Monday, February 21, 2011

The Stick Shift

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

In high school in the 60's where I grew up you had to have a car. My first car was a 1961 Ford Galaxy rag top, six cylinder, automatic, complete with big ‘ol fins. If it had a keel it could have rivaled the Titanic for size and in all likelihood would've won against that iceberg! The back seat was big enough to stretch out and not touch either side, now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but, well that's another story entirely!

That Galaxy wasn't very fast but it was a convertible which made it more attractive to the girls. Of course, that was the reason a car was so important; couldn't very well keep necking in the back yard with a nosy little sister around. That car set me back $300 and I financed it, at $30 a month for a year, $60 interest!

A year after graduation decided that as a working man I needed a car that better fit my stature. Did a lot of searching but hadn't found anything when Dad said his friend at the Ford garage had a car there he thought I'd like. So, off we went, and it turned out to be the most beautiful piece of machinery I'd ever seen! Forest green with a white rag top, four on the floor, posi-traction and 390 cubic inches under the hood! Sold!

One little snag; I'd never driven a stick shift before but hey, how hard could it be? It was the weekend so Dad drove it home using the dealer plates until we could get it registered. So with it sitting in the driveway I could practice shifting! Yeah, right! First things first, I had had to install my new state of the art eight track player. Can’t expect a guy to go without tunes, right? Hard to look cool in a convertible without tunes!

Finally, Monday came, the car was now registered, and it was time to drive! I got in and fired it up, VROOOOM! VROOOOM! Cars just don't make THAT sound anymore. But that was back when gas was 23 cents a gallon. 

Where to go on the first drive? No question there; where the “cool car guys” hung out. The guys that lived and breathed cars; knew all about how many horsepower any given engine would put out, how to add MORE horsepower, and could strip an engine down before breakfast. Me, I knew where to put oil and gas, what a battery looked like, and was pretty sure where washer fluid was stored and what a radiator was for! But those guys knew what torque was, however as far as I was concerned he was a member of the Monkees!

So, I knew where to go; I HAD to drive by the service station where those guys hung out. It was just a little ways out of town and as I left downtown, I started to wind it up. They had to be able to hear the throaty roar of that big V-8 as I hit second gear when the roar was almost deafening. I was perfectly positioned to see their reaction without them knowing I was watching; I was the coolest of cool!

As I drew even with the service station every eye was on me, even the mechanic on the crawler, the guy that you normally only the legs of. He came out from under the car he was working on, to see the machine that was making that beautiful sound. It was time to hit third and fly on by! But perhaps I really should've practiced that one first. Missed third, shifted back into first and with screeching tires nearly stood the car on its’ front end! Then, I promptly slid as far down in the seat as I could; in fact, pretty sure I was looking under the steering wheel. Put the car back into second and if it's possible for a car to slink, I slunk away.

For years after, went out of my way to NOT drive down that road.

Finally did learn how to drive that car correctly and as much as it's possible to love an inanimate object, I loved that car. About a year later I met a woman and had to face hard reality. I could only afford one, a wife, or the 1966 Ford Fairlane GT Ragtop! That was forty years ago and while I don't regret it and wouldn't change a thing, there are days when I long for the wind in my hair and to hear that deep throat-ed VROOOOM again! Okay, truth be told, there's also days I long for hair again too! Sigh. I miss that old stick shift!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member


Anonymous said...

If I didn't know batter that (picture of the car you have posted) was the one you had. I love that car too,it was a fun car to drive.

Anonymous said...

Oh the stick shift! My old enemy. until I learned anyway. Grea blog! thoroughly enjoyed it!

Mary in Alabama