My 1974 Nova was as utilitarian as they come. It was a low optioned base model with a 250 CID inline six mounting a one barrel carb and backed by a three speed manual with a column mounted shift lever. It had so few options that on the inside it had a rubber floors, vinyl seats and a pegboard for a headliner. Outside there was no decoration, nary a pinstripe nor so much as a strip of trim to protect the car’s flanks from door dings. It was a plain, gutless, spiritless little car that inspired no passion or love from anyone other than the 17 year old boy who owned it. To me it was, and still is, one of the greatest cars ever built.
We see them everywhere, plain, utilitarian tools that carry people to and fro without a bit of drama. Although our eyes register them we seldom pay them any real attention, but if we took the time to really look we would be shocked at just how many there are. They are all around us, owned by respectable people who need a good, solid car and nothing more. If other, better, cars are like fine food and drink for the connoisseur, these are the cars that fill the bellies of the masses. They are the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes of the road.
Looking over the list of cars that I have owned over the years, it turns out that most of them fall into the meat and potatoes category. Oh sure, sometimes I added some ketchup or steak sauce to the meal– the turbo on my otherwise proletarian Dodge Shadow, for example – but for the most part I have always stayed true to my working class roots. I have never owned a Porsche, a Mercedes, a Jaguar or an Audi, nothing exotic at all, really. I did for a time own a JDM Twin Turbo Supra, but, truth be told, it was old and thanks to the odd way the Japanese used car market works, I only paid around $600 for it. No, most of the time I have owned fairly pedestrian, middle of the road, mass market cars. That’s a sad thing for an auto enthusiast who writes for a car blog to admit right? Bullshit, I’ve had a good time and I’ve owned some great cars.
A car that hits all the right spots is a glorious thing. It doesn’t matter if it is old, out of style, under-optioned or unpopular, if it gets the job done and makes you smile it is something to be enthusiastic about. I remember getting up the day after we brought that Nova home and looking out the window to make sure that I hadn’t dreamed the whole thing. I’ve done the same thing almost a dozen times since and, no matter what was in the driveway, each time I’ve thrown open the curtain it has been like Christmas morning.
Novas like mine once graced driveways and garages all across middle America. When their original owners moved on, they were passed to kids like me. Some were hot rodded, some were crashed and some were simply used until they could no longer be used. Over time their numbers dwindled. Most of those that have survived into the present day have been performance variants, and plain Jane, straight-six three-on-the-tree cars like mine are a rare breed. It’s sad, but oddly appropriate too. Like the people they served, us average work-a-day Americans who struggled through life, who have had our ups and downs, raised our families as best we could and worked to be, above all else, dependable good citizens, they made the world work. Like the greatest generation, they are remembered as a group for all they have done and those remaining individuals are now respected senior citizens who garner praise and admiration wherever they go.
Today I will fire up my little Pontiac Torrent and go somewhere. I don’t know where yet, but when I do I’ll do it atop scratchy cloth seats and surrounded by hard plastic. It won’t be a remarkable experience, but my trip will be completed in economy, warmth and relative comfort. I’ll do the same thing tomorrow and the day after and for years to come until the Pontiac becomes so worn and unreliable that I am forced to move on to something newer. Perhaps then I will pass it on to my son or one of my daughters. If we do our jobs right, it might even live to see the day when just seeing it makes people smile and remember that better, simpler time in their lives when their government really listened to them, politicians were honest and children were respectful. Until that time comes, I’ll be sure to give it a little pat on the hood once in a while to let it know I appreciate it in the here and now. We are, after all, the same.
Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.