(From “HW” comes a tale of a Corvette, a hot-blooded Alfa Veloce, and a young Italian wife with romance on her mind.)
Sam, a good friend of mine, had lusted after a particular 1965 Corvette Stingray, and had somehow finally acquired the object of his desires. However, the cost of putting on 23 coats of a gorgeous, dark, lipstick red paint and clear coat, of making mechanical improvements, and paying for necessary auto insurance (Sam was under 25 and single) kept him totally broke for a period of time.
We had a lot of fun running around Louisiana in the ‘Vette, but his automotive mistress was keeping him in the poorhouse. Sam wasn’t some rich kid, so he reluctantly decided to sell his mistress. But he had a plan. He would get another car before he sold the ‘Vette. That way he could hold out for the best money on his beauty.
Sam’s goal was to find a more economical car with a little flair. He located a “good used car” up in north central Louisiana, some hundred or so miles away. Sam asked me to go and look it over with him. He also asked that I loan him the money to buy the car, which he would repay after selling the ‘Vette.
We jumped in the topless ‘Vette on a clear cool autumn day and roared across the Mississippi River Bridge to a rural tree laden community whose only claim to fame was a pulp and paper mill. There was still an abundance of beautiful deciduous trees turning every color of the fall. Naturally, the town was named Pineville.
The paper mill’s chief engineer had just come back from Italy, where had been sent to be trained on the complexities of a new paper machine that his mill was having installed. It was his first trip abroad, and he spent many months in Italy. In the time that he was there, he had fallen in love with all things Italian. Therefore, it made perfect sense to him to bring home an Italian car.
We arrived at the engineer’s house windblown and sunburned. Parked in the drive was an Alfa Romeo sedan. A Veloce. One of Alfa’s best-kept secrets. A real street rocket in disguise. This car was faster than the carabinieri’s cars back home in Italy, equipped with dual Webers, four-wheel disk brakes, and a slick five-speed transmission.
This particular car was forest green with a tan leather interior, and had apparently been recently rebuilt with many high performance improvements. The engineer invited Sam to drive the car, but Sam demurred, saying, “Let him drive it (pointing at me) and if he likes it, I’ll buy it.” The engineer seemed to think this unusual, but he climbed in the back, Sam got in the passenger side, and I slipped behind the wheel.
At the time the area around Pineville was very rural with plenty of great, paved, two lane roads, provided by the former governor, Huey “The Kingfish” Long. As soon as the Alfa warmed up, I began to push the car really fast, and I mean really fast. I ran up through the gears on the straights, downshifted on the approaches to curves and turns, and accelerated out. My sports car racing experience was showing. I don’t think I ever drove better.
After 15 to 20 minutes or so of this foolishness, I turned into, and idled slowly down, the engineer’s driveway. As we came to a halt, the engineer leaped out of the back seat of the Alfa and ran into the house shouting something in Italian.
Sam and I looked at each other rather quizzically and got out of the car. About this time the car’s owner came back out of the house pulling a lovely, dark haired woman by the hand. She was dressed in a very low cut peasant blouse and a full skirt.
With his recently acquired half-command of Italian, the engineer was struggling to find the right words to explain something to his stunningly beautiful Italian wife. Finally, he says to me, “My wife doesn’t speak English and is really homesick for Italy. One of the things she misses especially is riding in fast cars. Her brother is a racing driver and she used to love riding with him around Italy. I can’t drive like that. Please take her for a fast ride. I would really appreciate it.”
Who was I to deny her such a small pleasure? I opened the door and invited her into the car. As she got in, her skirt hiked up, showing a gorgeous pair of legs. I got behind the wheel as Sam and the husband walked off, talking cars and deals. She was looking at me with an air of expectation and a smile, and she didn’t pull her skirt down.
Out the driveway I went and, as I turned down the road, floored the accelerator. With this kind of lovely passenger, I was inspired. As the speeds picked up, I saw her eyes light up. She bounced around in the seat, murmuring in Italian. It would have been so nice to understand her exclamations!
The air was buffeting thru the car and her long dark hair was swirling about her head. Her skirt and blouse floated and billowed, offering impressive views of her olive skin. On one long straight, the trees formed a cathedral like tunnel that I flew though at 100 miles per hour plus.
Rusty colored leaves were flying everywhere in a swirl behind us, and she began shouting, “Avanti!, Avanti!, Avanti!” As we came around the next bend I saw a stop sign ahead. I jumped on the brakes and downshifted to a screeching halt. I looked left and then, as I looked right, she grabbed me and gave me a full blown embrace and a passionate deep kiss!
She was totally intoxicating. We sat there and looked at each other for a few seconds — and then she smiled, and put her finger to her mouth in the universal sign for Don’t say anything. I reluctantly looked away, turned out on the main road, and we raced back down the highway to her home, with her hair flying in the wind, to her continued encouragement of, “Avanti!, Avanti!, Avanti!”
I will never forget the excitement in those eyes, those lips, and that lovely hair. I never even knew her name.
Oh, by the way, Sam bought the Alfa. There were tragic results to that purchase, but that’s a story for another day …