This is my first classic car although I have accumulated years of anticipation and desire for one far sooner. I have very fond memories as a child of driving around in my grandfathers 63 Ford Falcon Ranchero as he ran errands around my hometown. When he would go inside a store I would stay outside and play with his CB radio, turn all the knobs and inevitably slip behind the huge steering wheel and go on a quick day dream drive while making motoring noises through my flapping lips. On occasion I would unknowingly flood the carburetor from pushing on the gas pedal. Grandpa took it in stride as he got back in and attempted to start the car. As he turned the key and the engine cranked and cranked the blinker came on, the wipers whooshed back and forth, the heater fan was blowing and he would just look over and give me a wink and a half smile. I remember going to A&W for a root beer float and if I was lucky he would let me order through the window. I remember him opening the glove box and thinking how neat it was to have a handy place to put my drink in those little round dips behind the glove box door.
Many years later when I first started looking for a classic car of my own, I can recall sticking my head in various cars and being instantly taken back to my child hood with a whiff of the interior. The familiar smell of the interior of an older car is something I just can’t get enough of. I would look at a car from the outside, checking for rust and dents, pop the hood and check out the engine and then the last step would be the whiff test. It had to have that familiar smell. Some smelled like dirty socks or cigarette smoke, or had a moldy kind of funk. No, my first classic car had to have that right smell.
I was in no hurry to buy. I took my time and read up on classic car stories and attended car shows. I found myself starting to get very interested in 57 Chevys. I started to read more and more about them and became fascinated with the following that they had. They had a legendary status like James Dean and Elvis and I liked that. The more I read and studied, the more I found my interest shift to the 55 Chevy. I guess because it was so groundbreaking at the time and I became more interested how the legendary golden years of Chevy started rather than just the acclaim of the highly sought after 57. More and more I became immersed in the 55. I just couldn’t get enough information on them. I read books and built plastic models, stared at photos and got my fix any way that I could.
One day years later while at a car show with the family I saw a 55 Chevy from a distance that caught my eye. It had a different color paint that I had not seen before and a very stock look to it. As I got closer and started looking the car over I saw a for sale ad in the back seat and I had a very strange feeling come over me. It was almost as if the car was telling me that this was the one I had been looking for. I wasn’t even sure it was for sale since the ad was lying on the back seat. Maybe they had just bought the car and tossed the ad in the back, maybe it wasn’t for sale anymore and they took the ad down. I didn’t know. I walked away taking glimpses over my shoulder to see the car from increasing distances and I could swear the car seemed sad that I was walking away. It was like walking away from a puppy at the pound.
I walked around the show some more, with the car on my mind the entire time. The wife was with me and she thought I seemed distant. I told her I was fine and little did she know I was steering her back to the car. I saw it in the distance and I started to get butterflies in my stomach. I was about to put the feelers out to the wife and see how receptive she was to owning a classic car. We got closer and I noticed some exhaust steam puttering out the exhaust pipes...the car was running! I picked up the pace almost leaving the wife and kids behind and when I got to the car, the owner was just popping the hood. I listened to the exhaust note as the owner wiped down the car with a rag and I listened as he talked with passerby’s. The car had everything I was looking for. All original inside and out, a unique color scheme, in showroom condition but this one also had something the others didn’t. There was that weird feeling in my stomach, an unconscious tugging at my being telling me that this car was meant for me. As I listened to the owner talk about the car to others, I could tell he was very passionate about the car. He really cared about it and I heard him say that it was indeed for sale. My heart skipped and I felt the oddest feeling I have ever felt before, kind of like fear but not a bad fear. More of a fear you get before going on a roller coaster. It was a fear surrounded by excitement. I asked the owner if I could have a seat behind the wheel and reluctantly said yes. As soon as I sat down I was 8 years old all over again. The familiar smell was there and I think I left the present for a few moments as I took a day dream drive. Memories flooded my head of me and my grandfather and made me smile without me even knowing it. I was gleaming behind the wheel and when I came back to reality my wife was smiling back. I looked up to her from the driver’s seat and said to her with as much confidence in my heart and voice of anything I had ever told her before, "Honey, I think this is the one."
I drove the car home with my 10 year old daughter in the passenger’s seat, with the wife trailing in our car behind me. As I sat behind the wheel I thought of my grandfather. Thinking this is how he must have felt as he drove me around town. I looked over at my daughter and could see in her eyes that she was taking it all in. She was studying the dash and knobs and she took a deep breath and said, "Dad, I really like how it smells in here." "I know honey, me too...me too"