Friday Favorites 8/22/2014
I grew up in what was probably a lower middle class neighborhood, not that I even thought about such things back then. It was my neighborhood and I was happy there. Sure, I knew there were more affluent families and more upscale neighborhoods but I didn’t care. I took it for granted that some of my friends had more money and some, less. Some friends bought their clothes down at the shops around Yale University … I bought mine at the discount stores like Anderson Little. A few kids had their own cars. Quite a few came from multi-car families so they had ready access to a car. My family had one car, Dad’s. If Mom needed a car, she drove him to work then picked him up. When I started to drive, sometimes, I’d do it for her … and sometimes, I’d do it for me so I could drive to school. Dad was very reasonable about letting me borrow the car for dates and such, although he usually let me do my best negotiator routine before he handed me the keys.
When you’ve never had a car, your first car is special, no matter what it is and I was lucky. I got a good engineering position right out of college and my Dad co-signed for an auto loan. I bought a brand new 1966 Alfa Romeo Spyder convertible, light grey with a red interior. I bought it against the advice of almost every adult in my life. Dad: Are you sure you want a foreign car, son? Yes, Dad. My uncle Bill: Those Italian cars will give you nothing but trouble. My dentist, for Pete’s sake: Italians in Italy buy Corvettes. That’s what you should do. But did I love that car even though within a few years I realized I probably should have listened.
The Alfa’s high tech engine had sodium valves that were meant to disperse heat at higher rpm but unfortunately, they needed to be adjusted (expensive) every 3000 miles … and if you didn’t adjust them, they burned (very expensive). The electrical system was iffy at best … occasionally, driving through the back roads around the University of Connecticut at night, the headlights would just go out. Sometimes it would be the radio. I got very good at tracing wires to find loose connectors. The heater kept the interior of the car toasty warm … as long as the temperature didn’t go below 45 degrees. After one winter, I bought an after-market heater from Sears-Roebuck and installed it in the car. Really. But, oh, was it fun to drive, especially with the top down in the autumn with the colorful leaves filling the air in my wake. And I looked good driving it, if I do say so myself.
Shortly before Muri and I got married, I traded my Alfa in for a Volvo, which wasn’t very sporty but didn’t break down, kept us warm in the winter and lit the way on winter nights reliably. But, of course, I didn’t learn … we bought a Fiat 850 Spyder as a second car about a year later. And I learned what FIAT stands for … Fix It Again, Tony. But the truth is, I have no regrets … isn’t youth about making mistakes? And aren’t you doing OK if all they cost is money?
Yep. 1966 Alfa Romeo Spyder. First car. Friday Favorite.