Saturday, September 04, 2010

Memorable wheels

My dad's car
Laval, QC, October 2009

I had been hearing stories about my father's Renault Gordini (a sportier version of the venerable R8/Dauphine) ever since I was a munchkin. It's the car he owned when he and my mom got married, the car that unceremoniously ended its time with the family long before I came along in a puff of smoke and flame, the car that, by today's standards, was all style and notably less substance.

But none of that matters now. Because somehow, this vehicle - well, not this particular vehicle, as this is merely a photo of a dinky car, while the actual Gordini was long ago melted down and re-cast as a planter just outside the entrance to the Airport Hilton - weaseled its way into the psyche of our family in a way that no car since has managed to do.

To wit, we don't swap stories about the burgundy Chevy wagon (was it a Biscayne? I can't remember) or the gold, then silver Ford monster-wagons we owned when the company paid the gas bill (man, imagine that!) or the fire engine red AMC Concord wagon (sense a pattern here?) with woody appliques on the sides and enough black crushed velour on the inside to outfit a Las Vegas lounge.

Yet this car, a car I never saw first-hand, never rode in and, frankly, have never seen another example of on the road ever since, became a character in the stories my parents told about their just-begun adventure. They personified it, reflected how much character it had, and allowed it to set the tone for the years ahead, when cars of every stripe would connect our far-flung family in ways the young couple at the wheel of this ill-starred foreign car could hardly foresee.

Your turn: A car that mattered to you. Please discuss.

About this photo: We had returned to Montreal barely two weeks after we had left. That's how long my father had been gone, and we were home with my mom, slowly, tentatively beginning to go through some of the things in the house. His things. I found the dinky in the catch-all on top of his dresser and had to catch my breath - something I've been doing a lot over the last almost-year. It was a little the worse for wear, as witnessed by the missing tire, but that was irrelevant in the context of the day. I immediately thought of why he would have bought this overtly foreign car when the conventional wisdom of the day would have pointed him toward a bigger, more conventional piece of Detroit iron.

But my father wasn't conventional. Not then, not ever. And for better or for worse, he lived - and drove - on his terms. I guess I was meant to find this car after all.


fredamans said...

Beautiful story. I bet your Dad wanted you to find the car. Kismet as they say.

Unknown said...

loved your car story about our renault gordini. the only stat that was somewhat incorrect was, we bought the car l8 months after we were married. we were virtually carless until that time. ...not that it changes much in the story, except for the fact that we couldn,t afford a car when we were first married. also, it was the only car we actually bought for the next 26 years... love and hugs to al.l. mom.

S said...

Heh! I love the way you write. Mind if I hang around a little and check it out?

My first car was a 1964 Ford Fairlane, in 1977. My uncle found it for me because my dad wouldnt get me a car. I paid for it myself. It was $350. I think my uncle took a huge loss on that car because it could have been all fixed up and paraded around on hot august nights at the foster freeze.
I was so short that I had to look through the steering wheel to see.
That got me in trouble with the cops. They were not pleased to pull me over and find this lil shorty barely able to see over the dashboard...
Loved that car, then I moved to Venice Beach where parking was hell and someone stole it...
To tell ya the truth, I was sorta relieved. Who needs a car in Venice Beach anyway?


photowannabe said...

Loved this story Carmi. Precious memories about your Dad.
I put up a post about Transportation. Drop by and take a look.
My first car was a little Nash Rambler. I really loved that car. Used it for many years until we just drove it until it went no further.

carmilevy said...

Thanks for the correction, Mom.

All: Miriam's my mother, and this is her first comment on the blog, made from my brother-in-law's iPad. Welcome, ma mere!

Mojo said...

I've never even heard of this model, though some friends of my parents had a Dauphine that I (very) vaguely remember. I guess all parents have a car they tell stories about.. For my folks it was the '56 Chevy Bel Air (that horrid mustard yellow/puke green combo that Chevy was fond of that year) with the carb that had a perpetually sticking butterfly valve. I guess my fablemobile would have to be the '75 Malibu Classic we bought when my eldest was on the way. I've had cars I owned longer, but none that thrived on abuse the way the "Bye Bye Car" did.

Anonymous said...

Love that story, Carmi.

My grandparents Oldsmobile was memorable. The inside was navy blue velour(?), all soft and squishy and comfy. It smelled like little old lady Avon perfume. Being comfortably sandwiched between my Papaw and Mamaw in the front seat was the most secure feeling in the world to me. It even drove all squishy, no road noise, no bumps or jostles. All comfort. Comfort and love.

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

cars huh?
for someome who has reached half way through their life and not yet taken a driving test...I guess that puts me out of the running!

but no
my parents had a wonderful car, it was a morris traveller~ all that wood and angles going on. Dad drove it until it quite literally fell apart and I loved it. I loved it because no one else in our area had one, so if I saw a morris traveller in the distance, I was seeing my Dad!

I loved it because of all the wrong reasons: the moss that persisted in growing in the window frames...the inability of my father to do more than thrity miles an hour in it ( or so it seemed to me!)....but most of all I loved it because on a long and boring journey I could scruff the little bits of carpet away on the floor and watch the road go by underneath.

Thinking back, with adult hindsight, these could all be reasons NOT to love a car :)

Bizarrly I have owned one car and been bought two cars.....but don't drive (yet)
How strange is that....

Abuzz Antiques and Collectibles said...

I like to write and I love photography. Nice blog.

Earth to Anne said...

i like your photos