(first posted 10/28/2012) The lovely Natalie’s father had a 1966 Saab 850 Monte Carlo, navy blue, and a total revelation to me. Natalie was my main squeeze during my sophomore and junior years in college. The Saab was a particular revelation on the snow-packed dirt roads of northwest Illinois. It could be driven with great precision on such roads, thanks to its 13:1 steering, 17” Nardi steering wheel and Koni shocks.
That big Nardi wheel was needed due to steering that was heavy, albeit precise. The popcorn popper was fun, except in Chicago traffic. It was necessary to constantly blip the throttle at stoplights just to keep the plugs clean.
Unfortunately, the Saab had a propensity to cough up engines on an annual basis. Also, it didn’t like the cold Illinois winters–it would start but wouldn’t move. On the other hand, Natalie was warm, and did.
Then came Peggy and her 1967 Austin Healey 3000. A very sexy package, and easy on the eyes. But what a truck! I mean, my 1960 Plymouth was a piece of crap to drive, but no more so than the Healey.
Still, I’ve always been a sucker for a great body, something that both the Healey and Peggy had in spades. At 5’10” tall (1,778 mm) and 160 lbs., (Peggy, not the Healey), she was expensive just to feed. These shots were taken in Brown County, Indiana, just after I had finished compounding, cleaning, and waxing the Healey: Shiny, just like Peg. But Peggy was a flower child who regarded Linda Goodman’s “Sun Signs” as her Bible. One time she called me up to tell me that she would not be making her planned trip because the car had a flat tire and one of the windshield wipers had disappeared. When I asked why it was necessary to cancel, she replied that this was an omen. I told her that the omen was that she needed to fix the tire, replace the wiper and just make the damn trip. She thought me unenlightened.
And then there was Karin, the daughter of a well-to-do banker in northern Indiana. Daddy made sure that she had new and trouble-free cars to drive; in this case, a 1969 Falcon two-door sedan, with a 200 cu in six and three-speed automatic, in Sea Foam Green. It was not nearly as exciting as she was, but still quite competent, in a Midwest sort of way: Quite relaxed on Interstate 80 at 75 mph, and quiet and solid. Nice car.
Once, during a trip to take in the architectural wonders of Columbus, Indiana (really), Karin, her sister and I borrowed her father’s 1969 Buick Electra 225 four-door hardtop–it was a proper banker’s car, all-black and no vinyl top. While driving on the Indianapolis beltway, I decided to conduct a test. Both girls were quite anti-car and considered speeding to be reprehensible. I asked them to tell me how fast they thought we were going; neither had any idea. They were amazed when I told them we were traveling 105 mph (169 kph): No drama here–only quiet and serenity.
When I met Sue, in 1974, she’d just bought a new ’74 Datsun B-210 painted the same mustard-yellow as my 1972 Fiat 128. But the similarities ended there: The 128 was a driver’s car, and the B-210? Just an abject piece of shit. I can’t tell you how much I hated that car. You could just see it rusting away right before your eyes. It rode like a tumbrel and was just crude. After five years I gladly got rid of it for $500.
Sue and I married in 1976, and she remains my first and only wife to this day–in spite of the Datsun.
We eloped and were married on the Jubal Early, a cable ferry that links White’s Ferry, MD, to Virginia. We stopped in the middle of the Potomac and had our ceremony. We disembarked on the Virginia shore and our wedding party (the parson and our two best-friend couples) returned to the Maryland shore. To this day, Sue and I would not have had it any other way.