Thursday, April 24, 2014
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GUEST COLUMN • Mark Magnan | Automatic memories

I have a friend that sorts eras in his life by the vehicle that he owned at the time. I tend to do this as well so I can certainly see how this happens. When we are together the conversation often turns to cars and sometimes the “rabbit trails” we take get us completely off of the original topic. It is easy to relate a specific time in our lives to something memorable, perhaps a car or more often a location. Of course most of us remember our first car or truck. That is a big event and opened up a new world for us, quite often we did some things that really stick in our memories. Some we might want to erase and some we might be glad that no one else knew about.


Some memories might have been centered around a vehicle, some may be easily tied to the vehicle. At times the car might have made the memory itself. I have had my share of vehicles over the years, some cars, trucks and a few motorcycles. Each one has a memorable time associated with that era in my life, much like my friend. My first vehicle was a pickup truck. It was nothing special but to me it was a great truck. I waxed that thing up and made it shiny, which actually surprised me as to how well it looked. This truck gave me the freedom to move about without having to rely on a parent to transport me around like a mere child, in a way I was now more grown up.
My first real job was working in an auto parts store. Coupled with my interest in cars, I often would work on friend’s vehicles. I also picked up a car here or there and did some minor mechanical work on them and sold the vehicle. A few of the cars that I had would now be worth a lot of money. I had a couple rare ones, and some that were just classics. I also had some that would have been great investments, but slipped through my fingers.
At this time the American muscle car was still popular and on the road. It was easy to get one running well, as you could actually work on the engine. There was just something about those powerhouses that was appealing. I had some nice cars, some I wish I still had or could find again... for a reasonable price. In the long list of cars and trucks that I have owned there is not a single import car, I am proud to say. And I was lucky to not have a real lemon.
Sometimes the car itself can be a special memory. When I was in the Air Force I was far away from home and found myself with one vehicle, a motorcycle. It came time to move back to Texas, so I needed something besides a bike to accomplish this. I lucked out and found a mid 1960’s Lincoln, an older car; I wasn’t of driving age in the mid 60’s. This was a land yacht, a Continental with suicide doors (doors that open facing each other). I reasoned that I could get everything I owned into this car and make the trip to Texas. I also thought that this would be a great car to fix up and sell, or keep as a collector. At the time gas was not obscenely expensive. The car was loaded, a huge powerful engine, power leather seats, lots of luxury items that didn’t really seem to fit in a car from the 1960’s. It also had cruise control - it was a box under the dash. It had a pointer that you set at a certain speed, then pushed a button to engage. It didn’t seem to work at first. So one day I was driving and trying to work the cruise, well it took off. The big engine kicked in moving me down the road while I was trying to wrangle the cruise control box. Finally it returned the operations to me and I was safely driving again. On my trip back to Texas I had everything that I owned packed carefully into the car, leaving enough room for me. I was planning on driving straight through, with a single sleep break. After a day on the road I took a nap, waking up well after midnight I just continued my drive heading toward home. Before long I saw some flashing lights behind me, so I pulled over, reached for my license and paperwork. When I looked up I was surrounded by even more flashing lights and cops. It seems that someone in a Lincoln Continental had just robbed a local store. Apparently there were not that many Continentals out at this time of the early morning and I was in one of them. Within just a few minutes I was cleared and sent on my way. By then I was wide awake and my heartbeat was rather high. That is a night that I wouldn’t forget.