It’s springtime and the sights along my daily walk are never more beautiful than this time of year. Like most people who exercise with a starting point of their front door, I vary my 2.5-mile path to keep things interesting. But “interesting sights” vary greatly from one person to another.
If you’re a car fan like I am then you change your path, as needed, to pack in the highest number of houses with interesting cars parked in the driveway. More and more, everybody in my neighborhood seems to own nothing but Hondas, Toyotas, and Nissans. I’ve tried to find them interesting but for the most part I cannot. In fact, I need more than two hands to count the number of newer Toyota Corollas I pass. Perhaps the most ungainly and boring car design ever, Corollas apparently come in any color you like as long as it’s silver, gray or brown.
Cars that are enjoyable to look at in passing seem harder to find these days and I try to make sure this form of free passive entertainment doesn’t get lost.
The first dogleg of my walk finds a house with a ’65 Mustang coupe in the driveway that hasn’t budged in over five years. Describing this car’s paint as dulled is an understatement because it actually has a layer of mold spotted across every horizontal surface. The QQ Historic plates on the car indicate the owner had, at one point, cared about the car enough to register it with special use in mind. I wondered why this once-proud piece of history was not inside the garage located ten feet away. Perhaps there was something of higher value inside such as another ‘65 Mustang – in showroom condition that’s on the receiving end of parts donated from the car I see in the driveway. That would make sense. Or maybe something fascinating was lurking in there like a ’63 Ferrari or ’76 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. One day passing by this house I noticed the garage door open, revealing nothing more than piled up junk inside. Would it be wrong if I knocked on the door and told the owner to get ahold of himself? A true shame.
Over several blocks is my next attraction. On a quiet corner is a brick bi-level with a very manicured yard and trim-looking iron fencing around the perimeter (also windows). And a brick driveway on which is parked a ’77 Chevrolet Impala sedan (first year of 1977-90 body style). Being a base model, it is devoid of extraneous chrome bits and has basic dog-dish hubcaps instead of full wheel covers. Tires are blackwalls without stripes and the car is painted the shade of light green that only “old people” used to buy.
But because the car is amazingly clean and because it’s unadulterated with a vinyl roof and the chrome trim pricier “Caprice” versions would have, I can really see its clean handsome lines. The effect is minimalist, very cool. It makes sense that these were number-one selling cars when new. The outward tidiness of this owner’s estate makes me believe they have a tidy life inside – one with their affairs enviably in order.
A left- and right-turn later comes a section of busy street that’s too narrow to walk on safely. After stumbling over battered, sagging sidewalk cement sections one comes to a small storefront with an equally time-battered, sagging 1949 Mercury coupe parked alongside the building. A sign in front highlights the family business has been around for 104 years but has relocated to another spot.
Left behind like a memory is the ’49 Mercury, which appears to have been damaged beyond its value long ago. Perhaps it once belonged to a senior member of this family business, and is of too high sentimental value to just haul away. While I don’t enjoy seeing this collectible-year Mercury coupe in such sad shape, I walk past it nevertheless to remember that as long as tangible memories from so long ago still exist right in front of me, I must not be so old myself.
After continuing on this sidewalk that’s too uneven to walk on safely without keeping one eye on the ground, another payoff comes one-tenth of a mile later when a corner street colonial house with two ‘80s Jaguar sedans (one white, the other a very nice clean blue-gray) in the driveway. These must be daily drivers because they come and go regularly.
Intriguingly, in front of where the Jags are parked is a 1955 Ford Thunderbird two-seater. Sadly, while the T-bird always seems clean, it stays outside just like the others. Its bright aqua blue color consistently seems to defy looking dirty whenever I pass it. That, or the owner must wash continuously when I’m not in eyesight. Since I found this block six months ago the T-Bird has not moved and I wonder if it runs. Over this past winter I noticed one of the tires went flat and stayed flat for months before being reinflated or fixed recently. The T-Bird sits directly in front of a two-car detached garage. Like the Mustang ranch blocks earlier, the fact that none of these collectibles are inside makes me scratch my head. I notice the garage has windows on it. Hmm maybe no one will notice if I walk up and look inside. I’m curious to know…
On the homeward stretch approaching my own house again is a bright yellow nicely manicured split-level house with a two-car garage facing the street. Sometimes the owner leaves his 1970 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight sedan in the driveway, but keeps it inside mostly. Finally somebody with some sense! I enjoy the times when I can actually pass near this vehicle. Something about the combination of its original beige paint, tan vinyl roof, original license plates (not historic QQs), and overall stodgy front-end design make it such a period piece that time around it seems to stop. I’m drawn into a vacuum where I imagine what life was like (right here in this spot) in 1970, and all the events this car has existed through while remaining intact. I’ve been to many car shows and seen many restored vintage cars, and for a reason I can’t explain very few other vessels have affected me this way. I cannot make this effect occur at will whenever I’d like to, it’s just something that happens around this car. Maybe I’ll knock on this guys door to make him an offer. Regardless, it’s great to see a car like this still on the road.
Which makes me think of a sentence Peter Egan of Road & Track once wrote – “the long road back to [1970 in this case] is littered with the ones that didn’t make it.” Poetic.