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June 8, 2011 / sharoncopy

My first car: 1966 Falcon

I named my first car Derek. That’s because when I was in 5th and 6th grade there was a kid in my school who lived on my street named Derek Gurchowski (sp-I’m sure that’s incorrect, but that’s how it was pronounced). Derek seemed like a tough guy although he wasn’t a problem, and he was also rather handsome, although that doesn’t fit my analogy. I just came away with the idea that Derek was a “tough” name. I was sure my car was a guy, because I found him hard to understand, and there were a few other reasons which escape me right now.

And “my” car – the first to be called “mine” looked like “he” had been in a few fights. It was a 1966 Ford Falcon in an ugly shade somewhere between icky green and yucky beige.

It had several dents in it and my dad had hit a deer with it while it was “their” car, so the front end was missing the grill and was fairly damaged. It was a stick shift and my parents wouldn’t let me get my license until I could drive it, since that was the default vehicle at the time and they didn’t want me driving their newer Chevy or Olds or whatever the family car was.

So, Dad taught me to drive (more on that later!) and I got my license just before I turned 18 and I was thrilled to have ANY vehicle, ANY wheels at all. It became mine, and I drove it to college and back daily for 2 years and it always started, even in the midst of Detroit’s below-zero weather.  The hood had to be fastened down with a piece of solder wire since there was no longer any clasp.

One November day I was driving across to the East side to sing in a concert or something, and I stopped for gas along the way. I told the attendant to be sure to fasten down the hood and he said that he had, and I didn’t check. So here I am, about 10 pm on the Southfield Expressway heading towards home and noticing that the hood seems bouncier than usual. The thought flipped through my mind: what would I do if the hood flew up? (NOTE: being 18, it didn’t occur to me to brave the shoulder of the road and get out and check right then.) I thought it through and had just finished when it flew up!  No visibility! I checked the mirrors, pulled over onto the right shoulder and stopped. I got out and with all my might I was able to pull the damaged hood down enough to be able to secure it again. It now looked like a relief map of the Appalachians.

This wasn’t a car worth “fixing” and so on Thanksgiving morning my dad and older brother went outside with a sledge hammer and pounded it down flat so it would be easy to secure. Not concerned a bit about what my vehicle looked like, I found it immensely humorous, and practical. About six months later I was driving down in Allen Park, on Southfield again, and an old woman pulled out of the AAA parking lot (where she had just paid her bill–another amusing touch for my storytelling) and ran into Derek’s right front fender. Smash! My first accident. I used the insurance money to pay my school tuition, and put a “PTLA – Praise the Lord anyway!” sticker right in the dent.

A wealthier student once asked me when I was going to get Derek repaired and I asked, “Why should I?” I was really rather proud that they put his picture in the yearbook on the Commuters page.

Next time: learning to drive

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