and forth in our driveway. When we learned the feel of the brake and accelerator, he’d let us drive on the highway. After passing our driving tests, we were trusted with the family car. It was a 1955 Super 88 Holiday Oldsmobile hardtop. They were known for their “Rocket” Engines in the mid 50’s, their styled taillights, wrap around front and rear windows and tear drop shaped rear fenders. I loved the sound it made when I shifted in forward gear and took off.

We’d volunteer to run errands for mom and dad just so we could drive the car.

In my senior year of high school I worked part time at Grant’s Five and Dime store. I drove myself to work one weekend. It was about 15 miles away. On my way home the car got a flat tire. I remembered what my dad instructed me to do. I was so proud of myself, I changed the flat tire.

Today it’s much easier to do. Just call on your cell phone and ask someone to come help you.

1999 was the 50th Golden Anniversary of the last 88 Oldsmobile manufactured. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

— Louise Simpson

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Michelle Fredette’s Volvo 240 Wagon

My first car was my second car, a white Volvo 240 wagon that mattered to me the way my actual first car, a tinny Subaru wagon with a troubling oil leak, never did. My dad bought me the Volvo when I was in grad school, but it wasn’t in the contract for him to buy me a car, and I was deeply grateful. I might have felt a little spoiled, getting this car in year two of relative financial self-reliance, but it was seven years old, and white with beige interior, and my fellow grad students referred to it as the white whale. I had no illusions about the car’s sex appeal.

The car’s steering wheel was the size of a garbage can lid, and the front end stuck out so far, I had to pull halfway into an intersection to get a good look at the traffic. Driving that car was like driving a truck, except without the added height. I loved the shape of it though, its kid’s drawing squareness. I drove that car between Tuscaloosa and Cincinnati where my family lived.

Pingponging between campus and a second job at Manna, a natural grocery store, that I took in order to keep the phone connected, I drove that car. I rushed out from class one day to find the left-rear bashed, a gut-shot courtesy of those pink button down students in their late-model Broncos and Cherokees who threw trash from their car windows and smashed every restroom mirror in every bar and restaurant in town. I drove that car with this painful besmirchment, too strapped to pay the deductible to get it fixed.

The car’s tape deck had been installed by the previous owner and so it stuck out of the dashboard and tipped to the right in an uncommitted way. At Christmas, with my hound Henry as copilot, R.E.M.’s Out of Time on repeat, I drove that car from Tuscaloosa to Tupelo to Memphis, followed the Mississippi up to St. Louis, and halfway across Missouri, got pulled over next to a billboard for cheap dentures going 74 in a 55 zone. I followed the cop, a woman, to her cruiser, watching her holster ride the crests and dips of her hips. “Is your dog okay staying in your car?” she asked. We turned together to see Henry’s dome head facing out from the Volvo’s passenger side. “He’s okay,” I said, and got in the front seat. She wrote the ticket and sent me on my way. By the next afternoon, we drove into Chadron, Nebraska, the town my boyfriend, James, had holed up in to work on his master’s thesis. Christmas day was unseasonably warm and sunny, and we drove that car to the Badlands where Henry barked warnings at the milling bison from the back seat.

By that spring break, James had joined me in Tuscaloosa, and with my friend Madeline along, we drove that car on day trips, to Columbus, Georgia in search of Carson McCullers landmarks, and to Oxford Mississippi, where we saw Faulkner’s plots written on the walls of his study. Listening to Throwing Muses and They Might Be Giants, The Replacements and Jonathan Richman, we drove that car five hours to New Orleans, bought sandwiches in the French Quarter and ate them in an above-ground graveyard in the Garden District. Then we headed back up the pine corridor to Tuscaloosa. Somewhere around Hattiesburg, I lost my mind. I was halfway through a semester of teaching and taking classes, studying for comprehensive exams, rushing from school to Manna and back, and fending off AA-fueled efforts at amendment from an ex. I made James pull the car over to the shoulder so I could eject from the way back a pineapple plugged with bourbon that he and Mad had thought was a good idea. The pineapple bourbon fumes had haunted us all the way to New Orleans and now that baby-sized abomination was in danger of making a round trip. I slammed the door, then stretched out with my nose pressed against the crack of the backseat, breathed deep the scents of dog and grub, and tried to calm the fuck down.

The following summer, we drove that car to Red Lodge, Montana, playing tapes of Camper Van Beethoven and old Bruce Springsteen, more R.E.M., XTC and Los Lobos. We planned to live in our tent and work in town, but it rained some every day in June and most of July. At night, we drove out to the forest and piled our clothes, boots and cooler, books, notebooks, and toothbrushes in the front seats, put the seats down and slept in that car while our tent stood soggy in the forest, sagging with disuse. I sat in that car reading after work, waiting for James. I read Camilla by Fanny Burney and The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. I read Joan Didion’s Democracy, and then I read it again, next to a field of fuzzy, lowing cows. We had a lot of sex in that car. One night, stretched out in the car, the seat hinge pressing into my back in a familiar way, I heard a mountain lion scream the way it sounds in movies right before a pounce. At the end of the summer, we drove that car back to Tuscaloosa.

I drove that car to New Orleans for New Year’s Eve with James, and drove it back to Tuscaloosa. About six weeks later, we drove that car to buy a pregnancy test, and afterwards, stunned, to a bakery where we ate éclairs and discussed the options. We moved our things to New Orleans, and James lived there with Henry while I drove that car back and forth to Tuscaloosa for the rest of the semester, fighting drowsiness with books on tape and rest-stop naps since I couldn’t have caffeine.

That car died. We went to a mechanic someone we talked to had been to before. He rewired something. I drove back to Tuscaloosa. The next morning, the battery was dead. I got a jump. I drove back to New Orleans. The next morning, the battery was dead. I found another mechanic. He wore a silver lightning bolt earring and his office was coated in oily dust. The problem was the wiring job the first guy did—it was putting a draw on the battery, even when the car was turned off. Now, we popped the hood and pulled out a fuse on the driver’s side every time we stopped the car for more than a few minutes.

During thunderstorms, I drove that car up onto the wide sidewalk in front of our building and watched anxiously as the water leapt the gutters and inched up my hubcaps.

I drove that car to the doctor, where I was the only white patient. I drove that car to Loyola, where I taught English.

Right on schedule, we drove that car to the hospital, and a few days later, drove it home with our baby in her regulation car seat.

I drove that car around New Orleans with our baby in the back listening to Liz Phair and Belly and Uncle Tupelo. We drove to the beach in Pensacola, camping in Mississippi. We drove to Cincinnati and Omaha. Under the car seat, a bunkers worth of cheerios and apple slices.

The hydraulics wore out on the trunk struts, and we had to use a broom handle to prop open the trunk door.

Eventually, we crammed every spare inch of that car with our belongings and drove it to Seattle.

We replaced the muffler, but there was a missing part, something they didn’t have at Midas. Some sort of Y support we would have to get from the Volvo dealership. I didn’t go to the Volvo dealership. I was busy. Also, it would probably cost $700.

I drove that car when it was my turn for the work carpool, from Seattle to Bothell along Lake City Way. One morning, the car was rumbling; incrementally, we spoke louder, to be heard over the noise. On the way home that night, there was a sudden release. I pressed the gas and the car sounded like a hot rod. No muffling anymore. People stared as they passed. We crept home. At Midas, they put the two parts back together, no charge, and reminded me about the special Volvo bracket. The next time, James slid under the car and wrestled the muffler back together.

We drove that car to the hospital to have another baby.

A couple years later, we drove that car to a park on Queen Anne where we got married.

At the end, there was a diagnosis. The wiring was terminal, a fire hazard. We should not have been driving that car anymore. We should not have children in that car. It wasn’t even smoking. There were no funny burning smells.

I traded in that car on a Saturn. I thought we’d have a few minutes at the end, where I could sit in the driver’s seat and say goodbye. It was whisked away, gone by the time I finished the paper work.

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Mike Derman’s 1964 Pontiac Lemans

pontiac lemans pullquoteA person’s first car usually holds a special place in their heart. Mine is no different. As a senior in high school having a means of transportation meant a certain element of freedom.

My first car was a 1964 Pontiac Lemans. Bought used for $450 is was the most beautiful vehicle I’d ever laid eyes on. Bucket seats and a three-speed on the floor made it a lot of fun to drive.

The only problem was that here in North Dakota winters can get very cold, which this vehicle did not always like. Cold morning starts were tough. To facilitate dealing with a stubborn engine I solved the problem by having two batteries. I kept one inside to keep it warm and if my car didn’t start I just swapped out the cold battery for the warm one. This worked great but was a bit clunky if you didn’t have any tools. To speed things along I usually didn’t clamp the battery down and just let it sit loosely in the tray. This was also fine except that occasionally when I would make a right turn the battery would lean over and ground out against the frame. This would cause the engine to die and all the lights to go off. The most impressive feature was that sparks would shoot out from under the hood while we continued to negotiate the turn. It looked very cool, especially at night! Once we straightened out, the battery would rock back, the light would come back on, and I would pop the clutch to get the engine going again. Always impressive with my buddies!

Of course, this is a classic case of ‘I wish I still had that car.’ It was tons of fun.

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The Joy of First Car Ownership

Katie Burke's ForerunnerJackson, the namesake of my childhood idol Michael Jackson, was my first car. Its original owner, my father, had previously named this gold, 1990 Toyota Forerunner “Buck.”

My dad gave me the car in December 2005. A senior in college at the time, attending Fairfield University in Connecticut, I had wished for some time that I could move to San Francisco after graduation. However, I mistakenly believed that living in San Francisco without a car was not possible. I had settled on Plan B: moving to New York and pursuing a back-burner pipe dream of acting.

The moment I unwrapped the keys to Buck on Christmas morning, I abandoned my plan of being a New York actor and resumed the path of being a psychologist in San Francisco, where I now live and practice as an attorney.

As I picked up my friends Christmas night, with “Wanna’ Be Startin’ Somethin’” blasting through Jackson’s carriage, I felt an indescribable and, in retrospect, irrational joy to own this car, which I’d long admired.

My only previous driving experience had consisted of sharing the use of my mom’s old Volvo with my four siblings … so, to my mind, sole possession and exclusive use of a fifteen-year-old, hand-me-down SUV was the equivalent of top-of-the-line, new-release Ferrari ownership.

Never mind that within a few months of Jackson’s shipment to Connecticut for my final semester, he began breaking down during traffic stops, costing me thousands of dollars in repairs. As far as I was concerned, my car was perfect.

When the world lost Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009, friends and I danced to his hits late into the night. And though I had lost his namesake to old age over ten years before, I couldn’t help knowing that somewhere in First Car Heaven, a Forerunner born as Buck Burke turned over his engine in loving memory.

Katie Burke, 2011

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Keith Crossman’s ’69 Camaro

Keith Crossman's CamaroFor most folks, the big questions in life are “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, and “What do I want to do with my life?” To a fifteen–year old red–blooded male in the South, one of the big questions is “Ford or Chevy?“

With much soul searching and mechanical lust over Mustangs, Chevelles, Camaros and GTOs, I decided that the ‘69 Camaro was the car for me. After some hunting, my Dad and I found my car. She was much in need of repair, having no engine, about four layers of bad paint and primer, and rusted–through trunk and floorboards. But she was a convertible with a good interior and plenty of potential, and she only cost 400 bucks!

We found a donor station wagon for the engine and tranny, and after many hours in the garage, busted knuckles and trips to the country junkyards, we had the old gal back in tip–top shape in time for my 16th birthday and driving road test. She now had a 300 horse 350 V8 motor with headers and dual exhaust, a new top, and a shiny Marina Blue paint job complete with racing stripes.

The car and I bonded quickly. She put up with my lead–footed teen driving, even the multiple burnouts and doughnuts that were de rigueur leaving the Lee–Davis (no kidding!) High School parking lot. We made quite a pair. There was a catch, however. My parents put a stipulation on me keeping the car: I was to graduate high school with a 3.50 average so that I could get into a good university. Yikes!

There wasn’t much to do in Mechanicsville, Virginia, in 1984, and I certainly wasn’t about to waste my entire year studying trigonometry. So the Camaro and I spent a lot of time together, cruising the strip, seeing punk rock shows in nearby Richmond, and having a lot of fun with my friends.

One episode involved coming in at curfew and sneaking back out to push the car down the street. (I was worried the dual exhausts would alert my parents to my escape.) I then drove back to the big party I had just left an hour before. Later I was back in the Camaro with my girlfriend in the front seat and another couple in the back. We were partying and making out, having a great time! Of course, I didn’t know that my friend’s mother had called my folks looking for him, prompting my parents to find that the pillows I had placed under my blankets were just a lame attempt at deception. My dad came to the party and practically dragged me out of the car and home to about a month’s worth of grounding. My future wife, who was in the back seat at the time, and I still have some laughs about that party to this day.

Needless to say, I was a little distracted back then, and didn’t make the grades my parents had hoped for. I still ended up getting into the art school I had wanted to attend, but the car was sold during my first year there. One of my former high school classmates ended up buying the Camaro. Years later, I heard that he had badly wrecked her and she had to be totally rebuilt and painted again. I wonder where she is now?

Keith Crossman

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Regina Tracy’s First Car was an Opel Kadett

Regina Tracy quoteMy father bought me my first car when I was in a college. I felt I didn’t really need a car because I had something much better—which was boys. But my parents, uncomfortable that I skewed toward a cohort of Datsun Z or TR6 owners, clearly had something safer in mind.

Dad was a professional bus driver and his chief automotive concerns were that any vehicle seat 37 comfortably and had not been made by anyone he had fought in World War II. He had a friend who sold used cars—who over the years had supplied us with Nash Ramblers, Ford Fairlanes and Chevy Citations, who dusted off an Opel Kadett he had hanging around the lot. True, the Opel was not big enough to suit Dad until he remembered the effect my complete lack of depth perception had been having on family insurance policy costs. The salesperson disguised the Opel’s German origins with a tale of it being made in a Lincoln Mercury factory in North Dakota by god–fearing Norwegians, and we were off to the races…or would have been if the Opel had actually ever started.

As cute, but not as zippy as your average golf cart, the Opel had two speeds: 5mph and 55mph. Above 55 the Adventure Option kicked in, where the entire car would be vibrating so badly that pieces of the engine started to break free and had to be tightened down about once a month and a new muffler installed. It didn’t turn over if it was cold (in Opel terms: below 60 degrees) or if it was foggy. Inasmuch as we lived on an island, surrounded on four sides by water, this was not terrifically convenient.

Believing as a good New Englander does, that one builds character through pain, I doggedly went on spending about $100 (which in 1980 dollars was the equivalent of the GNP of a small, oil–producing nation) every 300 miles or so instead of doing what a lesser person would and putting a bullet through the engine block. The Opel dramatically gave up the ghost in traffic one day when clouds of black smoke started pouring out of the dashboard. About a week later I got a recall notice from the Lincoln Mercury company which basically said “Soon you will realize the car you own really sucks.”

I didn’t see an Opel for years and figured the AAA had probably bombed all their factories until I was in Istanbul and an Opel dealership was right next to my hotel. Turkey has drivers so bad that a few years ago (I am not making this up) the Government required citizens to carry body bags in their cars. All those loose engine parts would fit conveniently into one.

Regina Tracy

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Lori’s ’62 Ford Falcon

Lori's 62 Ford FalconFrom the get–go it was a money pit, but I loved that car. Driving my new purchase home from Reno to San Jose, she blew a transmission gasket and had to be towed from Vallejo. I didn’t care—I had my ‘62 Ford Falcon with the deluxe chrome option—my first car.

I would lovingly wash the Little Falcon every other week. I lived to make the chrome sparkle in the sun. The dash was tricked out, not with a plastic Jesus or Mary, but with a plastic golfer. Leaning up against that was a postcard of 50’s Rockabilly icon Gene Vincent. I don’t know why, but I just loved that arrangement.

The Falcon had so many features that I loved—like the windshield, with the glass that wrapped about 4 inches around the sides and had blue tinting at the top for sun protection. The doors had wing windows! These are features I wish that new cars still had.

The wiper blades were very unique. They were vacuum controlled through the carburetor, so when you stepped on the gas, they slooowed down and when you eased up, they would practically fly off the windshield. Very entertaining.

As I said though, it was a money pit. I would never drive it out of the Bay area for fear that something would go wrong with it. After 2 rebuilt engines it still had an oil leak somewhere, which would trickle down into the generator and kill the engine. In one year, I had to put in 4 new generators. I got pretty fast at that task. Thank god for AAA. In fact that same “4-Generator-Year” year, AAA had towed my Falcon so many times that they sent me list of auto shops that I could take the car to.

The memories are worth every penny spent. Had the Little Falcon been a convertible (considered the“”classic” of the Falcons), I might have put more money into it and still have it. To this day, I always defer to Falcons in traffic, and say to myself, “Take care of that car!”

Lori Howes

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Sarah’s Scottsdale Truck

Sarah's ScottsdaleMy friend Adam helped me to negotiate a deal on my first car, which was a full–sized yellow Chevrolet Scottsdale truck. I bought it in Missoula, Montana with a loan to buy it for $1,700. I think it was a 1978, but I’m not sure. It was used at a horse stable ranch, which was evident because there was straw between the seats. It wore studded tires, with two spares attached to the bed. The owner welded a horse shoe onto the mechanism that screwed the spare tires to the sides of the bed in order to keep them standing up straight in back. There was a real eight–ball screwed onto the gear shift. The truck kicked ass!

One time I parked it in a loading zone on campus at University of Montana. When I went out to move it, there was a cop writing me a ticket. He asked, “Is this your truck?” He walked around the side of the truck, admiring it and said, “It’s a good truck. I’ve driven it before.” He told me a story about a time when his horse got sick, and he had to borrow this truck from his friend to tow the horse to a veterinarian on the other side of the state. (He never ended up giving me the ticket. We had a nice little talk and then he went off on his business.)

I lived with the truck in Yellowstone Park for a while, where my boyfriend Donovan (named after the Mellow Yellow singer) drove it. Later, my friend Marya and I drove topless in it through the hot Nevada/Utah desert. I played AC/DC in the tape deck and later went drag racing with it in Santa Barbara. And when I moved to LA, I drove the truck down the freeway carrying all of my belongings in the bed, and I passed a car on the shoulder, fully engulfed in flames. It was an omen.

My truck eventually died on the 110 Harbor Freeway, Southbound. I had failed to add water to the radiator. I sold it to a junker in East LA, for $100 in parts.

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Alan Kren’s Working Man’s Truck

Alan Kren's Chevy Pickup TruckMy first car was a truck. I bought it after getting my first job with a contractor; I had worked for him for about two weeks and figured I had as steady a job as I could find in 1976. I bought the truck from a body shop guy who had painted it fire engine red and had replaced the bench seat with matching green bucket seats taken out of a Firebird or Camaro or some sort of muscle type car. This truck had three on the tree but first gear was still so low that you had to shift to second at about seven miles per hour. It was a 1959 Chevy long bed pick–up with wood slats for the bed and running boards next to the outside wheel wells. Someone had removed the grill and my buddy offered to replace it, but I didn’t want to pay him to do it. It didn’t matter anyway to me because I just needed it to work out of.

That truck was an auto mechanics training course en vivo. The first repair was to fix the starter pedal. I had to fit a bigger washer around its base to keep it from punching through the rusting hole in the floor board. My brother–in–law showed me how to replace the lamp wire someone had strung between the coil and the solenoid; he also greased the gear box so you could shift the gears. I remember saying to him that fixing cars could be a lot of fun. He gave me the best advice anyone could—mostly with his incredulous look, and said that there were a lot funner things to pass the time doing.

Repairs happened on a monthly schedule. I found out the engine was from an unidentified 1952 Chevy when I pulled the water pump and brought it to the parts house to get a replacement. By this time it wasn’t surprising that the engine had belonged to another car. I thought it was neat that the engine was as old as I was.

The coolest thing about the truck was that I was king of the road. I was working in Carmel and all the wealthy people were afraid that the truck would do something crazy and crash into their cars. One time I was the last person at a four–way stop and all the people in their Porches and Mercedes waited for me to go before them. I’m sure they just wanted me to get out of the way, not knowing if my steering or brakes would fail and I’d careen out of control into them.

After about a year I sold the truck to a cop who wanted to cherry it out. The odometer had just broken and read a little more than 57,000 miles. He asked if it was 157,000 miles. I couldn’t lie to a cop. I told him it had to be at least 257,000 miles, but I didn’t mention the 1952 engine. He paid me five hundred dollars for it—seventy–five more than I had paid. He was pretty excited, but his wife looked skeptical. I hope he really did cherry it out.

Alan Kren

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