I rest here, overrun by sage and dead brush and surrounded by razor wire. Above me are endless skies. My shattered headlights stare through chain link fences as mindless shiny boxes race by. Inside them, drivers hold their devices and steer nonchalantly, racing forward like lemmings following each other into the abyss.
But here you are, Kid. I saw you pull into the parking lot. My glass has become delaminated, and the years have not been kind to my interior soft bits. My exterior has fared no better. There is rust on my right rear fender, the one that sat in the mud where I was found before I ended up here. Come closer, Kid. Give me a chance.
The young man walked toward the ’48. To be honest, at a freshly turned 18 years old, there was still more than a hint of boy in his appearance. Earbuds pressed in his ears, his head bobbed slightly. But unlike his peers, he was listening to big band music and late 40’s jump blues; early rock-n-roll and Bakersfield styled country music.
His friends had latched onto the tuner craze, and all drove whips. Yes, it’s true, he had one, too. And yet…
The car just never spoke to his soul. He’d owned his ’98 Prelude for about two years. Motor Trend, Autoweek, and even Hot Rod magazine had run articles on how to make the beater into a balls-to-the-wall performance machine. It had all been so easy really. And he should be happy. Yet…
Say Kid, I was once a proud coupe. My owner kept me polished and changed my oil and kept me in tune. I was his daily driver. A businessman, he was. Sold paintbrushes for the Purdy Brush Company. But he eventually opted for a car with an automatic transmission and newer power plant. Sold me to a young man with a hungry heart and a wild gleam in his eyes just like you.
His skilled hands worked me into a custom. My engine was hopped up and, if you would just pop my hood… well, you’ll see what he did. Kin spirits, he and I were. We went everywhere. Hell, he even drove us to an actual drag strip and we competed. I remember nights of unfettered launches on back roads; the sound of uncapped headers filling the night air. How the landscape raced by, and the growl of my exhaust would mix with his howl of delight.
Our affair was a short one, though. His number got called, ya see, and he left to serve our country.
The young lad walked around the coupe, hands dug firmly into his pockets. Something about this old car spoke to him.
He paused and, as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats began to sing Rocket 88, he reached for the hood release. In between the fender wells was what remained of the hopped up inline 6. Chrome plating on Cal Custom air cleaners flaked off and fell like metallic snow as he ran his hands over them. Long gone was the throttle linkage. The Offenhauser finned valve cover was chipped and corroded in some places.
Stepping back, he realized for the first time that the old coupe was nosed and decked. Shaved door handles. The kid took it all in.
The next song cued up; a gentle chorus of strings swirling together. The young man let his mind run over his personal inventor—a freshly bored, honed, and magnafluxed Jimmy 6 on an engine stand; a pair of ‘41 Buick fender skirts; a ’42 Chevy banjo steering wheel; a real set of Appleton spots. Everything began to click in his mind.
“At Last…” The passionate voice of Etta James floated through the ear buds.
I was parked in his parent’s garage for a long time; waited to see his tall frame silhouetted once more in the open doorway. I waited in that cold garage as the years passed. Not willing to just sell me off because they hoped, as I did, that he would miraculously come home, I was pulled out of the garage to make room for the Mrs’s car. And there I sat, exposed to the elements. Waiting. Over time, just how long I’m not sure, they lost all hope. He was gone, and so was a part of my soul. But, Kid, I see that look in your eye; the small ember of a fire.
The young man was in awe. He had been saving for a bit for just the right old school survivor; the one that would speak to his soul.
C’mon,Kid, whaddya say?
Mark “Spooky” Karol-Chik