2013-02-28 / Outdoors

From the Braver Institute

This winter the most exciting thing I have done is shovel snow and since I have already written a column on snow shoveling, there is little more that I can say about it.

Fortunately for you, my cherished reader, I have owned a lot of crappy cars over the years and I have decided that when life isn’t producing something interesting enough to tell you about, I’m going to tell you about the cars I’ve owned.

Lucky you.

My first car was technically a mid-70s Toyota Celica coupe that my big sister, Sorta, gave me. It would start and then run for a few minutes, and then die out. You could then start it again and repeat the process. I had only taken it for one drive and that was on the old logging roads behind our house. I wasn’t old enough to drive on real roads. My friends and I took the Celica for a ride one afternoon, and eventually it died completely out there in the woods. We walked home and I talked my dad into helping me tow the car back. I really don’t count the Celica as one of my cars.

My real first car was a 1965 Buick Skylark hardtop. You never forget your first car, and unless your first car was an AMC Pacer or an Aries K car, you probably will always have an affection for that particular model. Such is the case for me and the ’65 Skylark.

I bought the Skylark from my friend Pete’s older sister. I paid $175 for it. It was the greatest vehicle the world had ever known. Well, okay, it was the greatest vehicle my world had ever known.

One of my favorite things about the ’65 Skylark was that I could roll down every window in the car from the driver’s seat. Big deal, you may say, anyone in a car with power windows can do that. My Skylark didn’t have power windows.

While the Skylark would be considered large by today’s standards, it was called a midsized car back then, which really meant that it wasn’t quite as wide or long as a full-sized car. Since I am tall and have long arms, I could reach behind me and roll down both rear windows, reach over and roll down the passenger window, and I could roll down my window, of course. It was the next best thing to air conditioning.

The Skylark was rusted, but the interior was in good shape, plus it had all of its original hubcaps. These things justified some sense of worthiness—to elevate it above rust-bucket status.

It was also unique in that it wasn’t the kind of car that my friends were all talking about. Every car out there seemed to have a Chevy 350 or a Ford 351 engine in it, and while these engines are fine in their own right, they are also common as sand on the beach.

My Skylark had a 310 Wildcat engine. Most engines were numbered based on their displacement in cubic inches (CID), but the 310 Wildcat got its name from the amount of torque it had—310 foot pounds of torque at 2400 RPMS. The engine was only a 300 CID, so 310 sounded more impressive. Another thing about this Skylark was that its engine was paired with a 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, commonly called a low and go. (Low gear and go gear—low and go—get it?)

The combination of the little 300 and the Powerglide made it a really quick car. It could go from zero to 110 mph faster than stink, and that was as fast as it would go. I really didn’t need to go faster than that since I never lost a drag race with that car. Of course I never lined it up against anything other than the junk the rest of my friends were driving, but hey, I never lost.

Every night when I came home there was a three-quarter mile straight stretch of road where I would wind the Skylark up. I would fly down that section of road at 110 miles per hour, trying my best to put my foot through the floorboard to get to 111. Once, with the help of a tailwind, I think I made it to 115.

Years later, I was tearing down the Skylark with the idea that I would turn it into a stock car. It was then that I discovered just how rusted out it really was. The entire body of the car was held onto the frame by only two bolts. The rest had completely rusted away.

If I had ever needed to turn suddenly during one of those 110 mph runs of mine, the frame of the car would have gone in the direction of the turn, while the body, with me in it, would have continued in the direction I had already been going.

Man, I loved that car.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at waye@braverinstitute.com.

Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com

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