This is the only photo I could find of what I “affectionately” called the Custom Cruiser. It’s that old heap of a car, covered in snow, that dad had obviously backed into with his pickup.
It was a brown Plymouth Custom Satellite [I have no idea the year, although I think it’s safe to say OLD] that my dad had bought for $100 for my sister to go back and forth to college her freshman year. The following year I turned 14, she got a better car and I was able to drive with a school permit… which means the Custom Cruiser was mine-all-mine…
People, trust me when I tell you that if such a thing as regulations for a car exist, this one didn’t meet any of them. The first day the car became '”mine” dad gave me a lesson in how to check the oil, and then we took it to town so he could show me how to properly power wash the car.
We put in our tokens and dad provided a few pointers like, “Now honey, if a guy would just hold the sprayer like so, you’re going to get the best angle for cleaning underneath…” But sadly, I never got to hear the rest of dad’s power washing wisdom because the car literally started falling apart.
Yep. The old Custom Cruiser appeared to be held together by the rust and dirt that had been accumulating over its many years of use. Instead of learning the finer points of a good wash, my dad’s advice turned into, “Don’t ever wash this car.”
Trust me, I didn’t. But I did check the oil every single time I filled the gas tank. Apparently that is my dad’s number one rule of car ownership, and it stuck with me.
Of course, being 14, I wasn’t truly all that concerned with washing it anyway… what I was concerned with was the fact that it only had an 8-track player. [If you don’t know what an 8-track player is, feel free to come to my house so I can slap you for making me feel old.] After a short time of having nothing to listen to other than the Carpenters and Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” I figured out a way to rig a cassette player into the stereo. It was quite the system, trust me.
The best part of the beater car was that I could go all sorts of places in it and put all sorts of dings in it, and no one would ever be the wiser. My friends and I could go places were weren’t allowed [remember… it was just a school permit] by taking gravel roads, and no one noticed we had done it because my car was always filthy. In reality, we were probably helping to hold the thing together by adding the extra dirt. We would have to wait for the fog to clear inside the car, however, as the dust from the gravel roads would billow in through the rust holes on the floor in the back.
I may have just discovered the cause of my asthma.
The funniest mishap, to me, was when my best friend Katie wanted to drive. She didn’t have a car yet and had no driving experience, which at 14 didn’t sound like that big of deal to us. So she hopped into my car and went to back it out of the garage… and promptly scraped it across the side of the garage door frame, putting a huge dent into the side of the car.
We were FREAKING OUT. I was so afraid of getting in trouble, and Katie didn’t want her parents to know she was driving… so we did the only logical thing we could think of. We put the car in the garage and pretended it never happened.
Funny thing is, that solution totally worked. The car was such a junker that dad never noticed an extra dent, and about a year later when he did notice a scrape on the garage door frame he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Hmm… wonder how that got there.” Since it didn’t seem to be a direct question to me I didn’t think it required a direct answer from me.
But now that the truth is out there… Katie, you might be getting a call from my dad.
[This is Katie and me; I would show you a photo of us at 14, but either my hair would be scary short (I was bucking the trends) or it was long and we both had wings on the side of our heads that made us look like we were about to take flight. This was by far the safest option.]