I loved my first car. I loved it because it was impractical and sporty and because the seller had the original catalogue showing golfers in knickers putting their clubs in the hatch back. My first car was a pale yellow 1969 MGB–GT with wire wheels and I found it sitting in a grassy field behind an old barn in southern NJ. I paid $1500 cash for it and drove home to Pennsylvania to show my dad. My dad didn’t like it all that much.
I would have to buy snow tires and put in a heater/defroster and the leather seats were rotten and the rear view mirror was way out by the headlights and…none of it mattered. It still had those cool wire wheels. I bought a tape deck and speakers and covered the stock speaker hole in the center console with black corduroy with an MGB–GT emblem. I made matching black corduroy slipcovers to hide the rotten seats and cushioning that I had added so that I could see over the dashboard. With the end of summer, I was off to university in my own wheels.
It was a love–hate relationship. The car loved going from A to B, but hated going B back to A. Still, I drove that car everywhere. I drove it to Vermont to go skiing and when the fuel pump broke, I left it up there. I drove it to Florida and when the starter broke, we popped the clutch all the way back to Pennsylvania. In the great ice storm of ’84, I left the car in someone’s driveway after spinning around in a 360 on the freeway and having gone as far as we possibly could. I remember wearing socks on my hands because the inside of the car was so cold because the weather–stripping around the door had all come off and was coiled up on the floor in the back. When the windshield wipers stopped working, we drove for two hours in the dark looking through the clearest spot on the windshield, down low nearest the dashboard. One hot summer back in Philadelphia, my muffler broke along the Schuylkill expressway.
Pulled over by the side of the road in my checkerboard golfing skirt, I endured road crew jests, “Getting that ole Schuylkill tan, eh?” But none of it was really that bad and all those parts fail just the same in any ole car. I learned to do all the maintenance too. It was easy. The car manual showed exactly where everything was and when you lifted the hood, there it all was! There were lots of fluids to check. I remember that especially. And the crazy jack that fitted into a tube on the underside of the car and lifted the whole car up on its side. There were two batteries under the back seat. My father made sure I knew how to change my tires and stood over me with a pointer each fall and spring for the annual snow tire change. I loved whiling away summer afternoons polishing the chrome.
My big score was in Jersey City when walking home from the store one day; I found a similar car in a lot with a bunch of other abandoned cars. My first thought was: parts! I checked it out and found all sorts of priceless things, the best being the two mint front seats. I retrieved some tools from my house but couldn’t manage to get those darn seats out. Some guys hanging out nearby informed me that I should be careful because all the cars in the lot had been stolen. “Really?” I said. The idea of the beat up old cars in the lot being stolen had never even occurred to me. I told them that it was probably more likely the police would think they were up to something, rather than me anyway. They were nice guys. For $20.00 they removed the seats for me and brought them to my house. I kept that car for six years. It was a great car. I only sold it because I was leaving the country to travel. My father had been wrong about the car after all.
I would like to see that car again someday just to make sure that it is still loved and cared for.