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Sunday, 12 February 2012

A Driving History part one- the Lebaron

Well, after giving it some thought, I have decided to go on a walk down memory lane.  I love cars, specifically, I love to drive them.  I remember each and every car I have ever owned, either in my name or in my wife's.

When I was young, a teen, I wanted to drive real bad, but for reasons I'm not going to get into, I didn't learn how to drive until I was 22.  While I had learners permit, I only had driven a handful of times.  I remember actually driving my mom's little car, with her in it, straight into a ditch when I was 15 or 16.  The look on her face was enough to keep me out of her car after that.  That was pale blue Dodge Omni.  I am at a loss as to why she bought it.

Six years later, I drove my girlfriend's 87 Chrysler LeBaron.  I was camping with her and I needed to go to the woodpile to get some more wood.  She didn't feel like driving the short distance, so she gave me the keys to her car and said go get it.  Now, I was nervous as all hell, fearing that if I dinged it I'd be in big trouble.  It was an automatic so at least I didn't have to worry about the clutch.

Well, I got in it, set the seat back, slid the gear knob back to reverse and idled it out, slowly.  Now this was a k-car type, but it was heavy and gutless.  If it wasn't for the slight hill on which it was parked, I doubt I could have idled it out, but I was able to.  I reversed it back, onto the the little campground road without hitting anything.  ooOOoo success.  Then I stopped, and put the car in drive.

I spun the front tire.  But the car began to move forward.  That feeling of having the power to go gave me a rush I still feel when I start a car today, albeit not as strongly.  Lightly on the throttle, and very slowly through the campground I drove the car.  I pulled up next to the woodpile, loaded wood into the car and drove back to the site.  Mission accomplished.  That week we were there I must have gone to woodpile 2 or three times a day.  I remember leaving a pile of wood for the next person to use the site.

My girlfriend was laughing at my delight.

After pulling into the nearest town for fuel, she said,"Why don't you drive it on the highway for a while?"

I remember my brother saying something about learning to drive on the highway his first couple of times, so I did.  I got my driver's license a short time later and then I was driving everywhere.

To drive, the car was gutless.  I doubt the engine generated 100hp.  But that wasn't what made the car.  What made the car was the digital dash display.  It looked like the cockpit of  an aircraft.  That was cool.  I didn't measure fuel in quarter tanks, I measured it in bars.  Engine temperature in bars.  The speedo was digital with a rev graph.  The display was pale green monochrome.  The Lebaron had a roof console as well that displayed temp and direction.  The car was cool for that.

Looks cool, don't it?

Even if a car doesn't have a lot of power, I did learn that there were ways to get the most out it, especially after you got used to the handling characteristics.  I look back on the "little blue bomb" with a fondness that it mightn't even deserve, especially after it started costing us real money to keep on the road, and after only 145000 k.  The car declined very quickly after that.

Next time: MY first car, bought with my own $

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