QOTD: What’s Your Best & Worst Car Dream?


Car-related nightmares? I’ve had a few of the poor choice/moneypit/serial-breakdown variety, but
I’m fortunate to have been spared the dream kind, the real nightmares. Touch wood, I don’t get ’em. No Christine-style car chases and explosions and gory crashes.

But that’s only just one kind of car-dream. They who claim never to dream of cars probably just doesn’t remember their dreams in general. Motor vehicles, the damn things, are all around us all the time; of course they’re in our dreams as well. They’re in mine—have been for years. Most often it’s that red ’78 Chev Caprice my folks owned, usually with minor-to-major surreal differences. As a kid I used to fairly often dream someone was putting leaded gasoline in it, which I knew was wrong. That was sort of foggily disturbing. I never really dug at it to guess what it might’ve meant, if it meant anything; I sort of like the explanation of dreaming’s purpose in this 1967 Popular Mechanics article on the subject (PM and Popular Science at that time imitated each other in every respect, which I guess is why Popular Mechanics had an article about the science of dreaming).

Later on, now, that red Caprice has taken me as close as I’ve ever got to lucid dreaming. I’ve never quite managed it; the nearest I come is Hey, it’s that red ’78 Caprice again; this must be a dream. That’s not much of a magic trick any more; box B-bodies are just about extinct, so if I see one, yeah, pretty good odds I’m dreaming.

And it’s not the only GM B-body to have ever shown up for me. One night in 2007 I inherited a 1960s motorcycle—don’t remember the brand, though it wasn’t Harley-Davidson or Honda…maybe Triumph?—and a late-’70s big Pontiac, both in perfect condition. Don’t know whom I inherited them from. I didn’t recognise where I was; not in the core of a city but not in the far-flung suburbs either, sort of between those two. It was a built-up area with housing, businesses, roads and highway access, but it wasn’t too dense. The weather was nice. I have only a passing, theoretical understanding of how the controls work, but I hopped on the motorcycle anyhow. I couldn’t find the kick starter, but by making the jump-up-and-kick-down motions I’ve seen, I easily got it started. Likewise, I knew that shifting gears is accomplished with the left foot (I think?), pushing down to downshift or pulling up to upshift, but I couldn’t seem to make the shifter work predictably. Nor would the clutch (left hand?) or brake (right hand?) give any physical feedback that they worked. Still, there I was, riding around town easily and without fear. The only real issue was the gearshift: Sometimes I was able to accelerate quickly from a stop, and other times it was slow going. It seemed to be completely random what gear I was in.

I came upon traffic backed up at a long red light and decided to cut down a side street and make a left then a right turn, rather than wait through several cycles of the light. But, once on the side street, I found I wouldn’t be able to make my desired turn any time soon. I ducked into the semicircular driveway of a hotel and buzzed a catering crew who were unloading their truck preparatory to some gala event or other. I didn’t, y’know, trash anything or cause any direct damage, but I did ride inappropriately fast through the narrow corridor between the truck and the staging tables on which they’d put all their equipment. I was amused; they were not.

Then somehow or another I was in the Pontiac, repeatedly getting on and off the highway. This required extreme acceleration, for the on-ramps were unrealistically short. The car was more than capable of coping, and I found myself accelerating faster and more than necessary. A couple of times I found myself closing in on cars ahead, and it seemed to me I was getting imprudently close to them before applying the brakes, but I never had to brake in a panic, and didn’t cause any crashes. As I was driving along the highway, I thought to myself the car would make an excellent candidate for conversion from gasoline to propane power and made a mental note to contact someone I know who is experienced in that art.

Then I was done with the highway, out of the car, and I had a couple of papers in my hand. One was a printout of an email, a response from someone who actually exists to a post I’d made to a (real) internet mailing list, describing the motorcycle. His email contained the contact information for a vintage [whatever brand it was] motorcycle collector’s group, and said to check the cycle and engine numbers because “You’re not supposed to ride bikes with serial numbers between [two 6- or 7-digit numbers] with engine numbers between [two 5- or 6-digit numbers] from 1963-1965 at present”.

I had a bright yellow cover for the motorcycle, and I paused in the middle of installing it to look at the other paper I had in my hand. It was also bright yellow, and was an invitation to a shindig being held by some long-in-practice doctor. A cardiologist, I think. It was for his 50th year in practice, and promised more food than you can possibly stuff in and for the kids: weddings, movies, etc. And boat rides. It was the event I’d buzzed on the motorcycle, I realised.

Earlier this month, Paul show-‘n’told about a surreal 12-passenger Dodge station wagon—his kind of weird dream car. I have very vivid dreams about cars that are invariably wild and crazy and make no sense, he said. Me, too. Mine aren’t the pink-elephant variety like that 12-passenger wagonoid, but I’ve dreamt of cars utterly true to waking-life reality, down to every last tiny detail…except the doors somehow opened inward instead of outward. It worked perfectly in the dream, and it seemed completely ordinary, but while I remember where in the parking lot of which particular Denver-area supermarket this metallic green ’93 Subaru Legacy sedan was parked, I can’t recall how those doors worked—just that they did.

Now what about you? What are your best car dreams? Your worst ones? Trucks and buses and motorcycles count. Self-propelled lawn mowers, too.