First car and first love

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

The memorable “Luv-Mobile.”

Randy Riley | Courtesy photo

There is something about a guy’s first car.

I don’t mean to sound sexist. There are certainly a lot of ladies out there who are gearheads, But, based on an informal survey I conducted (I asked a few people), men and women look at their first cars differently.

Ask a lady about her first car and the first thing you might hear is the color of the car. “It was a white Cutlass. I think that’s an Oldsmobile.”

Ask a guy about their first car and it’s not unusual that they first start talking about the size of the engine, the number of cylinders or how many seconds it took them to accelerate from zero to 60. That may be one more example of how boys and girls are different.

I got my first car in 1967. It was almost a joke.

As I recall, my Dad didn’t want me to have a car. He conceded that I could buy one myself, but it was totally up to me to save up enough money or get a loan. I only worked part-time at the local IGA grocery store, so money was scarce, and I didn’t want to borrow.

Finally, I found an old Chevrolet for sale. It was a 1950 Chevy that had been used and abused from the day it came out of factory.

To get it started, I first had to turn the key. Then, I had to push a starter-button on the dashboard to get the motor going. Every time I stopped for gas, I also had to put in a quart or two of oil. She puffed out smoke like a cheap cigar, but she was mine for the low, low price of $25.

Rusty? Oh, yes. She definitely qualified as a bucket-of-rust. I don’t think I ever washed her. I was afraid the rust and dirt were the only things holding her together. I was always careful not to put too much weight on the driver’s side floor, because there were already rusted-out holes in the passenger-side floor.

If my passenger dropped a few french fries on the floor, they were sucked out the hole and gone immediately.

Dad was looking at her one day and decided she was no longer safe to drive. As he put it, “Boy, those tires are so bare I can almost see the air inside them.”

There was no tread left. The cord was showing on two of the four tires. The other two were completely bald. Dad was right. It was unsafe to drive on those tires. So, I went shopping for used or recapped tires. The cheapest used tires I could find were $10 each. My replacement tires were going to costs more than the car. So, I kept looking.

Then I found out that my friend, Dan, was selling his car. So, for the bargain-basement price of $35, I moved up to a 1952 Dodge. It was an amazing piece of work, in more ways than one. She had a semi-automatic, fluid-drive transmission. I had to use the clutch to get her going, but from then on, I just had to shift.

She was both a beauty and a beast. The seats were huge, wide and cushioned like a stuffed chair. I can’t remember the name of the person who painted her, but it looked like he had loaded gray paint onto a short-napped roller and painted her with a roller and trimmed her with a wide brush, but that was just the beginning.

The word LOVE was printed in huge multi-colored letters on the driver’s side door. Large flowers were painted on almost every remaining gray surface.

Driving her around town was like being the only float in a parade. People smiled, laughed and waved whenever I drove past. The ticket-taker at the drive-in theater was so distracted by the paint-job, he never asked about the eight people in the trunk. That’s right. Eight people and a cooler could be crammed into that huge trunk.

I loved that old car. Everyone called it the Luv-Mobile, or just Luv for short. It was perfect transportation for a semi-hippie teenager in the late ’60s.

From there, I went to an Austin-Healey Spirit, ’64 Chevy Impala, and Ford Maverick, followed by two Pinto station wagons. After Luv and the Austin-Healey, all my other cars have been… just cars.

But I still really loved that old 1950 Chevy and the Luv-Mobile.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

The memorable “Luv-Mobile.” memorable “Luv-Mobile.” Randy Riley | Courtesy photo

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist