(welcome our newest Sunday COAL series writer) I never paid much attention to cars before. Sure I had toy cars and trucks, but never really paid attention to the full life version. I was about 8 or so, this car came home with my dad after work one day. And it started a love affair with cars and music.
He was working at a Latin night club in Culver City California, managing and serving drinks when necessary. I do remember being made a fuss over by the ladies that worked there, also how there was a great Burrito spot next door, which I’m sure contributed to me being a chonky kid.
Apparently his boss could not pay him one week and just gave the car to him. OK, I guess.
I would sometimes go with him in the day time hours to get the night club ready. I spent a lot of time just walking around the club looking and being fascinated by all the electronics, the instruments on stage, the drink equipment, etc.
We would run errands to the local Smart&Final on Venice Blvd. I was always happy to come along and watch him work the pedals. I remember the rear lift supports did not work right and he would always use a broken mop/broom stick to keep it up when unloading. To this day I believe my Pops likes cars but not a car guy like his son. I do remember it came with the 5.0 liter “Tuned Port Injection” engine as I would stare at the script on the engine trying to figure out what that meant. I did not know much about power, Honda with 4 cylinders now come with the same 190 HP rating this car had, I was just a kid happy to ride.
Coming from a large Latino family I would spent time with my other Aunts and Uncles. My uncle James I could tell you knew that was a sports car by the way he drove it. I would also get to listen to different types of music, this was the early 90s, I would listen to everything from Los Temerarios (Spanish music) to Depeche mode.
I dug the music, so one day I stole a tape from my Aunt and her friend’s apartment. I did not know about what artist sang/sung what. Apparently I had stolen The 2 Live Crews, Nasty as they Want to Be album. I would sit in the car in the driveway on weekends and listen to that tape constantly. I had no idea what they were singing about, but I would sing along to songs like “Me so horny”, “dirty nursery rhymes”, again not knowing what they were talking about. I enjoyed the Bass and Treble, I would test all the stereo buttons, adjust equalizer settings, stare and wonder at the Interior. If I remember correctly the brake pedal had “Disk Brake” printed on the padding, again I would try to figure out what that meant; the shiny disks behind the wheels just in case you did not know.
My Father started having random seizures at this time that would randomly show up, sometimes while driving. I did not know what was going on when that happened, I just remember being scared. One day as he was backing out of the driveway, my sister and I waited for him to back out (our fence was in the way and couldn’t open one door). The seizure kicked in, he accelerated backwards, across the street over the curb and crashed in to the neighbors house. I remember it hit just below the mailbox slot. A combination of the curb and irrigation pipes slowed the car down enough that the damage was minimal, broken right tail light lens.
My Father wasn’t the best person in terms of his drinking, and that was the beginning of the end for this car. It was New Years, we had spent time with Moms friend celebrating in San Bernardino. My pops was convinced he could drive home. I remember him swerving on the freeway, mom was trying to convince him to pull over, he didn’t, CHP convinced him though. We were pulled over, my pops was arrested. We were dropped off by CHP at my moms friends house. My pops had his license pulled. He got the car back, but could not drive due to DUI. He thought he was slick and managed to get it impounded 2 more times for driving under a suspended license.
Because of the seizures my pops could no longer reliably work. He got part time jobs, but he just could not keep up with bills.
My uncles were never really good at diagnosing car issues when they appeared. So when the car started having a misfire, they threw a fuel pump at it when it was likely and injection issue. Lack of money for a proper diagnosis and repair ultimately meant the car had to go. it was sold off for $2000 that went into bills and diagnosing what my dad was suffering from. It would be many years before we had another car. But that Gray Pontiac Trans Am had lit a fire within my soul. The next vehicle would add fuel.
It is interesting how many different paths we readers and writers at CC travel upon to come to our present state of auto-awareness.
Your description of sitting in your father’s car and studying the forms and functions of the design sounds familiar. Though generations earlier, I too was mesmerized by the interior and exterior of my family’s various cars and yearned to understand how and why it was the way it was. Helping my father wash and wax the cars and learning at his side how to do minor tuneups and [some] repairs gave me a head start on my auto-worldly travels.
Sorry to hear about your dad’s seizures; that is a dangerous condition for all involved and would normally preclude any type of driving.
As for “The 2 Live Crews, Nasty as they Want to Be” album, I must admit to complete ignorance of its existence. Perhaps it is time to expand my musical horizons.
Looking forward to your next COAL.
“As for “The 2 Live Crews, Nasty as they Want to Be” album, I must admit to complete ignorance of its existence. Perhaps it is time to expand my musical horizons.”
You were better off not knowing about them. They were a large contributor to why popular music is now unlistenable to me.
You think pop music from the eighties and on is unlistenable? Okay…
I said ‘now’. 2019. I’m finicky about my music. Autotuned singers and rap don’t cut it. Let me put it this way, all the performances at this years Superbowl halftime show sucked and got muted. I expect that trend to continue.
As someone who literally only lived from the 80s on, pop music through the entirety of my lifetime is in fact unlistenable.
You guys are the same about your music as some on here that flatly declare there hasn’t been a decent vehicle built since 1996. Or 1976. Or whenever.
While I can’t say I was a fan of any of the what, three?, performers at this years Super Bowl and in fact skipped it entirely I’m not about to let those three form my entire public viewpoint about all music produced over the last decades. Or even just this year so far. Open your minds and the rest will follow…
I will say I was quite pleasantly surprised and a little shocked to hear a golden oldie by Joy Division played over the system at my local Kroger supermarket the other day. This just weeks after some T’Pau in the same store. I guess I’m getting old too, but new experiences are the key to staying young. Don’t get old before your time.
Thank you XR7Matt; I feel better knowing it’s not just me or my early boomer age status (b.1944). When my youngest son Will was in his late teens he tried to get me into Death Metal.
He tried -and- I tried, really. But it was an effort doomed to failure.
OTOH, I love the music of my parents and still enjoy listening to it.
Maybe we’re more flexible going backward than going forward.
I’m a T’Pau fan myself. I thought I was the only one left.
Jim, most old music I like is new *to me* so what’s the difference? I’m always discovering music I haven’t heard before, but it’s not coming from peer pressure or popular media.
There is far more closed mindedness towards old music than open mindedness towards what’s fresh. It’s impossible to avoid avoid hearing top 40 pop on a day to day basis, so I’m quite aware what I’ve been “missing” in contrast to those who outright refuse to acknowledge something is good because “eew, that’s what my parents listened to”.
Fred – in fact there are three of us! As the song played I overheard a lady tell her little kids, “Hey, it’s a T’Pau song! I haven’t heard this played since college”. She appeared similar aged to me, so college in ’87 and on…I don’t know if I was more surprised that it was playing or that I was within earshot of someone else who identified it as quickly as I did…
Matt – I was responding to the flat assertion that “pop music through the entirety of my lifetime is in fact unlistenable.” That’s a pretty bold statement that there hasn’t been a single piece of popular music since sometime in the ’80’s that you would listen to. I imagine it to have been at least a little facetious and while in fact it doesn’t make a whit of difference to me one way or the other, it struck me for some reason. Plenty of old music is great, and I do tend to lean towards a lot of somewhat older and non-mainstream non-“pop” stuff myself, but wouldn’t just dismiss it out of hand. Same with cars, hard to knock it all until one has literally tried it all individually instead of tarring it all with the same brush. Just like i can’t really say that a 1970 Plymouth is “undriveable” even if I felt that way about a 1970 Ford that I in fact did drive or whatever without trying it myself.
Cars have technological and utilitarian necessity to them though, I could never make a claim in the same vain about cars as I did music, there’s all sorts of measurable substantial stats that would easily refute a claim so bold.
What I like about older cars is variety, variety of bodystyles, engine types driveline layouts, manual and automatic transmissions, and of course the styling. Much of these things have been consolidated in mainstream cars for various practical and profitable reasons, allegedly making for better quality cars, but at the cost of personal value. This is actually perfectly analogous to pop music, artists, producers and labels refined a consistent formula that appeals to the greatest number of people, and they churn out repackaged versions of the same basic songs for maximum profit. I don’t begrudge anybody who enjoys it, but for me personally it’s so far out of what appeals to me instrumentally, melodically, lyrically, and overall production I truly do find it all unlistenable. Popular music and the pop genre didn’t use to be one in the same.
Here’s an interesting article, “Finding New Music in the Algorithm Age.”
Agreed. I know of 2 Live Crew but my musical tastes never leaned that way.
I got regular upgrades to my musical tastes from each of my kids when they were in high school/college. I think once you are out of school real life tends to put new music on the back burner, so it was nice to get some tips. I guess I was fortunate that The 2 Live Crews was not in their ipods (or at least that it was not shared with dad).
Welcome Danny! My cousin had a red 87 Trans Am with t tops. Lots of good memories in that car. Yes, we did also listen to 2 Live Crew in that red Firebird. It was a great car, especially for my cousin and I since we grew up watching Knight Rider.
It eventually succumbed to overheating and other electrical issues.
Oddly enough, considering my circle of friends and the number of cars that my family has owned and that have had my own name on the lien/title, I’ve never had or even taken a drive or a ride in a Trans Am (or any generation of Firebird). They’re few and far between now.
I’ve never owned a Firebird or a TransAm, but I did get to drive one once. My oldest sister’s ex had a black Trans-Am (a ‘78 or ‘79, if I recall) and he let me drive it when I was about 17, before I got my learner’s. I was pretty careful, but it was still lots of fun on a quiet road, and he’s still in my cool books for that. As for your dad, people often have a hard time giving up driving, whether for legal or health reasons. My late mother drove until she was 87, after which dementia and other health matters forced the issue and her license was taken away. She always maintained that she would get her license back one day, but once you lose it at that age, it’s just not going to happen. Anyway, thanks for a good Sunday morning read with my coffee, and I’m looking forward to the next instalment.
Sorry for being so ignorant. I just got turned on to this website this week. I view a half dozen automotive enthusiast sites daily. I have never read the term COAL before. Can someone please provide a definition?
COAL stands for Cars Of A Lifetime, and it’s an opportunity for people to write about their own (or their families’) cars and experiences.
Cars of a lifetime. Personal accounts of cars owned now or in the past.
There are by now several dozen contributor’s entire vehicular histories in the archives of you are interested. They originally appeared one car per week and worked their way through their individual series. If you are interested they are fun to read in order and give a great accounting of how peoples’ automotive tastes changed over often decades of length. Oh, and welcome to CC!
Tony, The Curbside Classic COAL archives are located at https://www.curbsideclassic.com/auto-biography/ -or- go to the site’s home page and scroll down past the ads on the right to a whole host of CC archives.
Tony, I would recommend reading rlplaut’s series first. To this day, in my opinion it is the gold standard of COALs.
+1. It’s really his autobiography as told through his cars. He’s had an interesting life, if sometimes in the sense of “may you live in interesting times.”
Sorry about your dad. My dad was a great man that made me into the man i am today
He didn’t drink , gamble use drugs or raise his hands , he did however smoke which everyone did in the 60s and he died of lung cancer
I went with my dad and uncle Dom to pick up our new ’67 valiant signet ,that was the car that started the car bug in me
I can still remember that new car smell and now we had a transistor radio so we didn’t have to wait until the tubes warmed up like our ’59 Ford
Try to explain tube radio to the kids today ,they don’t know what a transistor is
I hope there were better times ahead for both Dad and the Trans Am.
Deep down my Father is a good man. Sometimes bad habits bring out bad things in people.
I used to rent a place on Caroline Ave, about a block away from this night club. This was about 20 years ago, before Culver City became lively and gentrified.
The terrific burrito spot next door was Campos Famous Burritos. Great food and simply the best salsa – in fact I still dream about it. Sadly, Campos is no longer there!
I used to live on Bedford Street in what I just realized is the shadow of the 10 Freeway and attended Shenandoah Street Elementary School for that one year in 1977…I wonder if the Nightclub was there back then.
The Campos name lives on. There is a location on Venice Blvd which does have the Salsa you speak of, the burrito tastes similar, but you just can’t beat the original.
Welcome to the site Danny; as you have probably gathered by now this is one of the two or three best websites on the Internet today. I’m sorry to hear about your father, my dad wasn’t much of a drinker (a beer or two on a hot day) but he was a smoker from his teens until he finally passed away at age 76. Considering that he also worked for 35+ years in a chemical processing facility it is probably remarkable that he made it as long as he did.
Like many of us I used to pretend to drive the family car when it was in the driveway or in the garage. My parents’ 1950 Ford didn’t have as much stuff as the Firebird but I would still “practice” steering, stopping and shifting the gears. One day when I was around 7 or so I came close to knocking down the back wall of the garage while “driving”. Fords of that era came with the starter button separate from the ignition switch, and that button was live at all times. I found out that if the transmission was in low gear and you punched the starter button, the old Ford would leap forward for several feet, or until it hit the garage wall. Fortunately there was no noticeable damage to the car and if my father ever wondered about the cracks in the 2X4’s framing the garage wall he never said anything about it to me.
Thank you all for your information and advice.
Welcome to the COAL mines, Danny. I look forward to reading more.
You vividly bring back those times from childhood when we all tried to figure stuff out about cars. Like the first 60s wagon I saw with a hand crank for the rear window and how I thought it was so much cooler than the electric one that worked with a key like on my Dad’s.
You remind me that I have had exactly one ride in an F body of this era. It shook and rattled a lot and I liked the car a lot less getting out of it than I did getting in. But then I was in my late 20s and the car carried no family memories as yours did.
Thank You Mr. Cavanaugh
My comment vanished when I saved it. It was my best one ever. Thoughtful and everything. Had metaphors! Took me an hour. So many edits. It was fair and balanced while knocking your socks off. It was The Dark Side Of The Moon of comments. A real game changer. Turned commenting on its head. It had Breck girl hair. It was black and beautiful. It was the moon landing of commentary. It was the Citizen Kane of wordiness. It was Jesus (or whoever you would place there) holding the Constitution and a plate of bacon (or again, what you would place there) and a case of Heineken (again, blah blah blah, words).
Unless it appears later in which case it was only mediocre.
LOL! I feel your pain, I lost two this week. Nothing as doubtlessly epic as yours must have been, but the pain is real!
I have learned that if my comment is going to be more than one or two sentences it is best to write said comment in Word (or Notepad or whatever), and then copy and paste it onto the CC site. Actually this site doesn’t seem as bad about eating posts as some others I have been to but forewarned is forearmed.
I’ve been in the habit of copying what I type before submission, but even that’s not working. It seems as though if the site eats my comment, and I try again pasting it back in it just eats it over and over until I give up trying. I don’t know if it’s an overzealous spam filter or what. Happened to me FOUR TIMES ten minutes ago in the Rebel topic.
That’s Cabrera, not cabron, right? 🙂
Ca. 1978 I was living in Venice (California, not Italy), so I know that area somewhat. I was totally unaware of El Baron, but then there was no internet to help me find it. As an Anglo, I wouldn’t have been drawn to the nightclub aspect, but I do like Mexican food, and I’m sorry I missed Campos Famous Burritos.
One day I was riding my bicycle a bit east of the Venice-Mar Vista border, a guy in a Glas GT coupe pulled out of a side street, and I had to pull a panic stop in order not to be hit. It occurred to me that if he’d committed hit and run, I would have been in a position to tell the police the make and model of the car, unlike a non-gearhead. I thought, but didn’t say, “If you drive a distinctive car, drive it carefully!”
Did the adults in your family find out that you’d been listening to 2 Live Crew, and if so, what was the reaction?
I didn’t really become a gearhead until age 11 or so.
They did not know what it was about. And I didn’t realize it myself until years later.
Strangely enough Rock/Metal was questioned as my Mom felt it was the “devils” music.
What happened next? I need to know more about that car. It’s a sad ending and I’m left feeling with a cliffhanger. By the way I am going to listen to the 2 lives crew album while I relax tonight.
I would not. Its highly inappropriate. It’s not relaxing. You’ll just have to wait.