The car belonged to my husband, a purchase by his parents in 1969 shortly before he obtained his driver’s license. A classic vehicle, it was the personification of every young man’s dream of that era.
A 1957 red and white Chevrolet Bel Air hard top four door, it was loaded with chrome, 283 power pack, four barrel carburetor, duel exhaust power steering and power brakes. It had a red and black interior, black wall tires, chrome wheel bands and baby moons. On the driver’s side of the car was a standard silver chromed spot light with a mirror in the back of it.
(Bet some of you folks are surprised that I know all this car-talk terminology, right? Don’t be too impressed as I can’t take any of the credit. I had to get my husband to recollect the details for me.)
Countless memories are attached to the car. We rode it to our high school proms, basketball games, parties and dates. I drove it to DMV to get my driver’s license. In 1971 our decision to marry was formalized in the car when my husband-to-be stretched his arm over the car’s front car seat and took a little ring box out of the ash tray mounted to the rear of the vinyl bench. (For those who are too young to know such things, multiple ash trays were standard issue in vehicles years ago. So were bench seats.)
Several months later we drove the automobile to Myrtle Beach on our honeymoon, two children cruising southward and into the future. It was festooned with traditional tin cans and crepe paper and ribbon streamers. Wielding bars of soap, friends had written ‘two rings for sale’ and ‘just married’ on the red paint, and ‘for sale’ on a window. We had a hard time convincing a guy we encountered at the beach that the vehicle wasn’t actually for sale when he tried to make us an offer.
Impracticable as youth can sometimes be, I persuaded my husband not to wash the decorated vehicle for several days. The hot August beach sun baked the words into the paint making them detectable long afterwards despite many attempts to clean and wax them away.
For a few years, it was our constant and only mode of transportation. It carried me through my last year of high school and into a year of college, where I was perpetually late, one of the last students sliding into the parking lot each day. I never got a speeding ticket during any of those early morning races, not because one wasn’t deserved. I just never got caught.
Eventually the car gave out and was parked in our back yard for years before we finally gave up the dream of restoring it someday. We were raising a young family and paying a mortgage, choices that were more important. A friend who had already gone through that phase in his life bought it and refurbished it to mint condition before selling it to a buyer in Australia. I hope the car gives the new owner as many fond memories as it did us.