test driving cars as a recreational sport

As most of you know, I am car obsessed. However, this is not an interest I can defensibly indulge now because owning a car in New York is mostly a silly proposition. But I just can’t quit the idea of getting a nice little beater and there are just no shortage of awesome cars that I’ve never had the chance to try. In short, this means that I usually take a poke at craigslist now and then to see what out there and, now and then, curiosity gets the better of me. Like a lot of craigslist experiences, it never ceases to amuse. And in truth, I’m perpetually in the market for the right car to come along. Or, rather, I’m perpetually ready to make a wonderful mistake; it wouldn’t be the first time.*

My selection criteria is simple: we have to meet within a reasonable distance and the car has to be something that I wouldn’t otherwise come across, which basically rules out newer cars. Here’s one from a while back (with more to come).

some-echoes-0021Louis and his 1962 Ford Thunderbird. Astoria, Queens.

So my downstairs housemate Lily is an inquisitive girl. It’s kind of her job to be curious, she’s a documentary filmmaker. Even so, I was surprised that she agreed to come with me to test drive some old car. Anyway, we got on the train and met up with Louis. Dude is in his fifties and straight out of old New York – full on Queens-Greek accent, wearing a wifebeater that displayed a proud thicket of chest hair and a fat fucking gold chain, basically a no bullshit dude. And then there’s us – two hot young bloods, me in tight black jeans and hair I haven’t washed in weeks, and L., tall with Germanic features, in thrift store regalia – both manically giggling as we walk up the driveway. In Louis’s world, well, we didn’t really belong in Louis’s world.

After a terse greeting, he tells his crew to beat it (he actually had some dudes just chillin with him). We walk over to the ‘Bird, a lovely hardtop in a cream-white, a bit rough around the edges, but still gorgeous with tons of chrome, a hood that extends forever, and dramatic rear overhangs. Oh! And one of the loveliest features of the ’61-’63 generation is the “Swing Away” steering wheel (see around 0:30: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMm6EEZ-UXE), which swings to the right so the driver can easily enter and exit. And there is something incredibly satisfying about rousing the 390 cid V8 (that’s 6.4L or about 4 times the engine capacity of a Toyota Corolla). Louis gave me his sales pitch, which I found a few ways to politely decline. I believe the offer began around $20,000 and was down to about $10,000 by the time he gave up. Then he tried to sell me two other cars, a two bedroom apartment, a studio (as it turns out, dude is landed ass gentry, owns a few buildings in the area), and then he finally let us go.

Lily actually recorded most of the afternoon on audio (she considered it fieldwork) and we dug it up the other day and had a laugh over it.

*Meet Greta, a 1985 Saab 900.



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One response to “test driving cars as a recreational sport

  1. dude! i test drove one of these once too! when i was in elementary school i walked past a white ’60 every day and i’ve been mildly obsessed with them ever since. seriously i can give a shit about a ’55–’57 t-bird but a ’60–’62? fucking AWESOME. guy down the street from me in california about fifteen years ago had a blue ’62 for sale. i had a beige ’81 accord and no money. but i wanted that car. drove like a boat, which is the cliché people always use when talking about sixties american cars, but there you go. i’ve driven boats, too, and that’s exactly what it felt like. i think dude was asking four or five grand, but the price was academic. also i kinda couldn’t imagine having to feed that 390 (even in 1995!), and still can’t. oh well. the perfect voyeuristic test drive vehicle.

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