A Gearhead Trapped in a Skirt Suit

I'm posting a throw-back this week since I've been discussing cars with my friends lately. I drive a retro-looking Mustang and I love it. It's fast, it's cute, and part of me just has to buck convention and everyone else in D.C. seems to drive BMWs or Audis, so dang it - I'm sticking to the Ford muscle car in protest.

Sure, it doesn't look as "mature," or "professional" as something that blends in, but I've never been good at trying to blend in - as evidenced by my choice of a first car: A 1967 Camaro.

Below is from a post I originally wrote in 2011 about that car. Let your inner teenage boy out and enjoy.

The Commode
I realized that I haven’t written about my first car, the Most Awesome Car In The World – a 1967 Chevy Camaro.

Fact you should know: I may be a 30-something female, but part of me is a 12 year-old redneck boy. And while I do love a good spa day or fantastic heels, I also enjoy things like four-wheeling, playing in mud…and muscle cars.

And I was trying to think if I have any good stories to tell about my time with The Commode. (My cousin nicknamed it that for no apparent reason except for the fact that we lived in Tennessee and lots of things have nicknames for no apparent reason. In fact, I know several people, some are relatives, who I don’t actually know their real names. It’s a thing we do. Don’t judge.)

And there were definitely fun quirks about that car, like even though it was a ’67, it had a remote controlled CD player.


Do you even know what that is?? That is like the FIRST CELL PHONE EVER. It was actually just a car phone, meaning it can't leave the car because the equipment for it is in a bag, attached to the cigarette lighter. Before everyone and their child had a cell phone, I had a phone IN MY CAR people. I was the bomb. Not really, because I was only allowed to use it if I got lost on Tennessee backroads (which I did) or ran out of gas….which I did, and that is what I’ll tell you about in a second.

But a couple quick separate stories first. So, the redneck boy in me liked to race other boys in their cars. So I have different stories from doing that, like when my friend Mark took off beside me in his truck, which had a tool box in the bed that you open up in separate places using latches on either side. I start to race him and in the process somehow those latches released themselves and I remember seeing his tool box open up like a pair of wings behind the cab of his truck, forcing him to stop. It made my pom-pom twirling teenage girl side giggle. (And made my car-loving redneck boy side feel smug, because I won the race, default or not.)

Or I’d see my friend James in my rear-view mirror in his 454 (for you non-redneck boys: that is a Fast. Truck.), while driving my neighbor to school, and I’d slam my pedal down on the floor, scaring my neighbor senseless because he had not seen James coming up behind us and probably thought I was having a stroke.

And slamming my pedal to the floor wasn’t always such a great idea, as I embarrassingly learned while attempting to race yet another boy in the parking lot at the public pool. I started from a dead stop and I slammed the pedal all the way down…

which flooded the engine.

So I have to restart my car and I become the girl who “greenhorned an automatic.” (Because greenhorning is a term sometimes used for people who can’t drive manual transmissions, they just kill the engine while trying to get the car moving. Except my car was not manual: I just apparently couldn’t drive at all.)

And I mentioned that the car had funny inconsistencies like being old, yet having a CD player and air conditioning. And it also had power steering, which my dad added because manual steering is hard to turn with. And if you have a lot of turns, it can make a girl sweat on the way to high school - and HELLO! I can't be all sweaty when I arrive at school, DAD! (see, I do have a strong Teenage Girl side as well.) So he got power steering installed, but not without its own quirks. So the funny little thing about that was that if you turned the steering wheel too far:

It cut the engine.

Not that I know that from experience or anything…

The car also had quirks like the headlight dimmer was a button on the floor you had to hit with your foot, and the gear shift didn’t have any writing on it to tell you what gear you were in, or if you were in Drive or Reverse, so you pretty much just had to feel those things in your soul.

And after I drove it for awhile, the gauges started acting up. And one day, the whole car started acting a little strange - sluggish, jolting a little. And I wondered if I needed to get gas so I pulled into a gas station. But then I look at my gauges and think “I can’t really tell if I need gas because I don’t trust the gauge – and since my car is acting weird, what if I turn it off and can’t get it started again??”

So I don’t turn off the ignition, I pull right back out of the gas station and onto the main street towards home, which is uphill-

And my car promptly dies in front of everyone. 

From lack of gas.

On a hill, a few feet from a gas station I just pulled out of. 

So, in the end, the stories I have of my first car are pretty much like all my other stories: they end with someone looking at me amused, shaking their head in disbelief.

(But sweet maria, I loved that car. She looked exactly like this:)