Passing On An Enduring Love Affair of Cars

Bill Cordell's fondness for cars has lasted throughout most of his lifetime and more than a few model years
Photo by Saige Roberts

My youngest grandson is 15. He has his learner’s permit, but is uncomfortable driving a car. At his age, most of my friends and I had several years of driving experience under our seat belt.

We did not sneak behind our parents’ backs to drive. They made us drive. We were farm boys and our daddies needed us to drive tractors and trucks.

Our friends in town also started driving early, but none of them had a John Deere tractor in his front yard. It was the thing to do.

Back in the 1950s, pre- and early-teen boys talked a lot about cars. Later, our minds would be sideswiped by girls.

Every year, we waited with fishing worm breath (bated) to see the new models. Back then, every new model year was a new design concept.

I still swoon when I see a restored 1957 Chevy Bel Air. We also compared what our parents were driving. The big question was how fast it would go?

I would swear to my friends that my mama’s 1955 six-cylinder Chevy would go over 100 mph. I neglected to say that she would have to drive it over a cliff to reach that speed.

We also loved plastic model cars. My parents would never buy a 1957 Corvette, but for 99 cents I could make a plastic model from a kit.

A few of us would take the plastic motor parts out of one car and put it into another to soup it up. Jimmy Cobb still owes me the Corvette fuel injectors I let him borrow.

Most cars at that time had manual transmissions. A few had automatic. We thought they were “sissy.” Driving a manual transmission nearly squared the skills needed to drive an automatic.

Not only did one have to avoid hitting other cars, ditches, cats and people, but he had to figure what gear he needed to be in.

It was like jumping on one foot, patting your head and rubbing your stomach while counting backwards from a million using only prime numbers.

The true sign of automotive manhood was to pop the clutch when shifting from first to second gear and to spin the wheels.

In Hartwell, Georgia, in the exit lane leading to the Dairy Queen, there are decades of tire rubber where young men tried to impress their friends by pulling out and getting a wheel. Woody Matthews was a high school friend of mine.

He had to make the most difficult decision a young man has ever had to make. Woody’s dad told him that he would buy him a new car.

Together they would select the drive train. Woody could pick either the engine or the transmission.

His dad would pick the other.

Woody picked a four-speed quick shifter. His dad selected a puny ass two-cylinder hamster motor.

I have not outgrown my love of cars.

When I finally got old enough to afford a manual, six-speed, high performance racy thing, I also was old enough to have arthritis in my left knee and could only drive a sissy automatic.

Bill Cordell is a blogger and wealth manager. He lives in Panama City, Florida.

Categories: Opinion