MARCH 21, 2012: LIFETIME IMPRESSION CARS–WAS IT THE CAR OR THE OWNER? PART TWO

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My school Principal was a good friend of my parents so occasionally he and his wife would drop out to the acreage for a visit.

 

That was an extremely uncomfortable experience for a kid because it was real life imitating art.

 

In this case the art was the old Seinfeld rerun where George Costanza’s “worlds collided”.

 

Your Principal at the front door on your home turf was the collision when you’re a ten-year-old kid but Charlie (the Principal’s name) softened the blow by showing up one day in a very cool ride…far cooler than he was, in my humble opinion.

 

He drove a brand new 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 two door hardtop up the driveway and that’s when he became a little less of a school heavy. Charlie wasn’t the warmest guy on the planet and typically one look at his old car turning up the lane was enough to turn us into track stars but this Galaxie drew us in like moths to a light.

 

I even hung around long enough to strike up a conversation with Charlie when he got out of this incredible car. It was one of those Wonder Years moments in a kid’s life where you suddenly see a trace of humanity in the discipline machine known as your school Principal.

 

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A few years later I rode in the car and learned that Charlie actually listened to contemporary music on the radio. This was at the peak of Beatlemania so Charlie took one more step towards humanity. Later on, he turned out to be a pretty good guy so a tribute 64 Ford Galaxie hardtop would be a great way to remember how a robot became a human.

 

In late 1966 I saw my first Cougar and it wasn’t on a wilderness hike or in a nightclub. This Cougar was sitting in our driveway out at the acreage and the headlights were flipping open and shut just like the TV ads. It was a magic moment.

 

One of my older brother Pat’s best friends was a guy named Richard. Richard was, in a word, a spoiled kid so anything on 2 or 4 wheels ended up under his Christmas tree and this Mercury Cougar was his latest toy. He had owned a Mustang before that but it was a pretty tepid 6-cylinder car.

 

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This Cougar was full race in a few weeks – long before the new car smell dissipated. That smell was replaced with burning rubber because the Cougar was a street rocket and Richard didn’t hesitate to do a smoke show on request for us…his 12-year-old fans.

 

Richard met an untimely end a few short years later but the biggest legacy he left was a huge fondness for the 1967 Mercury Cougar. I’d own one in a heartbeat to this day.

 

My oldest brother Stu was a member of the RCMP and in 1967 he decided to pop for his first new car. It was a 1967 Chevy Impala two door hardtop and this car was ultra cool. Stu was a hero to my brother Jim and me because his job involved undercover work and in my adolescent world, that meant he was just like James Bond. This Impala really suited a jet setting super agent so it just added to his “coolness”.

 

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Stu had ordered a 327 4-barrel so this Impala had plenty of punch. I remember two things about that brand new Chevy. The first thing was how quick Stu had it up to 90 miles per hour on the road past our house. It got there with this incredible sound as the 4 barrels jumped into the game – Chevy took that small block sound to the bank for decades.

 

The second thing was my sister Shirley backed into the car and pulled a hit and run that same day. Stu had owned it for a few hours.

 

Stu was a good cop so the ID on the paint smear took him about 18 seconds and he was on the phone 46 seconds later but Shirley wouldn’t come back until Stu cooled down about 5 ½ months later.

 

The ‘67 Impala 2-door hardtop was a classic design-it looked fast parked and I’d own one in a millisecond as a tribute to a “secret agent” brother with great taste in cars. I’d just make sure Shirley parked a block over.

 

The last Lifetime Impression car was a 1968 Road Runner. I’d read about this car months earlier but when Doug, a friend of my older brother Bruce drove a Runner up the driveway in late 1967 it was better than low level flyovers by the Blue Angels.

 

As luck would have it, some of my neighborhood buddies were at the house so this Plymouth gave me bragging rights for a week on the bus to school. We all grew up in a world full of station wagons so when this Road Runner was at the house we knew it was meant for only one thing – thumping wannabes on the street.

 

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Doug’s Road Runner was a stripper, 2-door sedan, all-business car with the bench seat, the basic 4 speed and dog dish hub caps. It looked tough and ominous at the same time and that wasn’t false advertising because every time Doug showed up the car smelt like hot oil and burned rubber. This Plymouth was car glory embodied in a 2-door and I would have traded a barely used 13-year-old soul to own that car. Even now I’d consider it.

 

Ultimately cars are like music because they can evoke deeply rooted memories based on perceptions of the owners in most cases…and the car in some cases.

 

They’re a part of a personal biography and that’s probably why it’s not a hobby…it’s a passion.

 

Jerry Sutherland

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