i've been for years caught in a vortex of car emotions. the one i drive was a compromise from the start (inexpensive and practical, but hardly an expression of *me* or my desires) and remains a nagging irritant because of its association to the ex. (basically, she's driving a late model, top-of-the-line suburban comfort vehicle, which, though it wouldn't be my first choice for myself, is still a pretty sweet ride and worth well beyond what mine is, which, when you get right down to it, isn't inconsistent with the rest of the material settlement, but rankles exactly because of that).
since i've been three years old (and likely well before that, but that's only how far back i can remember) i've been in love with cars. i had a benz 280se cabriolet
matchbox that's always stuck with me, (cream color, though later in life i've gravitated toward the silver blue with a dark blue top), and if i had a hundred grand between the sofa cushions there wouldn't be a moment's hesitation as to what i would buy. but i don't have a hundred grand between the sofa cushions, and it's up to me to make sure the next compromise is one that suits me, and not anybody else.
so where does one start?
one of the first and most obvious places is behind the wheel of my own car, on the highways and by-ways of my travels: in no particular order, i've noticed and been curious about all sorts of vehicles. i once owned a 4wd pickup (toyota) and i absolutely loved being able to go anywhere and over anything. toyota fj's are perhaps a bit too large and heavy on the gas consumption, but there's a powerful lure to the thought of being able to toss a mountain bike or skis or a kayak on the roof of something and just go. if they were smaller and cheaper, i'd be sorely tempted. jeeps are along this idea, but too noisy and likewise on gas, and with the added ignomy of suffering from what most us cars seem to suffer from these days, which would be a frustrating lack of quality and reliability. as you continue down the slippery compromise slope, you even encounter things like 4wd subaru wagons, one of which, btw, i saw being driven by one of my local heroes last night around the streets of downtown lowell, which caused the full emotional truth to hit me like a ton of mill city bricks--there's no way i belong (emotionally speaking) in a little nonsense like that, as practical and sensible as it seems. (that enduring and disillusioning image is the impetus behind this whole post, btw).
wagons as a class are an interesting study, as they have clearly evolved from my best childhood friend's mother's vista cruiser
, towards things like dodge's hemi-powered 425-horse magnum opus. (come to think of it, i do recall you could get vista cruisers with the old 455 v8, so maybe not such a long evolution after all). room for skis inside, which is nice, and there's nothing wrong with a little get up and go, even if it keeps the gas mileage south of 20 while you're getting up and going with it. hmmm... of course, there's the next compromise, which hatches the back of your basic 4dr sedan and pretends it's a wagon. mazda's little mx3 number has caught my eye more than once out there on the road... who knows where this might stop, though it's quite possible it stops squarely upon the mini cooper wagonback, which, except for being a pleasure to look at, really just comes down to one big "why?". the right car has to be somewhere back in the other direction--if i wanted a rocket sled go-kart, i'd just have 'em take the top off and be done with it. (back to those convertibles).
speaking of convertibles...
i want one. it'd be the worst possible thing to drive into the driveway of the ex, stirring as it inevitably will the jealous and destructive impulse to take everything that is meaningful and enjoyable to me away, (heaven forbid i should have anything with which to be happy while there is still *more* for her to have), but the thought is irresistible even so. the racks for the bikes and skis would simply need to go on the trunk. (funny even to call the little glove box of a space back there a trunk--beyond the convertible top, there's really not much you can fit back there in any of 'em). the classic benz is impractical, of course, either way, (the consequences of a lack of an electronic ignition may be lost on a lot of folks, but i still have both my plug and my point gappers in my toolbox to remind me that that's one home to which i would really rather not go), but there are other newer models that aren't out of the realm of reason.
2-seaters i'll pass upon out of respect for having three kids, and often more than one passenger. don't get me wrong, i have adored the 2-seat roadster from the moment i first laid longing eyes on a triumph spitfire
, (the dream of which was dashed while working at a garage as a teenager, and getting a chance to test-drive one after a tune-up, and reluctantly learning that tall people with long legs don't always fit well inside your classic british roadsters), but there's dreaming and there's driving, and you have to respect reality. (recent ford thunderbirds do look nice, but there's that american car/quality thing again).
which brings us to one particular used car dealer down the street from the drum hill rotary...
most choices for auto emporiums are either new cars or crap. new is pretty straightforward--you pay big money to a dealer for something that hopefully won't break down for a couple of years, and the choices are all there on the tv to see between the beer ads. as for the other alternative, maybe crap is a hard word, but you're basically left to choose from all the dull choices among the expressed bad judgment of the marketplace that bought new before you. (basically, lots of tauruses and corollas, and who needs that). however, just down a bit from the drum hill rotary, there's one outfit that does it a different way, and stocks the cars that catch your eye, from bentleys to bmw's. hmmm...
m3's and other 3-series rag-tops are very nice, even if a bit small in the back, though not completely comfortable in the front, either. (see the discussion on smaller british motorcars above, and consider that there was a fair amount of emigration and immigration between england and germany in the past several hundred years, even if the germans seemed to have retained 100% of whatever part of the gene pool relate to reliability). the "compromise" (that's not really a compromise at all) is quickly found among the benz' on the lot, and a guy can really stretch both his legs and his imagination behind the wheel of a c-class cabriolet.
for starters, it's the logical heir to the 280se cabriolet that started this whole reverie. for more, given the present depression, the price gets more and more reasonable each week that the dealer doesn't sell a single other car because we're all too shell-shocked from watching our retirement savings disintegrate to even think about buying another car. true, it requires premium gasoline, but the other beauty of depression is that it causes the price of commodities, like gas, to plummet like a rock. v-6... nicely powered... pretty, too.
and the top comes down.
maybe it's a holdover from teenage fascination with tops coming down on other objects of primal lust. maybe it's that human beings were born to be free and in direct commune with nature wherever and whenever possible. maybe it's just because i want one.
any way you look at it, there's a terrible tug of war going on among my emotions and my practicality, and somewhere, somehow, it's going to have to resolve itself.