My car might have feathers

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

I live far enough out of town, that if I want to take a walk, I have to drive.

Because of that, I am going through an awkward adult phase. I’m considering buying a new car. I need a sensible car to go with my sensible shoes.

This phoenix aflame or images closely resembling it came on the hoods of many Pontiac Firebirds from 1970 to 1981. While Pontiac no longer exists, the Firebird remains one of the most famous automotive birds.

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I once owned a vehicle that was capable of going 55 mph unless the radio was on — then 50 was the top speed. The defroster in that auto was my breath. I parked that car at the top of a hill so that I could release the parking brake and allow the car to roll down the hill. It was a reluctant starter and this was how I got it to start. Just getting it to the top of the hill was cause to sound the trumpets.

Another car of mine insisted on honking its horn each time a turn was made. It didn’t care if it was a left or a right turn. It was an equal opportunity honker. Had I driven that car to Alaska, Canada would have made me go around.

Cars have their own names, but I gave that tooting rattletrap some new names.

Back when I thought that everything was forever, a decent car was a peach out of reach for me. I pumped my brakes in my sleep. My father had that saying about automobiles that most fathers had, “Run hot, run not.” I drove cars that had a shared, single goal — to run hot. Fortunately, that situation has changed. My current Battmobile has been a superb car. It’s getting up there in miles and I’ve been giving thought to buying a new car. I’d purchase another model like the one I currently drive, but it’s no longer manufactured. That is the destiny of all good products.

I don’t know much about cars. I used to, but I’ve forgotten. Changing the oil in a car has become as easy for me as attempting to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity at a Super Bowl party. Whenever I need to do some simple car maintenance, I have the feeling as if I had come to view the body. When it comes to auto repair, I’m two time zones behind my own rear end. I try to fix things by staring at them. I open the hood and gaze at the engine in the hopes of remedying a problem by wishing it so. Yes, I’m one of those men who stare at motors. I never say, “I can fix that.” Engines sing hymns that this organist can’t play. Because of my mechanical maladroitness, I have no clue as to what car to buy. I look at cars in the showroom and nod, pretending to understand what the car salesman is saying.

I considered a Buick, but when I was a lad, only old people and doctors drove Buicks. I rode countless miles in a Blue Bird school bus. Maybe that’s why I love watching birds. Birds bring me joy and enhance my existence. It makes sense that I should drive a car named for a bird. How many of you have owned a car named for a bird? Let’s have a show of hands. Impressive numbers.

Pontiac Firebird, Pontiac Sunbird, Pontiac Phoenix, Buick Skylark, Plymouth Roadrunner, Ford Falcon, Ford Thunderbird, Studebaker Lark, Hudson Hawk, Suzuki Swift, Humber Snipe, Aston Martin Cygnet, Ford Escort Harrier, Stutz Blackhawk (Elvis Presley owned one), Ford Escort Osprey, Toyota Tercel (a tercel is a male falcon), Corbin Sparrow, Humber Hawk, AMC Eagle, Datsun (Nissan) Bluebird, Jeep Golden Eagle, Packard Hawk, Reliant Robin and Eagle.

Automobile manufacturers have wisely refrained from using “Albatross” as a model name. “Albatross” is often used metaphorically to describe a psychological burden that approaches a curse. This derives from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Car model names are not limited to birds. The names bounce all over the wildlife realm. There is the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Mustang, Plymouth Barracuda, Ford Bronco, Cobra, Mercury Cougar, Datsun Honeybee, Chevrolet Impala, Jaguar, Volkswagen Rabbit, Dodge Ram, Corvette Sting Ray, Dodge Viper, AMC Hornet, etc.

There is a true menagerie with four wheels, but I think I’ll stick with something named for a bird. I want a vehicle that’s not too much, not too little — just right.

My wife suggested that if Toyota produced a model called the Turkey, it might be the perfect car for me.

I might have to wait for the Chevrolet Chickadee to come out.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.