Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 27 June 2009

The US car - a key to culture

Recent transatlantic exchanges have induced an Americo-nostalgia for the car life we enjoyed there. Our VW station wagon was called a Variant in the UK and – possibly because Variant might be misread as Deviant - a Squareback in the US. It was used, among other things, for the 600-plus mile drive from Pittsburgh to stay with friends in Massachusetts.

Rather than take the narrow, dangerously curvaceous, elderly Pennsylvania Expressway we drove north to the Interstate which passed through comparatively wild scenery. Once Mrs BB spotted a bear; more gruesomely we came across a dead deer with a car, 150 yards away, in hardly any better condition than the deer.

The Squareback cost $5 to fill up which now seems unbelievable. We were guided by well-detailed state maps free from the oil companies. With its engine located virtually above the back wheels, the car was much steadier in snow than, say, a Chevy Impala.

The VW was a vital cultural tool. Some nights we drove perhaps 50 miles to a drive-in movie theatre where more than one feature was shown and I regret we never took advantage of The All-Night Spookathon - Free Doughnut at Dawn. Our two daughters would watch the first movie which had a general rating. Valiantly our elder daughter would try to remain awake for the more adult second movie (“Catch 22” comes to mind) but would flake out into a bed made up in the back with the rear seats folded away.

Sound from the movie came from a box wired to a post and hung on the inside of the car door. It was advisable to replace the box on its post before driving away.


The Crow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crow said...

(Sorry, BB...had to correct the numerous typos. This, with corrections, is what I wrote.)

My favorite cars were the VW Beetles I owned. Lots of good stories to tell the grandson, when he's older, about the adventures one can have in a VW bug.

There aren't many drive-in theatres left in Pennsylvania, and daughter tells me that the one she likes to frequent no longer has the speaker boxes -- you have to tune your car's radio to some frequency to pick up the broadcast, which necessitates running the engine at some point to keep the battery from draining juice.

Nice post, this.

marja-leena said...

Aah, familiar memories, except ours was with a hand-me-down 54 VW Beetle, which did not even have a gas gauge. That was followed by our first new car, the 1970 Beetle and secondhand vans for camping. Those were the days. I still miss those free road maps.

As an aside, did you hear that VW had no losses in 2008, unlike most others?

Relucent Reader said...

My brother had a VW "Super Beetle" in the late 70's. Nice car, until he drove it from Texa to Massachusetts; tore the guts out of it, really bad compression. When he got settled in he rebuilt the engine and had it repainted, almost good as new.
A VW station wagon is a candidate for my next auto; I like 'wagons though not too many are available over here.Dodge has a 'Magnum'; more of a 'sport wagon' than this driver could stand. Besides, I took a vow against Dodges after my '83 Charger.
There might be one Drive-in left here in VA. I saw many films in the family wagon. J. Wayne's The Alamo.

Barrett Bonden said...

All: See what I mean about Americo-nostalgia? And I suffer from it too. Old cars and barbecues - perfect jumping-off points for Norman Rockwell style reminiscences. I get more sentimental about the six years spent in Pennsylvania than a similar period of youth spent in the Bradford suburb known as Idle.

Avus said...

Trouble with VW Beetles was the need to have double-jointed ankles to accomodate the acute angle needed for manipulating the pedals. I am much involved with buses and find the VW minibus (17 seater) has similar pedal problems in that it is easy to depress both brake and accelerator together.
When last in Germany (having driven said VW bus thereto) I made a survey of German feet expecting them to be (a) acutely bent and (b) excessively petite

Barrett Bonden said...

I'm sure there is a philosophical equivalent (enunciated by a German philosopher, natürlich) of simultaneously pressing the brake and the accelerator: vorwärts-bremsen perhaps, representing a state of suspended animation.