The colors pop along the highway as the sun reflects brightly in the abundance of chrome. Old cars turn your head. As if they create a time machine portal around them. Their presence takes you back to another age of your youth or maybe only one seen in movies. I don’t remember not loving old cars.
When I was in college, my dad bought me an old 1970 Mustang convertible to drive. He had searched for one for quite a while. It was near the end of summer in 1996 when he and I made a trip to somewhere in Missouri to pick up the car. I remember it being a long drive. I had already driven from the southwest corner of the state where I attended college and not being crazy about long road trips the distance sticks out in my memory. But I was excited about the car. I’ve only vague memories of the house we went to. Today I think of how amazing it must have been to find that house back in the twists and turns and this road and that without the convince of plugging the address into my map app. There must have been some good communication between my dad and that guy selling the car.
I remember the test drive. Only Dad drove. The car wouldn’t return to center. The story goes that she was run under a trailer home by a drunk driver. And the guy hadn’t fixed that part yet. And somewhere during the bondo and body work two of the holes holding the letters on the trunk were filled. So it didn’t spell out Mustang. Thus the MUANG was born.
She fitted life perfectly for a college senior living in a lake town. The only real tan I ever wore was from those warm months of the year I drove the Mustang. I’m very pale by nature but that year I glowed. I fashioned myself in dark sunglasses and brightly colored head scarves as if I was Ann Margaret for some old movie.
There was no air conditioning which wasn’t that much of a problem for obvious reasons. But if you were traveling over 40-50 mph the heater didn’t work so well either. During the chilly months I kept a pair of insulated snow boots in the car for driving and blankets in the passenger seats just in case anyone wanted to ride with me. And she had a slow oil leak. I always kept a quart in the trunk and topped her off routinely. But as old cars go there is always something to fix. After a year of driving she went into my parents’ garage and stayed there. I graduated, got married, moved away, and Mom and Dad eventually sold the house. So the MUANG went to live in my uncle’s barn.
Except for a couple of occasions, she had sat there for the past 15 years. Until a few weeks ago. We planned to get her all summer seeing as how we now have more drivers in the family than vehicles and why not spruce her up for the third vehicle instead of buying some other junker. We all know how plans go, and before we knew it the school year was staring off again. But one Friday afternoon we sat at ZAZAs when Luke noticed a number of spiffy looking cars lining up. It was a car show. And it was all we needed to spur us into action.
She was covered in a heavy coat of dust and dirt dobber nest but in surprisingly good condition considering the neglect. We pulled and pushed. I had forgotten how heavy an old, solid, fully made of metal car could be. Eventually she was on the trailer. Even looking like a matchbox car pulled from the inner workings of vacuum cleaner bag, people couldn’t help but look and stare. I like to think of her potential shining through. A spontaneous thunderstorm gave her a nice cleanse as we neared home and I was overjoyed to think that the MUANG still looked pretty awesome.
So she is home, and we have a new family project. She runs but now we are working on getting her to stop. Because I find having brakes to be quite a necessity on the roads these days. Stay tuned for more updates as we get the old girl moving.