Yes, I said wives. And no, I’m not a polygamist. I’ve been married four times; my last marriage, which lasted 11 years, was recently ended by the death of my beloved Kathy. Each involved unique and functional cars, but none I would call spectacular. In order to maintain at least a modicum of privacy, all the names in this story except Kathy’s are fictitious.
I married Annie when I was only 20 and she was 19. This ill-fated marriage only lasted three months. Annie came into the marriage with a 1973 Ford Torino four-door sedan with the wimpy 250 cu in six and three-speed auto–very slow. How slow? My 1979 Subaru Leone, with a 1.2-liter and five-speed, could dust it off the line as well as at freeway speeds.
About a month into the marriage, when it was about 105 degrees in New Mexico, Annie went out to wash her car. She turned the hose on the windshield, which immediately cracked from top to bottom. So much for her driving it. We were young. As in just starting out. As in no money for a new windshield. So she would call one of her sisters to pick her up and give her a ride whenever I was at work and she needed to be someplace.
My second marriage was to Barbara. She came into the marriage with (oh my God, wait for it!) an orange 1972 Pinto wagon. With a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and three-speed automatic. Talk about gutless.
I finally persuaded her to trade it in on a 1978 Honda Civic 1200 with a four-speed manual, and she was a much happier camper after that. She loved the small and nimble Honda, and drove it with gusto, even acquiring a couple of tickets on the freeways and streets of the Central California coast. She took the Honda when we divorced. My only consolation was that I still had the Subaru, which was running so well I didn’t want to part with it.
Third time’s the charm, right? Well, not really. Charmaine married me and presented me with a 1975 Mercury Cougar. If you read my previous article about my Pacer, you’ll remember that I traded in a 1974 Cougar on that fishbowl. Charmaine’s looked just like that one. Exactly. Under the hood, though, hers had a 351 Cleveland while mine had the 460.
After we got married, Charmaine told me that the one car she’d always wanted was an El Camino. Well, about two months later I was at the radio station where I worked when one of our salesmen walked in. He yelled at me, “Hey! Come here and see what I just got!” He’d just bought a Porsche 944. I oohed and aahed like I was supposed to, and then asked him what he did with his ’78 El Camino. He looked incredulous. “That piece of junk? I owe $400 on it. Pay it off and it’s yours!” I was at the bank in five minutes and handed him the cash.
Fortunately, Charmaine’s uncle owned an auto body shop. I spirited the Camino out to him and told him what I wanted. This was four weeks before Christmas. On the day before Christmas I picked up the Camino: New tailgate, new quarter panels, new maroon paint with gold flecks and gold pinstriping. Interior? Impeccable. Uncle took the Cougar in full trade for all his work. Charmaine got the car the next morning. Charmaine told me she’d love me forever; apparently, forever lasts but four years.
Which brings us to Kathy. Kathy and I dated in 1974 while we were both in high school. We didn’t attend the same school, but we knew each other through church activities. Due to a misunderstanding, we lost track of each other until 1998, when I Googled her name and her homepage popped up. We married in 2001.
Kathy brought into the marriage a 2.0-liter, five-speed 1997 Mercury Tracer. It was difficult for me to fit into it, but I did. We drove that car everywhere, as it got almost 40 MPG and my car was a Sedan DeVille. We even took it back east on a driving trip in 2007. The car was a trouper. Despite having to unfold myself every night when I got out of it, it was fun to drive. And it got us through a blizzard, driving rain and highway traffic.
Kathy’s illnesses got worse, and in 2010 her doctor declared unfit to drive. She gave the Tracer to a friend who really needed a car. Kathy was like that. Anything she had that a friend needed she would give them. One of the most unselfish women I’ve ever known. She passed away July 29th.
There you have it. Not Cars Of My Girlfriends, or Cars Of My Life, but Cars Of My Wives. Glad I could be of assistance.