The '63 Chevy

The life and times of a car

When I was a young man, I ran upon hard times. I lost a good-paying job and, because of the economy, had to take a job for low pay on a golf course. I lost my expensive car, too.

The mechanic on the golf course drove an old '63 Chevy. He said it was reliable, and sold it to me for $250. It needed a paint job, since it was, when I bought it, covered with a dull gray primer. My father said he'd help me paint the car in the garage at our cabin up north. The car drove smoothly up the highway to the cabin. The engine, a 289 cubic inch V-8, was good, and the interior was in nice shape. The radio worked and so did the cigarette lighter. The car had a very slight list to the left as though the suspension was a little off. Other than that, the vehicle was in excellent mechanical condition. My father, after seeing the car, said I'd paid too much. He said I'd been taken. After driving it into the little town by our lake, he changed his mind. He liked the way it rode and the way the engine sounded.

So I swept the dirt off the floor of the garage and hosed the dust down. I had already done the body work on the Chevy, and now we drove it into the garage for two coats of dark blue paint. I always liked dark blue on a car.

Dad poured a load of paint into the Montgomery Ward sprayer and went to work on the hood. Earlier, I had taped and papered the windows, bumpers, and trim. The paint went on in streaks. I think now there was still dust in the garage or my coat of thinner was not adequate. Dad kept spraying the car. We wore paint masks.

When he was done, the light through the single window of the old garage shone on a navy blue '63 Chev. You could see the paint spray in the window light. We went outside for a smoke and left the paint to dry. We had lunch. We sat on the front lawn. Then my father read a pocketbook. In the afternoon, we put the second coat on. The sprayer hissed, the compressor chugged, and the excess spray filled the garage. We had dinner, sat on the porch, and went to bed.

In the morning, I drove the car out of the garage. It was a sunny day and the car sparkled with its new layers of enamel. In the sun, I could see the streaks on the hood. Otherwise, we had done a good job. The paint was thick and shiny on most of the surfaces. I tore off the paper and tape, and put the red and white insignia back on the hood and the Bel Air model plates on the side. The car was entirely transformed. My mother came out of the cabin and ran her hand across the hood. "Nice job," she said. Everything in the garage, the shovels, rakes, and tools, even the window, had a thin layer of blue paint.

I drove that car everywhere. Street rods wanted to race me. My boss at the golf course said we'd done a good job of painting. A cop frisked me after stopping me for a burned-out tail light. In exclusive neighborhoods, people looked at the Chevy with suspicion. It was stolen from its parking spot in front of my apartment once and, later, the battery was stolen from under the hood. But it got me to work and school.

In the end, the brakes went out while I was driving in downtown Minneapolis. I hit the rear end of a utility van doing twenty miles an hour. The cops wouldn't help push the car over to the curb.

It was a good car. Two hundred and fifty dollars of pleasure. The crumpled hood and the leaking radiator were the last I saw of it. I went back to taking the bus. A few years later, I bought a new car. New cars are the only way to go. The brakes don't go out. The interior smells new. But, oh, for that sparkle when the Chev came out of the garage. Best car I ever owned, as they say.

 

A former Green Beret and an employee of the James J. Hill Reference Library, Chris Bremicker has been writing for seventeen years. This is his first published story.

 
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