You canít get there from here.
I was in my freshman year in college,
hormones raging. Gene, my New Jersey roommate with the bulging muscles
and a suave way with women had her but was required to keep her off campus.
Yes, that's right, freshmen were not allowed to have cars on campus.
She was more than a car though, a 1959 Alpha Giulietta Spider, red and
slightly faded but ever so comely with her top down. We didn't push
her hard, it was obvious that she was foreign, exotic and a little on the
delicate side. Nevertheless, her motor seized two months into the
Fall semester and for lack of funds but not lack of trying, we all had
to bid good-bye.
Several months later, Gene's older
brother, an engineer at General Dynamics, had the poor sense to loan Gene
his new Italian exotic, a Fiat 124 Spider. She was young but quick
and managed to accommodate three of us on a 36 hour jaunt. Being
of the 50th percentile in height, I was berthed in the rear shelf space
for the duration and came to understand the medical definition of sciatica.
We tore along country roads to the University of Rhode Island in search
of one of Gene's former high school flames. The flame was out but
her roommates, against house rules, allowed us to stay the night with them
drinking Chianti in the anteroom of their dorm. Nice cultured girls.
Just what we weren't looking for.
These were my formative years, and
these indelible impressions of two seat foreign roadsters competed with
thoughts of leggy co-eds, often oscillating in my mind, roughly at the
frequency of alternating current.
That Spring the mini-skirts returned
to campus with a vengeance. One of them was required to chase yellow
and white butterflies with me on the rolling Connecticut hills above the
University's dairy barn for a zoology class. It must have been my
distraction with the experiment that caused her to fend off my continued
glances with an engaging aside that her husband wished to sell his sports
car. Two semesters of lustful thoughts were finally focused. We drove
to Coventry (Connecticut that is) so that I could view this faded red 1962
Triumph TR4 that "needed a little work." After being assured that
she would start and that the Bondo along her haunches was typical for the
breed, we negotiated a price of $350.00. Because I could not yet
manage a standard, her husband was kind enough to escort her to my Pop's
house, some 50 miles away.
I know I should have warned Pop,
a basic transportation kind of guy who had obtained his driver's license
and first car at the age of 36 after moving from the Big Apple to the suburbs.
For that translocation I thank you Pop, for I would never have come to
know the pleasures of solo, open cockpit motoring on back country roads.
Aviator shades, terry cloth headband, ponytail flying and Buffalo Springfield
wafting past the rag top. Oh, to do it again. Neither the Major
Deegan nor the Cross Bronx Expressway would have been survivable
driving like this in a roadster.
Pop's loan of $600.00 managed to
get her in a condition worthy to pass the State physical despite the fact
that neither gas gauge, horn nor turn signals worked consistently, the
tires were almost bald, the driver's window would drop into the door unless
lowered gingerly, and anything but the early morning Northeast mist would
result in cockpit precipitation over the driver's legs and head.
Still, she was mine, my first, and I loved her. Despite her finicky
ways, she provided me with hours and hours of motoring and basic mechanical
Like the first time it rained. I
committed the cardinal sin of easing my accelerator foot, performed two
360's and found myself explaining to Mr. Paleschi how I had plowed his
side yard and taken down his rose garden fence. Or the time that
I attempted to nudge the car farther into my father's carport behind his
'64 Impala sedan. You know the sporty one with the full wheel covers, devoid
of the B frame pillar. I managed to buck my beauty's bonnet into
that massive chrome Chevy bumper, smashing her right headlight. My
father just stared out the carport door and shook his head. He is
a reserved man of measured words.
Or the time my buddy and I stowed
our sleeping bags and camping gear in the boot, you know the one without
the lock, and weathered two hours of rain (within the cockpit) before we
reached Burlingame Campgrounds at the beach in Rhode Island. It was
a very successful camping trip in that we were able to illegally purchase
several six-packs of Carling Black Label and Colt 45 for entertainment
purposes. This was the source of another big lesson. There
just ain't no room in a two seater to entertain yourself, your buddy and
We also spent innumerable hours
together getting alternator brushes redone and even performing my first
unassisted operation. A ventral through the belly evisceration of
clutch and pressure plate after careful blunt dissection and removal of
the seats. This technique was alleged to be easier than the conventional
dorsal approach on a lift. Yeh, right. I still retain a large ball
bearing assembly somehow left over from the transplant procedure after
she was all closed up. Lack thereof didn't seem to hinder her performance
any. In retrospect, kind of an automotive sterilization.
The next month, on my way to the
best summer job I'd ever found, trimming head-stones at the cemetery, I
lurched my rusted beauty into the intersection just as the light turned
green. I guess I was attempting to look smart for the young chickie
behind me in her mom's Comet. Good driving habits are learned, especially
if you live long enough. The International Harvester 4X4 was attempting
to run the red light and did manage to perform that feat, only after trashing
the diminutive TR4 just forward of the cockpit. I went to see her
at the car lot to which she was towed and managed to scavenge her wooden
shift knob and chrome hubcap with the hand painted Triumph insignia.
These mementos of our short but intense affair are still displayed prominently
in the only places any family man can truely call his own. My desk
Pop was in a delightful mood the
rest of the summer. He arranged to get me a $650 insurance
settlement. As far as I could tell, my new girlfriend couldn't tell
the difference between the fine leather of the TR4 and the naugahide of
Pop's Mercury Crown Colony wagon, my borrowed ride for the rest of the
summer. So those are my last memories of open air, top down fun that
I occasionally dissolve to when active cognitive functions are not required
Twenty-five years later. I had just
finished pedaling my tail off for 15 miles on the Cape Cod Rail Trail from
Nauset to South Wellfleet and was driving back in my post-exertional, cerebral
alpha wave state when I saw her approaching me along Route 137. A
TR6. She was younger than my previous beauty but still at least 20 years
of age. She was well appointed wearing a beautiful brilliant blue with
top neatly stowed beneath a black toneau cover and fitted with a padded
roll bar. Gorgeous, just gorgeous. I flashed back to the previous
paragraphs you just suffered through.
You don't see many Triumphs nowadays.
Those that you do find are pretty well beat and rusted or have been autocrossed
to death and are on their second or third, highly modified motors.
The rental Ford Windstar was finding
its own way back from the trampolines on route 28 with my three young ones
still bouncing in the back seat when I saw her again, parked in front of
a yacht sales yard in Harwichport. A mile and a half later
I took this to be a sign from God, made a U-turn and returned to stare
at her up close. In fact, she was flawless, not a blemish.
Not even a hairline crack in her dash. Her haunches were virginal
and firm to the touch. No Bondo here. She had headers, dual
split exhausts, custom finned aluminum wheels with oversized Michelin radial
tires, a Nardi custom wooden steering wheel, a Bose sound system.
Just incredible, a 10, a sure 10. She was well kept. Somebody's
baby all right. So I went inside and inquired as to the owner, just
wanting to BS about Triumphs awhile. He told me he was only her second.
It had taken him two years of begging to convince her first to let her
go. For quite a high price at that. Just 17,000 original miles. Why
she had hardly been around the block. She was his dream too.
Speaking of dreams, he confessed
that in his heart he really lusted after a '67 Vette and maybe he would
consider selling. But he was conflicted and confused with these awkward
revelations. This after I confessed that I almost joined the
Air Force in medical school just to ante up the worth to have one such
as she. We departed. I would call.
It was too good to be true.
Cape Cod vacation and my understanding wife agreeing that if this was a
deeply held, unrequited adolescent fantasy, that I should fulfill
So we met to inspect her body up
close, crawl and lie supine under her chassis, and cruise her along back
winding country roads. Her exhaust note was pure, deep and throaty.
The seats were canted far back like couches so that my head almost touched
the padded roll bar. Geez, I forgot what it was like just to recline
back in a British two-seater. So I let the clutch up, just a short
play in this one. I smiled as she grabbed and lurched forward as
she engaged. But not as energetically as I remembered. Although
she was fairly tight for a well kept 20 year old, her stance was kind of
loose. Despite the retrofitted anti-sway bars, she leaned significantly
in the corners. Although she effused a lot of noise, we didn't
seem to be covering as much ground in time as I had covered in my mind.
I quickly approached a sense of denouement and the corners of my lips turned
It was then that I realized that
you can never go back. Just like an old girlfriend. They are
never quite as you recollect. Yes, look back, but never go back.
Memories are best relived in the recesses of the mind and not acted upon.
Not only is it less bruising of your psyche, but its also cheaper that
way. Any good divorce lawyer will tell you that.
You see, I have been spoiled by
a new, curvy, svelte thing. A teutonic metallic deep burgundy red
beauty that even raises her tail when she runs. Perky gesture.
One with all-wheel drive, 282 horsepower, 18 inch wide rubber under an
exaggerated curvy body. She plays with you. Shoving you back in the seat
forcefully. And when she's had enough forward momentum, violently
throws you toward her uplifted front fenders, holding you firmly
in four point black belts that arrest you abruptly as you gasp for air
. And the exhaust note, so musical and animalistic that it alternately
entertains and excites. A rhythmic basso profundo suffused with gurgling
thrills of lubricant surging from the dry sump. Yes, and her top
is quite firm, and in the right light, you can even see-through it.
So you see, know that I'm more mature, it's senseless to even wink at that
British drop top.