I love listening to classic radio programs. Richard Diamond, Dragnet, I Was A Communist For The FBI… These have all, at one point, acted as the background soundtrack for my life. If I needed to kill time during a long drive, or doing housework, these and many shows like them are my go-to.
This passion for radio shows started with my time working for a concrete pumping company shortly after turning eighteen. As I spent countless hours doing brutal manual labor, oftentimes late at night and completely alone, I had discovered quite by accident the Gunsmoke radio show.
What most people would find corny, I discovered a love for. With the tap of a finger, I would be suddenly transported to the wild, weary desert town of Dodge City, Kansas. I would delight in the adventures of Marshal Dillon and Chester Proudfoot, allowing me to escape my bleak world of concrete, half an hour at a time.
I find myself remembering these times as I listen to the show again at my current job working for a classic car dealership. I’ve listened to the whole series three times through over the years and am happy to be slowly working my through it once again.
What does this have to do with my new car? Well, it has made me consider it with a fresh prospective. Driving a vintage car as your daily feels like being transported to the mythical American old west, at least to me.
This is Dixie. She was traded for Rosie, my 1961 Corvair after it became obvious that it would not be suitable for highway use in the dead of winter. My girlfriend’s car was on it’s last legs and she would need a reliable way to her new job. Giving her my (then daily driver) Mazda, would mean me suddenly relying on a classic car in a way not done since my Plymouth Gran Fury. With a lot of thought, I decided to find a four door sedan with working AC. A classic, though not as old as Rosie and hopefully easier to fix. I needed to find known technology that even I, as a shade tree mechanic, could fix.
To make a long story short, I found someone willing to trade their Caprice for my Corvair. Rosie was driven up to Frisco in the freezing rain and the deal was made in less than two hours. I felt a sense of relief looking at my new daily driver that, at the time of writing, has yet to fade. I’ve put over 10,000 miles on her and have only had to change a set of shocks and do an oil change so far.
Dixie is my trusty steed. She’s become a friend I talk to as I sit in her saddle colored cabin, listening to her speak back in the squeak of plastics and the roar of her dual exhausts that have become familiar to me as we stampede along the Texas highways. Her Grant steering wheel became the reins by which I guide her.
To break from these philosophical ramblings, I’m sure my readers would like to know her specs. She’s a 1969 Caprice hardtop sport sedan in Olympic Gold. Her engine is a 327 with camel hump heads and a hot cam sourced from a 1968 Camaro. A few months before I took possession of the car, a speed shop in her home state of Arkansas added an aluminum intake and new 600 CFM carburetor. Her transmission is a rebuilt two speed PowerGlide, and unfortunately, still has drum brakes all around.
Al, the man that gave me Rosie, was thankfully understanding about what I felt I had to do. He said I was doing this for me and my new family, and as good as the Corvair was, it wasn’t meant to be on a modern highway. My girlfriend can drive it thanks to the automatic and our partner can be somewhat comfortable in it’s larger cabin with working, modern AC. Driving dynamics are what you might expect from a B body of this vintage. Smooth, floating, boat-like. However, while the 327 is no big block, it will pull like a freight train from 60-90 mph. It’s not fast off the line, but that’s not what this car is meant for. Dixie cruises like a champ and oftentimes, I find myself going ten miles over the speed limit because the power delivery is so smooth. The sound of her dual exhausts ending in trans am tips has become (for better or worse) my calling card for the people that know me. They can hear Dixie coming up the road from a block away.
In the classic Western, the horse of the main character is a character all on it’s own. What would the Lone Ranger be without Silver? For those of us having to rely on a classic car for our daily, if by choice or circumstance, they become wrapped up in our lives because they are all we have. You learn to appreciate the unique aspects of your car, taking care of it, so that it takes care of you.
Dixie is far from perfect. Her paint is faded and sunburnt, she’s got some minor rust bubbling on her rear fenders, and every single bit of plastic in the cabin looks like it was left in the sun for decades. Her brake pedal squeaks, the front suspension is due for a rebuild, and there’s a small oil leak I’ve yet to fix.
However, speaking as someone who has been transitioning for the last year, just moved out of her parent’s house, and finished her first three months on HRT… you learn to appreciate the things you have and the small improvements made overtime. Yeah, Dixie isn’t perfect and needs work. However, she’s a little better than when I got her and I’ll continue to keep fixing what I can. With this new year, I find myself in a new home with just my two partners, a second hand Mazda, and a battered old Chevy-
-And I’m just fine with that.