Silvio Calabi: Ones that got away
It was inevitable. You submitted so many tales of cars lost but not forgotten that there had to be two winners, not one — and Motorbooks/Quarto happily stepped up and provided not one but two six-packs of magnificent car books as prizes. Here are our winners.
Larry Perry, from Massachusetts, belongs to the Cape Cod Corvette Club and the Minuteman Buick Club. You’d never guess what car he regrets losing:
“We’ve owned Impalas, Corvettes, Malibus, Grand Prix’s, Grand Wagoneers, Explorers, Yukons, a Karmann Ghia, an Opel Manta, a Coupe DeVille and a Lincoln Continental, but the one I wish I still had was a extended Chevrolet Astro with all-wheel drive. Yes, a van — a box on wheels, the most plebeian of rides. It moved many households over the years, and it never failed to tow boats, motorcycles and snowmobiles. It went to Chicago and back repeatedly, and by ferry to the Vineyard and Nantucket. When we lived on a dirt road, it never got stuck in the mud or snow. It took our kids to college, and carried the food, the liquor and the wedding party when our daughter got married. It made countless trips out onto Nauset Beach for fishing and bonfires. We had a huge bicycle rack that required a stepladder to load and unload. The stepladder stored under the seats.
“One day the van wouldn’t back up, but we had a circular driveway so no problem. We learned to park in places that let us pull ahead when we left, and woe to the Astro driver who forgot that reverse was gone.
“Finally we noticed that the rear floor was sagging and the fuel tank had developed a small leak. We took Astro to our favorite repair shop, Gil’s Automotive. They said, ‘Park it around back by the old oak tree and we’ll look at it in the morning.’ While we debated replacing the rotted floor and fuel tank, a nor’easter struck and the big old oak tree let go and made our decision for us.
“I still miss Astro.”
Who can argue against utility and dependability in the service of creating family memories? Larry, you’ve won “Detroit Iron,” a six-pack of new titles from Motorbooks worth $300.
Dennis Kozak, of Daytona Beach, Florida, earned “Foreign Fantasies,” another collection of new titles from Motorbooks, this one worth $335. Dennis had a car that elevated him, briefly, to teenage royalty:
“The car I most regret selling was my prized 1974 VW Sun Bug Super Beetle, my first new car. It was brilliant gold color and had a crazy corduroy interior that was great for Pennsylvania winters, especially considering the Beetle’s heater. But more than anything I can say about the car itself is the way I felt every time I got in it — like a young king, and the car was my domain. I’d fire up the engine, crank back the sunroof, put a Stones tape in the 8-track and be the coolest dude on the planet. Girls would stare as I drove by. They were looking at the guys in Camaros and Mustangs, but I was sure they were staring at me.
“This was also my first standard-shift car. Dad taught me how to drive it. I can still hear him going ballistic because I cared more about opening the sunroof than working the clutch. But his patience with me finally paid off.
“I sold that car three years later for only one reason: I was offered exactly what I paid for it new, in cash. I bought another VW with a sunroof, a Rabbit.
“Hard to explain, but the Rabbit never gave me that feeling of being a king, nor did any other car I’ve owned since. I’m much older now, but I still hope one day I’ll get behind the wheel of something that will bring me back to 1974 again. Long live that Super Beetle and the joy it brought me.”
To everyone who entered, well done. Kathy Cady, the photo of you and your Sprite en route to a “Dump Nixon” rally is priceless. George Gillis, whose dad wrecked his TR4A — heartfelt sympathies. Don Vincent, the hair-dryer bracket bolted under the hood of your MGB and aimed at the distributor cap was brilliant. (As long as it wasn’t a Lucas hair dryer.) Steve Clouther and Susan Hart, you may be the only Americans with warm memories of Audis from the 1980s.
The list of great cars that got away spanned a half-century, from a 1949 Oldsmobile 76 club coupe to an 03 Mini Cooper by way of Jeeps, Plymouths, Hondas, Corvettes, Cadillacs, Brit roadsters (many), a GTO (Pontiac, not Ferrari), a Saab Turbo, a 1961 Ford Galaxy and a Dodge stake-body truck. We must do this again sometime.
— Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at email@example.com.