The genesis of one man’s love for the big American automobile started on a cool spring day in 2007. Approaching from behind, on the rain-spackled streets, the big American automobile appeared to be a steel grey in colour, reflecting the atmosphere. But after I parked and examined it closer, I was able to experience the glories of pearl coat paint for truly the first time. Peering inside, the expanse of leather and that Family Ford Steering Wheel beckoned.
After the requisite test drive and some minor haggling, the Family of Fine Cars set of keys were dropped into my hand and my long and ongoing acquaintance with this now-extinct species of motorcar was underway. Little did I know at the time that not only would it be the start of an enduring relationship with this varietal, but also would be centre-stage for many memorable, and seminal, moments of my family’s life.
Fittingly, it became very much a family car for the duration of its eight-plus years with us. My spouse used it extensively, appreciating its cavernous trunk for visits with her family, where often canning supplies, tools, and bulky gifts were swallowed up in the ‘boot’ with ease.
Speaking of the trunk, I added a custom ‘brougham’ touch by affixing a vintage Ford ‘V8’ emblem over the keyhole, accustomed as I’d become to concealed ones on a vehicle of this dignity and bearing.
Also fittingly, it became an exceptional road car. Some memorable vacations were had in Miss Vicky, the moniker my spouse came to bestow upon it. Over 3000 km (over 1800 miles) were spent exploring our neighbouring province of Alberta. Even though at the time it was already an ‘old car’, it never gave us any mechanical problems on this or any subsequent sojourn, including an 1800 km trip to visit the northern regions of our vast province of Saskatchewan. On this particular journey, it handled irregularly paved highways and northern logging roads with equal aplomb; truly, one of the forgotten talents of this class of car was its grace (and silence) on gravel and dirt roads. A similar drive with my mother’s CR-V on gravel sounded like a hailstorm in comparison.
Later, it provided admirable yeoman’s work in helping us move into our first home. That patented Ford deep well trunk proved its utility time and again. The wide parchment leather seats provided both an airy expanse, and a spacious secondary trunk when called upon. It was also a unique joy to occasionally load the maximum six passengers into the vehicle; I think the added weight provided a ballast that perhaps provided a glimpse into a time when a carload of souls was a necessity, not a novelty.
One novelty, by a modern context, was its remarkable visibility. The eight-window design afforded shoulder-checking and parallel parking with ease. It had those flexible bumpers that wouldn’t shatter if you looked at them funny.
It was also there when our family grew, providing a ride home for our daughter two days after being born in the Regina General Hospital. Its gentle din of mechanical operation, always in the background, also facilitated her slumber during the first few difficult months, when a parent is trying everything to coax an infant to sleep.
Eventually a portly gentleman named Roy supplanted Miss Vicky, but a bittersweet epilogue to this story occurred some years after I handed the Family of Fine Cars keys over to its new owner and watched it rumbling away. On numerous occasions, I have remarked (to anyone in earshot), that I found it curious that I never saw my old vehicles around after selling them; in this case I did, but not under circumstances I found to my liking. Be careful what you wish for.
Miss Vicky was discovered at my regular mechanic’s shop one morning, its ticker having given out and its shoes about to be harvested for the rare whitewalls it would provide a new owner. In all likelihood, a subsequent owner forgot to regularly add a quart of oil between oil changes, and it perhaps seized up. It was an ignominious end for such a dignified motorcar, which provided us with such enjoyment and utility for its entire time with us. But it will be remembered fondly as our first family car and a vehicle that transported us in style with no complaints.
From the time of its introduction to our family, to its eventual departure, it was a reliable friend that put me in good stead with the automobilis americanus giganticus; a gateway to curating some of these charming vehicles, unique to their North American landscape.