Auto-Biography: Three Young Brothers, Three Small Chevys

I visited my older brother and his family over this past Thanksgiving holiday, and it brought back a lot of memories: great, not-so-great, funny, embarassing, etc.  Not having any kids myself, it brings me an abundance of joy and amusement to participate in and witness the conversations and shenanigans that take place with and among the next wave of Dennises.  I wonder sometimes if our parents, aunts and uncles were as amused and/or pleased by the things they (over)heard come out of our young mouths as I was when spending time with the kids this past weekend.

Growing up in Flint, Michigan, Chevrolet was far and away the most prevalent make of car on the roads in and around Genesee County.  This got me thinking – given the family resemblance between my two brothers and me, if we were all 1970s-era Chevrolet “siblings”, what model would each of us be, in a metaphorical sense?  I limited my choices to small cars, as all three of us were still kids by the dawn of the ’80s.

My older brother, Ben, is the logical, practical, pragmatic, do-it-all personality who also often applies that intelligent approach to matters of personal taste, like art, music and attire.  One mid-’70s tagline I remember from old National Geographic magazines was that “Chevrolet Makes Sense For America”.  The popular and dependable X-Body Nova is what comes to mind when I think of Ben.  These cars were a sensible package that could be tailored to many tastes and configurations in a well-engineered, accommodating package.  The Nova’s longevity in Chevy showrooms and very respectable sales figures throughout its entire run are proof positive of all of these things.  (Showoff…)

Since I’m taking the Dennis brothers in order, I’m next.  I’ve always considered myself more of a late bloomer, feeling like I hadn’t started to realize my potential until well into young adulthood.  People have often complimented me in the looks department, which was at odds with how I didn’t always feel so great on the inside during those formative, grade school years.  That’s all in the past.  At some point, my fortunes turned around and for the most part, things have been in the groove in which I’ve felt they should be, for much of my adult life.

What’s the Chevy “spirit animal” of my inner child?  A latter-day Vega hatch: finally reliable, with clear skin (since the Vega’s rust problem was largely fixed by the end), and with a design that had aged very well.  No sports kid was I, so I definitely wasn’t a Camaro.  Chevy’s “trouble child” finally pulled through in the end, and better late than never.

This brings me to my younger brother, Peter.  When we were young kids, it brought me no end of grief that people would confuse our names despite us being three years apart and, admittedly, looking a lot like restyled versions of one another.  There would be no other choice to represent Peter than the Vega-based Monza.  A Vega with a different set of clothes but a very similar personality, the Monza took some of the strengths of the Vega, switched them up slightly, and voila!  Those of us middle children who had a younger sibling show up and win everybody over with their newness (dammit) can probably appreciate that the Monza decisively stole the Vega’s thunder when the former was introduced for ’75.

Given that negative experiences with the Vega had likely lowered Chevy buyers’ expectations by the time the Monza came along, the newer car never seemed to experience the vitriol bestowed on the older one, despite their fundamental similarities.  (“Life isn’t fair, Joe. – Mom.”)  The Monza remained a strong seller right through the end of its run, with almost 170,000 (!) units sold for final, official model-year 1980.

It’s all good in the end, though, and I can say that while my brothers and I are all approaching a certain “vintage” (even if we haven’t begun to fully appreciate), we have those common, Dennis-family experiences (and quality control issues) to bond us in the long run.  With the recent announcement of the pending demise of many Chevrolet-branded passenger cars in the United States, much of this same principle applies to family members: we must enjoy them while we can before they’re no longer with us.