Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The world will pardon my mush

I've got a crush on you, sweetie pie

All the day and night-time hear me sigh
I never had the least notion that
I could fall with so much emotion

Could you coo, could you care
For a cunning cottage we could share
The world will pardon my mush
cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you

--George Gershwin

NOTE PLEASE: Clicking on any photograph will open a full-screen version of that photo in a separate window. The pictures of the white Saab and of the Mustang are not full-screen.

OK, it's been two whole months plus a few days since I've posted anything here, and some people are getting worried. I got this e-mail from one of my dearest friends (you know you are, auntietoast)
, and that got me thinking.

E-mail post in full:
OK,where are you? It's not good to disappear for months at a time you know!:-)

Yeah, I know. But after learning of Gary's death, I guess I just went even deeper into depression than normal. Normal for me, that is. That plus our financial situation has really been dragging me down, but yesterday the sun was out, the sky was blue, the temperature climbed almost to 70, and the top went down on the convertible. What can I say.

This morning the sun is out, the sky is blue, it's supposed to be another nice day, and I woke up singing--first time in a long time that that's happened. What was I singing? Gershwin, of course. "I've got a crush on you."

It's hard, nigh on impossible, to stay depressed when the sun is out and the top is down. Ah, convertibles. The automotive love of my life. I've owned one or another convertible non-stop since 1980. That's when I bought the first one, a 1976 Triumph Spitfire. I still own it. It needs a complete ground up rebuild at this point, and to date I've put three times as much money into maintaining the thing as it cost me to buy it, but it's a family member now. How could I possible get rid of it?

1976 Triumph Spitfire
Badly in need of restoration
But the pizzazz is still there!

Triumph Spitfire Story: Driving in the UM Homecoming parade with a contingent of British Car Club members, I turned off Higgins onto University Avenue and headed up fraternity row toward campus. A female friend of mine, seeing me approach, ran out into the street and jumped over the side into my car--not bothering to open the door. On the next block, three different frat boys offered to trade me their pickup trucks for my chick magnet. True story.

I have to get the Spit rebuilt. I love that car, even if I have known it to literally spit fire out its tailpipe.

In the mid 1990s, one sunny March day (much like today--coming after a long, grey, cold winter), I saw two Saab convertibles sitting nose to nose with their tops down on a neighborhood used car lot. Thinking, what the hell, why not test drive one of those things, I pulled into the lot. Now understand, I've always been one of those folk who thought that Saabs were the car for people who don't like cars and I love cars, so..... But since it was sunny and Sunday (oops, that's a different song, and it wasn't Sunday), I took one of the two--the white one--out for a drive. Once back at the lot, I called my best friend and asked him to come down and talk me out of buying the beast. As he also likes cars, he told me that he was the wrong one to ask. Nevertheless, he met me at the lot, we went out for a spin and what can I say, I ended up buying the 1988 Saab 900 turbo convertible. Burgundy leather upholstery, pure white body, and all the fun Saab oddities--you have to have the transmission in reverse to take the key out--the key, which by the way is between the seats, not on the dashboard or steering column, the engine that sits under the hood backward, the fact that no other car in the world will ever be confused with a Saab. Oh yeah, I was in love.

Saab Story #1: One December night, after thirty-six hours of insomnia, I went to bed around 8:30 and died. I was awakened by my dogs jumping up and down on my chest yelling (in their doggie voices) "Someone's at the door, daddy! Someone's at the door." It was 12:30 a.m., mid-December. I threw on my robe, but didn't even bother with slippers and headed downstairs. Sure enough, there was a cute young man (19 or so) standing at the back door, with his hand bleeding all over my porch. "Do you know who owns the Explorer that I just destroyed?" he asked. "Yes, that's my Explorer," I answered. I later learned that the crash woke all my neighbors, but I was too deep in sleep to even hear it. Following the young man outside, still barefoot and still December midnight, I saw what he was too drunk to have seen. He not only totalled his daddy's pickup by slamming it into the driver's side rear fender of my Explorer, also totalling it, but he hit the SUV with enough force that he moved it six feet sideways and 10 feet forward, pushing it into the trunk of my Saab--totalling it as well. When I pointed this out to him, he sighed "I'm gonna be making license plates for a long time."

1988 Saab 900 Turbo
Taken at the I-90 Rest Area
near Superior, Montana
Before it was totalled!

In a tribute to the way Saabs are built, the guys at Evergreen Engineering (our late, lamented Saab repair shop) bought my totalled baby, and rebuilt it. A colleague here at UM bought it and is still driving it happily today.

Shortly after Gary moved to Montana to live with me in 1999, we were over in Spokane. We had been looking, half-heartedly, for a car for Gary, and driving north on Division, we spotted one. "What's that?" Gary asked. "It's a Triumph TR-7," I answered. "You don't want it." But still, how could a test drive hurt? Long story short, the TR-7 is now parked behind the house waiting for summer and a few extra bucks. Did Gary drive it much? No. Shortly after buying it, he took off one day while I was at work and drove west on I-90 to St. Regis (75 miles), east on Montana 135 to Paradise (I'm not making this up) (25 miles), further east on Montana 200 to Ravalli (40 miles), south on US 93 to Arlee (10 miles) where he stopped and called me at work. The car had white smoke billowing out from under the hood. What should he do? "Stay put," I said. "I'll come get you." But no, he decided to drive it on home (another 35 miles or so.) That was the last he drove it. Now I've driven it a bit, even taking it on one 300 mile loop (with the top down, of course), and I've never had white smoke billow up from the engine compartment. It's an interesting car, and I like it ok--with its wedge shape, its hidden headlights, and the fact that it's the ONLY TR-7 convertible I've ever seen. I'm not in love with it, but I just can't quite bring myself to sell it.

1980 Triumph TR-7
Boy is this car in need of a good cleanup

Oh and by the way, Triumphs are well named. It's a Triumph if you can keep it running. I now understand why British men spend their weekends working on their cars. You have to if you expect them to get you to work during the week.

What did Gary end up driving? A 1994 bright red Mustang convertible with a white top. Sixteen years old and that car still turns heads.

1994 Mustang Convertible
Taken at Skalkaho Falls, near Hamilton Montana
That's Gary at the driver's side door,
and our friend Pat Walton in the white shorts.

Having lost the '88 Saab, and not feeling comfortable about relying on my Triumphs, something had to give. I had to have a reliable convertible in my life. Wouldn't you know it, the same used car dealer where I bought the original Saab (and Gary's Mustang, for that matter), had a 1996 Saab 900S convertible on the lot. After taking it for a test drive, and after having Doug at Evergreen check it out, I added the baby blue beauty to my stable. That's the car I drove yesterday with the top down. I've had it several years now. It's a great car to drive the Oregon Coast. Standard 5-speed transmission, baby blue body with a dark blue top. Built in boot which covers the top when I have it stowed in the trunk. It's the most beautiful car I've ever owned.

Saab Story #2: First time I took the car in for Doug to service, he entered it into his Saab computer system. Turning back to me he said, "Saab doesn't know this car is in the US." Hmmm. Turns out the car was purchased originally in Germany. Guess that's why I have a key fob that reads "SAAB International and Diplomat Sales."

What's down the road? I don't know. Every now and then a pretty car catches my eye, but truth be told, maybe I'm growing up. I like the cars I have. I like them better than anything else I see on the road, on the lots, or in the ads. I do have a dream, of course. I'd like to fly to Sweden and pick up my new convertible. Drive it south to Copenhagen, then on to Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I'll have it shipped home and pick it up in Seattle. What will it be? Well I like the convertible hardtop Volvo C70, and I like the Saab 9-3 Aero, but GM is cutting Saab loose, and the Swedish government has said "No bailout." Oh well, I don't have any money for a new car now anyway. Guess I'll just have to dream a bit longer.

Didn't I say that my Saab is the most beautiful car I've ever owned?

1996 Saab 900S
Taken on I-5 near Weed, California

Mount Shasta in the background


Alicia Billings said...

That's a beautiful picture, the blue Saab and mountains in the back. Wow. Just, wow.

TheHappyMan said...

You inspired me to listen to I'VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU. I'm listening now to the Frank Sinatra version. Beautiful and inspiring. Listen to more music...it helps.
Love your blog, pal.
PS-I always liked that Fiat Spyder car. :)