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Jack Miller’s Mid-Missouri Memories: First Car, First Love

'49 Plymouth
vintagecarsandsuch.com

I believe a man has two first loves in his life: one is a girl and the other is a car. I also believe sometimes the love for that car and the memory of it outlasts the first girl.

First Car, First Love

Some things lend themselves so readily to nostalgia that when we think of them, we are immediately transported into the past for a few brief moments to relive an experience. For some it is an old car, train, girlfriend or even an article of clothing from their past. It can even be a taste or smell that triggers the memory. Some triggers are stronger than others, and for men, I believe one of the strongest was probably made in Detroit.

A man sometimes forgets his first girlfriend, but he will never forget his first car. There is a bond between steel and flesh that even a woman can’t eclipse. There are exceptions of course, but ask most men of mature years who their first girlfriend was. A high percentage would give you a name and change it three or four times before settling emphatically on “What’s-her-name”…maybe. I have seen grown men shake off failed relationships with a shrug, then break down and cry over a scratched fender.  There is a fierce pride of ownership that never leaves a man when it comes to the first car he owned, and you can hear it in his voice when he talks about it.  The car, even though it may have been little more than metal held together with baling wire, is never remembered that way. In our minds, the car was faster, fancier and with less rust than was probably the case.

I still remember my first car. I remember “What’s-her-name,” too, but I remember the car better. It was a dark green four-door Plymouth with sun visor, wood grain dash and moon hubcaps.  It was a ’49 Plymouth, and by today or even yesterday’s standards, it was a nerdy car, but I loved it and no one can tell me it wasn’t a great car.  You couldn’t have spun her tires if you tied her to a tree, and she sounded like old folks leaving a church social when I revved her up, but she was mine all mine.

I bought the car because it was all I could afford at the time, and for a while I still coveted the cars my friends had that were faster, sleeker and more attractive to girls than my Plymouth.  I almost felt as if I were cheating on the car when I looked longingly at a car that I knew was better looking than she was.  Slowly, however, the Plymouth’s imperfections that had seemed so glaring to others began to fade, and I saw the car in a whole new light. It could have been resignation I suppose, but I prefer to think of it as the natural state of bonding that comes to a man and his first car.

To all those guys back then with their fancier cars with continental tire kits, twin carburetors, mud flaps and dual exhaust.  I say so what if you left me in your dust and could pick up more girls than I could in those cool cars.  What’s her name and I did just fine, and sometimes she would even help me wax. As the old Plymouth would say, “Udin Udin.”

Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri Memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’

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