Tuesday, October 25, 2011


She could not remember the last time raindrops had slipped carelessly down her sleek sides. She had stayed inside so long, only venturing out when I took her for short junkets on a rare sunny Sunday afternoon. Her recent years had been spent silent, hidden under her blue sheet, no doubt feeling abandoned.  But today was different. Today, mixed with the odour of burning leaves, was a tangible smell of excitement; real adventure awaited her. It was like the good old days. The hours spent exploring country roads or speeding down a freeway. They were simple times.  Carefree times. Classic times, really. 
"Babe" had always sported a soft, shy blue color since she came out of her Flint, Michigan, factory 45 years ago. She was always pretty and desirable, but had spent a good many years as basic transportation, suffering the normal bumps and bruises that come from undersized parking stalls and following trucks too closely.  But over the last 18 years she has become, like most of those who first drove her, semi-retired.   Even so, after some needed body work, new factory-authentic paint and restored interior, Babe must have felt brand new and ready to go. But to protect the classic she had now become she was, something like my daughter's cat, an 'inside car', to be taken outdoors only under ideal conditions.
Taking a road trip to California in a 1967 Camaro, powered by a 250 cubic inch motor, may seem like a trip down memory lane. The only thing is that my memory had managed to blindly glorify the 'good old days'. There have been some changes over the past 45 years.
Modern vehicles may enjoy luxuries such as multi-zoned temperature controls and expensive audio/visual systems, Babe had a simple fan/temperature/defrost control (no air conditioning) that worked best in cooperation with small, triangular, side-vent windows called, inexplicably, "no drafts", a long since outmoded feature. There was no back up warning system or electronics of any kind. The AM radio and windshield washer had not worked for years. The headlights were dimmed by a small, left-foot operated button, if you could find it in the dark. There was no cruise control, right hand mirror, 3-point seat belts (lap belts only), headrests, intermittent wipers (2-speed though!) or dashboard gauges (except for fuel and speed).   But … Babe did have… an ashtray and working cigarette lighter. You never know when they could come in handy.
Despite being in good shape for a classic, things are not the same.  She has to be driven more slowly, fluids checked more often and she does not idle as smoothly as before. Long trips, such as this one to California, are adventures more than comfortable drives, leaving us more fatigued than we had expected.
Babe, who has been in the family for a very long time, has become like me. Slower, movements are accomplished more carefully. Everything takes a little longer.  There are some undefined rattles and Babe shakes some, especially at faster speeds. She is trying her best to be what she once was, but might be better off just enjoying her new place as a classic; still fully functional and capable of more than being left in the spare garage. 
This little road trip will probably take a toll on both Babe and me. But it was worth it. Truly classic.

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