I am not brave.
In fact, I’m fairly sure I can easily be classified as a bonafide ‘fraidy cat.
Cows scare me (all that eye rolling surely leads to stampeding or something ominous with their big teeth.)
Revolving doors give me pause (I do quite enough spinning on my own, thankyouverymuch.)
Even the letter “X” can cause a shiver (seems a bit pointy, at times.)
Like I said, I am not brave. And I’m a diagnosed swoony, fainty type, so really, I should have been born last century or in a Jane Austen novel.
It’s as if I’m of another era, so maybe that’s why I find myself loving and buying antique vehicles.
They’re not easy or economical or practical (kind of like me). But Practical Man loves me and I love them, so he overlooks these points. Not to mention, spends hours and months fixing and maintaining them.
Meanwhile, I’m twirling, making flowery seat covers, and taking pictures of the cute-shaped hunks of metal (Beetle, Fiat) or fiberglass (Boler). Tra-la-la!
Because, that’s what antique vehicles are for, right?
I used to have a 1973 Beetle.
It didn’t look scary with its chubby shape and cheery yellow and white paint, but it terrified me at first.
You see, the rule is, if you’re a swoony, fainty type: you can’t drive.
Probably a good rule.
But, I had finally got effective treatment and was allowed, after 15+ years, to get my driver’s license back. I had to take my final driver’s test and parallel park and blah, blah, blah to get my full license but I am good at tests, so fairly shortly thereafter, we bought the Beetle. But, my time behind the wheel of any car, let alone one with old car idiosyncrasies, had been very limited.
I remember driving the Beetle back to our house from where we purchased it (about 2.5 scary hours away). My hands were sweaty, I found myself grinding the gears and shouting things into the wind out the sunroof (bad words don’t count if you shout them into the wind–or in German). Practical Man drove behind me in the chase car, seemingly unfazed by my driving or bad, German words. Meanwhile, I was having 17 heart attacks, especially when I accidentally ended up on the Big Fat Scary Speedy Highway.
I screamed the whole time I was trying to merge on to the highway with my 1600 cc engine (and basket of old/new driver insecurities).
Fast forward 10 years and here I am again, nauseated, sweating and in full ‘fraidy cat mode.
The classic Fiat500 is soooo very cute.
But, it makes a very, very expensive lawn ornament. And, I don’t yet have my glassed-wall garage where I can admire the vehicles from the comfort of our living room.
Hence, the little Fiat must be driven.
Practical Man has been wrestling with the engine on it for a while now. It got new stuff added by a mechanic and came back broken but, Practical Man used his superior problem solving skills and stick-toitiveness and problem solved and stuck to it until he got it working.
But, it was a false alarm until he used more of his superior problem solving skills and stick-tuitiveness (and possibly some Seafoam in the engine) and now, yes, it is really working.
Except…that means, ahem, I actually have to drive it.
Not just sew it fun seat covers and stuff to hang from the rear view mirror.
I went out this afternoon on a solo mission. If that makes me sounds like an astronaut, it’s because I felt like one.
You see, it’s an old and very simple little car. (Not unlike its owner, actually.)
There is no glove compartment or radio or even a gas gauge.
Hedgehug has a very tiny engine (only 2 cylinders), standard transmission (with no synchromeshing so, you need to double-clutch between each gear when you shift), a manual starter lever, a manual choke, and a 1970 gearbox.
Today, I stuck to the country roads and took deep breaths and tried to calm the rapid, fluttery sensation around my heart. I said nothing in German, but , there was some gear grinding and one stall, as Hedgehug and I tried to learn how to get along with each other.
There will be quite a few more of these days before I am brave enough to grind gears and stall it in the city. Then, it will be October and time to put it away for the winter. And come next May and Old Car Goes On The Road for the Summer Day, I’ll have to be brave all over again.
Honestly, it’s enough to make me faint.
Luckily, I take medication for that now.
They say you never forget your first love.
Mine was a yellow and white 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle.
Practical Man found the Bug for me online and thought we should buy it. I had finally been successfully treated for a fainting disorder that had plagued me (and my driver’s license) for 15 long years. No more keeling over, it seemed. So, I could finally drive again.
It was time, Practical Man said.
I protested a bit. It was a luxury…not a necessity. And by the way, I said (hands on hips, as that is how I pretend I am momentarily practical), a classic VW Beetle definitely isn’t practical: no heat for Canadian winters, only usable half the year (or less), liable to rust out from under us, blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t remotely “utilitarian” (one of Practical Man’s necessities in a vehicle) and it definitely couldn’t carry a sheet of plywood in the back (that’s one of Practical Man’s tests to measure those flashy, practical-wannabe vehicles that act like they’re oh-so utilitarian but hah! can’t even carry a sheet of plywood in the back).
Despite its exuberant hue and uselessness at Home Depot, Practical Man insisted the Bug was meant to be mine. After all, he said, classic Beetles were among my favourite cars, daisies were my favourite flower and this BEETLE was yellow and white, LIKE A DAISY.
Then, he used the eyebrows on me.
I can’t resist the eyebrows.
You have to trust me: these are magic eyebrows.
So, we bought the non-practical Beetle and I loved it with all my heart for nine summers. I rejoiced every Spring on the first day of driving and I pouted a bit every fall, when it went away for the winter. I drove it to work every day and I never, ever took for granted a single moment of not just–finally, finally having my driver’s license back but, also, also–driving that car that made me and everyone around us smile.
Then, there was a fire in the winter storage building and what remained of the Beetle went off to be re-born as (hopefully) a Mini Cooper S…or something else fun. Hey, that car did good deeds. It didn’t deserve to morph into something that carries plywood.
Now, there is a new (old) car in town. A 1970 Fiat 500. We were busy re-building after the fire and then, there was a winter with higher snowbanks than two classic Fiats stacked on top of each other, and then some work to get it road-worthy, so tomorrow will be the Fiat’s first day being back on the road.
It’s tiny, tiny, oh-so-tiny. Here it is, next to our (new) Fiat 500, which is a small (new) car but looks pretty large compared to the (old) original:
It also looks diminutive next to its classic car counterparts. So small, in fact, that it has an exterior luggage rack. Yes, that’s because you can’t even fit luggage in the back, let alone a sheet of plywood.
Not utilitarian in the least.
But, that Practical Man seems to have a broad definition of practical.
As in, if it makes my sweetheart full of tra-la-la, then it’s practical.
(Excuse me while I sniffle a little.)
So, the classic Fiat is here to stay. It has a choke, a starter, no gas gauge or synchromeshing between gears, not even a radio. It’s not utilitarian or sensible or large.
But, I have a feeling that, like my Beetle, this little Fiat will also hold a very large place in my heart.
Kind of like Practical Man.
I can’t wait to get to know you better.
“Could you call me Cordelia?”
Such was the plea of literary character, Anne of Green Gables, who disliked her plain name and was often in “the depths of despair”.
I’m not quite in “the depths” (it takes lack of sunshine and being out of ice cream to put me there), but I do get nervous when it comes to naming. After all, bad name-related things can happen to anyone, in real life and in literature . Kevin Henke’s loveable mouse, Chrysanthemum, who had always basked in her moniker, had a crisis when she went to school.
Who knew kindergarten mice could be so cruel?
I perhaps do more naming than the average person, although I don’t have children or pets. I write children’s stories (lots of loaded naming decisions there) and disguise my friends’ names for this blog (lots of amusing naming decisions there) and I have a mini collection of vintage vehicles. A vintage vehicle has such personality that I think it just naturally begs for a name.
If you think that’s ridiculous, remember, I have named derelict buildings that have tried to kill me and that I’ve known for a mere 30 seconds, too.
So, name the vehicles, I do. Even though, there are some that advise against it. They seem to think that
- it’s tacky and low-brow, or
- it’s sort of like naming a farmyard chicken or cow that you’re later going to eat for dinner.
Professional distance is the sensible advice one is given.
But, I’ve never been one for sensible advice. Even though, I have discovered that naming a car can be more than slightly dangerous to my heart, in case they happen to be lost in a fire.
Still, I persist. And now, I need your help.
First, a little background:
Naming our 1973 Beetle was easy: it was yellow and white and daisies are my favourite flower.
Said beloved car, lost in fire last November 24th. Slight pause for tissues here…
Okay, I’m back.
I’m pretty sure her spirit hangs out in the Boler when we’re not using it.
That makes me happy.
Another slight pause for tissues…
Our not-vintage, red, small SUV started off as “The Chariot of Fire” and got refined to “Harriet the Chariot” and now, simply shortened to “Harriet.”
Even Practical Man sometimes goes along with the naming of a practical vehicle. Especially when an attack deer hit Harriet last year and we nearly lost her, even though she had saved our lives just the day before in a wilderness survival dilemma of mythic proportions.
I really should buy stock in tissues.
Now, to the subject of my dilemma: our 1970 Fiat 500.
I wanted to pick a name that fit its diminutive size, Italian origins and my lean to the whimsical.
I ended up with Thumbellina, like Hans Christian Andersen’s tiny fairy. We spelled it deliberately wrong so we could use Bellina for everyday.
Bellina means approximately “small, cute, beauty”, in Italian.
But, now that the Fiat has been around for a while, it’s becoming more and more apparent that its name doesn’t quite suit.
Our 2013 Fiat 500 seems more like the Bellina of the family – small, cute, beautiful and BOSSY. She’s got a raging case of “BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!-you-have-had-your-seatbelt-off-for-exactly-2-seconds-BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!-to-drive-up-the-driveway-with-the-mail-and-I-am-going-to-BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP-until-you-put-it-back-on-BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!”
She just seems like a Bellina.
Bossy, bossy Bellina.
It even has alliteration, to which, you may remember, I am addicted.
For the 1970 Fiat, I’m leaning now towards Gnocchi.
It’s kind of shaped like a little gnocchi, isn’t it? And, I l-o-o-o-o-ove gnocchi. They’re like eating little pillows of heaven.
Even though, I realize that’s not grammatically-correct Italian. One car: but “gnocchi” is plural.
Little pillow (singular) of heaven, then.
Now, I’m befuddled. Is it low-brow and tacky to change a car’s name after it’s already been anointed?
I don’t know how you parents, with babies to name, can possibly commit. Should I:
- Stick with Bellina?
- Change to Gnocchi?
- Or, or, or, what about Polkadot?
As long as you don’t suggest Cordelia, I’m taking votes.
You are reading a post from Christine Fader’s “A Vintage Life” blog. Join the romance with all things retro at https://avintagelife.wordpress.com
If you know me or read this blog, you know I love my vintage vehicles but you might not know that:
a) daisies are my favourite flower and
b) as of November 24, 2012 my vintage vehicle collection stood at:
– 1974 Boler travel trailer.
I drove my beetle, every day from May until October each year wearing a smile so big that my cheeks hurt.
Why the geeky glee?
I’ve been a fainter since age 18 and had my driver’s license revoked, um, a lot. And you thought all my talk of swooning was just a mere vintage-y expression!
I was finally successfully treated 9 years ago and shortly thereafter, my husband found a yellow-and-white beetle and insisted that she was meant to be mine. Often with tears in my eyes and a perhaps cheesy but ever so grateful swelling of my heart, Daizybug (her name seemed obvious) and I spent 9 happy summers together.
That is, until we had a little disaster on November 25.
Our workshop building–the building Daizybug slept in over the winter–burned down. Luckily, the building was some distance from our house, there was no one inside, the wind was calm that day so our forest didn’t catch fire, no one was hurt, and it was just STUFF that was lost. Yes, all those people who reminded me of those things were absolutely right. There were lots of blessings for which to be thankful.
But sometimes, STUFF, even though it’s stuff, is very precious. My Daizybug was dead and many, many tears ensued.
“But, it’s just a car”, you might be saying.
I know, I know. Tell that to my heart. It’s been very uncooperative in understanding that sensible fact.
Lots of soggy days and nights followed. Everywhere I turned, there was Daizybug — yellow beetle cupcake holders in the baking cupboard; a planter painted like Daizybug; pictures in frames; handmade Daizybug jewellery crafted by my husband; Daizybug screen saver. I had Daizy moments while driving (or hearing a certain song) and nightmares about her going to the dreaded crusher at the junkyard.
Soggy, soggy days and nights.
Lots of cute beetles are on the market and I had a small amount of insurance money with which to shop. But, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to buy a Beetle. In between bouts of soggy-ness, my husband reminded me (sometimes with tears in his own eyes), that even though we could never replace Daizybug, it would be nice to have someone to spend the first day of summer driving with, when it arrived.
On Saturday, we came home with a new friend. And, even though there’s nothing like first car love…and I had a doozy in Daizy, this feels like the beginning of something different, of course, but just as strong.
It’s a 1970 Fiat 500. If it looks familiar, it might be because you remember Luigi from the movie Cars. You may have also seen their new counterparts tootling around since they were re-designed and launched in the marketplace in the past couple of years. The new ones are cute.
The originals are positively adorable.
This car has no radio or seatbelts (yet). You have to start it using a choke and a starter lever. There’s no synchro-meshing in the gears (meaning double clutching is required every time you accelerate or de-celerate). It has a 2 cylinder, 499cc engine which, if you are not up on car vernacular, means it has (far) less power than the smallest modern-day motorcycle.
And I love it.
Of course, Daizybug will never be replaced or forgotten. But every time I peek through the windows into our garage, I feel familiar tears in my eyes and a perhaps cheesy but ever so grateful swelling of my heart.