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 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 challenges.  
 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 your dates. 
 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 and garage. 
 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 of me.
 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 it.  Now. 
 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 down.  
 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.
 

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