“As I was motivatin’ over the hill, I saw Maybelline in a Coup de Ville,
Cadillac rollin’ on the open road, nothin’ outrun my V8 Ford”
“Maybelline” by Chuck Berry
It was the summer of my thirteenth year and I was in love. No it wasn’t the little brunette girl in my class with the rapidly expanding chest. It wasn’t my first true love, Sharon. She was still a summer away. I was in love with hot rod cars and the songs about them produced by The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. I could not wait to get behind the wheel of my very own “Little Deuce Coupe” with its very own “409,” race my ’63 split-window Stingray into “Dead Man’s Curve” or maybe a drive to “Drag City” might be safer. During this period, I would not have traded my issue of “Hot Rod” magazine for a subscription to “Playboy.” Okay, who am I kidding? I would have also gone to “Surf City” where there were “two girls for every boy.”
As an eighth grader I would stand all “moony eyed” watching the upperclassmen as they left the school parking lot with their souped-up cars or “No-Go Showboats.” A blue ’53 Chevy looked great dressed in metal flake blue and sporting fake wheel spinners on his rims. Too bad it had the same weak “stove bolt” inline six it was born with. A light blue under white ’59 Ford with a retractable hardtop came next. It was long and low slung, looking even lower with its shiny chrome fender skirts hiding most of the wide, white walled tires it was riding on. I think there might have been fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror and know there was a good looking brunette sitting in the middle of the front seat. Just after the Ford, a red ’58 Impala convertible appeared with a white top and matching interior. The beauty rumbled ominously as it went by, a 348 and glass packs supplying the noise. Finally, the car I was waiting for cruised by. Buck’s ’49 Ford Coupe.
Buck is my cousin and my first “man crush.” Not because he was a stud, even though in my youthful eyes he was. It was his car that cemented his “studly-ness.” Shackled in the rear, its low slung profile made it resemble “fastbacks” of later years. A blue-gray metal flake covered the outside with matching “rolled and pleated” seats on the inside. Finder skirts helped make it look fast even when it was standing still and hid matching rims adorned with shiny “baby moons.” The standard “three on the tree” had been moved to the floor and while the original little flat head was still under the hood, there was little “stock” about it. When you popped the hood twin carburetors winked at you and to quote the Beach Boys, “She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored.” Custom headers were attached to lake pipes running out from under the doors. Yes, I was madly in love with that car and never forgave him when he sold it to buy an equally “bad” ’55 Chevy. I still felt as if my parents had divorced.
Buck wasn’t my only hero. There was a man from Waxhaw who had a “cult” following among the teens and preteens residing along Highway 521. I never knew what his real name. All I knew was that he was a legend in the same manner as Robert Mitchum in the movie “Thunder Road” including the death part when he tried to cheat death one time too many and ran off a road and hit a tree. Prior to his death, “Waxhaw” drove the Highway Patrol crazy making runs through the little finger of land jutting into North Carolina called the Panhandle of Lancaster County.
You could hear him coming from a distance. Un-muffled exhaust pipes screaming in the distance would bring myself and my local friends, Mickey and DJ, out to watch. You better get there quick because “Waxhaw” was pedal to the metal in a “hopped” up ’63 Baby Blue, Ford Falcon Sprint. Belching flames from straight pipes, the little Falcon would scream past my house in a blue blur. Usually a minute or so later the siren of a Highway Patrol could be heard. Despite having a 390 Police Interceptor V-8, they just couldn’t keep up with the overpowered little Falcon. From the turn off at the Waxhaw Highway on to 521, “Waxhaw” would dare the SC Highway Patrol to catch him before he crossed the North Carolina Stateline and safety. To my knowledge they never did.
American men have always been in love with “hot” cars and the “hot” women attracted to them. In the Fifties and Sixties, a more mobile society gave rise to drive-in movies and restaurants, fifteen cent hamburgers and to a certain extent, the suburbs. With expansive back seats and drive-in movies, I would say they also contributed to a rise in the birth rate. I didn’t get my first “hot” car until 1972, a ‘67 British racing green GTO with red striped tires. I didn’t get to keep it as long as I wanted because of the Oil Embargo of 1973. With gas shortages and rising gas prices, a four barreled carburetor mated to a four hundred cubic inch engine would be replaced by an under powered, even for a four cylinder, “F’ing” Pinto for my wife and a ’53 Chevy four door for me purchased for twenty-five dollars.
I never owned another “muscle” car but I still have time. I still listen to the Beach Boys along with Jan and Dean occasionally…and dream. Maybe I can join “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and get a “Super Stock Dodge.” Those new Hellcats sure are nice but at my age I probably should stay out of them. For safety I probably won’t go “Sidewalk Surfin’” either.
Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM