Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Girl

***Note: This Blog submission also appears on my Octopus Moustache blog***

I'm in love--in love with a car. As it turns out, its not just one car either, it is more like a type of car. In a world of automotive cliches there are Ford people, Chevy people, VW people, and among the ongoing list you have your Mopar people. I am officially in the latter category. I am a Mopar girl. Mopar encompasses Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth makes and models. The word itself derives from Motor Parts. Hence, Mopar. I'm not really sure how it happened, not just my preference for Mopar but the whole darn thing. How did I become a junior gear head?

If I were a dude it would be a bit less befuddling. Dudes have a built in love of cars. I'm not a dude though, I'm a 29 year old female who has just within the last 5 years discovered the art of turning a wrench. I can pin point it back to the mopeds. My dad scored a free Vespa Piaggo that launched a whole stable full of the little buggars. When he dragged the first one home it was He and my two brothers who tooled on it till it sputtered to life. I remember them all in the backyard messing around until the sun went down. Where was I? I'm pretty sure I was doing my hair (a mohawk at least). I guess I had other things on the mind. When I rode that first bike though, everything changed. The work they had put into it resulted in something fun--that you could ride up and down the street at a raucous 30 mph. It wasn't until I got my own moped that I realized it takes almost more work than fun to operate them. Soon I was the one in the backyard cleaning a carb till the sun set on my back. I met a lot of awesome people, all gear heads in some way or another within the moped community. I realized that there were lots of people keeping these things alive. Suddenly I was doing it too. We could all swap advice & tricks I was actually learning how to do stuff on my own. It felt great! Soon my one bike became 3 and 4 and I was officially a junior gear head.

The cross over to automobiles was a huge leap. At first it was way more than I could handle on my own. I had run off and impulsively bought a '63 Dodge Dart for $600. The car itself had an allure I somehow could not deny. It ran well enough on the test drive but as soon as it was in my name, it collapsed in the driveway. There it sat for a couple of months. I was making calls to friends from the moped community seeking advice and finally my bestie, Robin told me to tow it to LA where he would help me get it up and runnin' again. We did some "hacker" type stuff, Robin's version of Mac Gyver meets Mad Max. I was sent on my way back to Ventura and had a pretty awful break down. I made it to Burbank where the car was stranded. I called my friend Jeff who graciously towed it to his friend's auto shop. There I met the coolest most on-the-level bunch of Mopar guys. They knew and loved the Dodge Dart in and out. Jeff is the type of auto genius that can tell you a part number from memory. Amazing. Those guys took the helm and each weekend for two months I went to City of Industry and we wrenched on that old beater. By the time it was finished I essentially had a new car in an old body. They christened it with a beautiful blue engine paint job to match the name of the car, Ol' Blue.

I drove Blue back to Ventura and settled into the ownership of a 45 year old vehicle. Once dialed in Blue's trusty 170 Slant Six never let me down. There were some minor problems but nothing I couldn't fix my self once I knew what was wrong. I even survived a rear end collision in that car but that's another story entirely. It took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. I drove it nearly every day for three years. I was smitten and the deal was sealed that I was a Mopar fan.

In those three years I finally realized that my friends & family aren't always going to be on hand to help me out, so this semester I signed up for an automotive class at the college. Its a good thing I enrolled when I did because just this last week I purchased a "new" old car. I had almost-inadvertently, mostly-on-purpose discovered another cool classic car that I was dying to have. I had to make some deals with the powers that be to get the new car. I sold my Ol' Blue who ran as good as ever but was looking worse for the wear to a fellow who had always wanted a Dart. The next day I went to LA to pick up my dream car.

It is, get this...a 1963 Dodge Dart! Starting to notice a trend?? The real deal breaker is that in addition to being in better shape than Blue, it is a station wagon. Yup. The coolest in my opinion of all the models. Now even though she's nicer looking, I am basically starting over with the mechanical aspect and this time I'm on my own. I have of course already had mechanical problems. I replaced the water pump and some hoses on day one of ownership and then had a bout with it not starting which turned out to be a carb issue. The good news is, we can take our cars into class! Tonight we replaced the points in the distributor together. The look on everyone's faces when I pulled my throaty slant 6 into the bay was priceless. Every guy in there (I'm the only girl) wanted to know what make and model it was. Most of 'em had never seen a 3 on the tree before and some had never even seen a carburetor! They were all amazed by the spacious engine compartment, by the accessibility of all the parts and her smooth 60's styling. Yup, me and my girl wowed those dudes.

Its all starting to sink in now. The fact that I have committed myself to keeping this beast alive and that in return it is committed to getting me around town in style. In the history of cars there is no other motor as famed for reliability than the slant six. Nor is there any other car with the bulletproof reputation of the Dodge Dart and I know that together we are going places.

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