A Testament To The Urealized Dreams Of My Youth
According to the clock, it would still be more than an hour before the sun slipped over the Western horizon and sank into the Pacific, but from my place behind the wheel of my 74 Nova beneath the leaden November skies and running through the steady drizzle, the dark of night was already beginning to ooze its way up and out of the hidden spaces of the great forest that lined either side of the narrow roadway. Ahead, a single mailbox loomed up and out of the mist and I checked its number against the one I had written on a small scrap of paper some hours earlier. To my satisfaction they matched and I pulled off the pavement and onto a long gravel driveway, my headlights cutting a bright swath through the increasingly murky darkness as I worked my way back into the woods.
At the top of the driveway I emerged into a broad clearing that had been hacked out of the living forest and, at the edge of a wide gravel turnaround, found myself looking at a double-wide trailer with several cars parked out front and a recently constructed metal garage. Dogs barked loudly at my arrival and, in response to their cheerful noise, the porch light flicked on and the door suddenly opened. A grizzled man in his mid-thirties man stepped out and extended his hand as he met me at the bottom of a set of roughly hewn wooden steps that led to the door of is humble abode. “I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it.” He said with a smile.
“It was a little further than I expected.” I answered, straightening up from my typical teen-aged slouch and giving him my firmest handshake. Despite his rough looks, he seemed friendly enough and I felt instantly at ease. Looking around, I noted the different cars in the driveway and but it took another moment of to before I found the reason I had come so far up into the mountains, a forlorn looking Nova parked alongside the metal outbuilding, practically invisible in the growing dusk. Together we crunched our way across the gravel toward the old car and it was only when we drew close that I noticed the silver SS badge at the center of its blacked-out grill.
Taken aback, I paused. The classified ad had only mentioned that the man was parting out an old Nova, I hadn’t expected a super sport. When I had called, he had described the car and told be that it still had its bucket seats, a console and some other interior parts that I needed for another old Nova I was trying to fix up and so I had made the trip but now, faced with a real SS, and one that seemed to be in fairly decent shape, I was at a loss how to proceed. “Wow.” I gasped. “Would you like to just sell me the whole thing?”
The man shook his head. “No,” he answered, “I need the sub frame for a truck I’m building. I’m just parting the Nova out to get back some of the money I spent and once people stop coming I’ll cut off the parts I need and graft it onto my Ford.”
I was shocked. “You know,” I offered, “This is a pretty nice car on its own, it seems a shame to cut it up for an old truck.” The man replied with a simple shrug but it spoke volumes and I knew then that he would not be swayed from his chosen course of action. I opened the car’s door and found a beautifully preserved black and white interior, just waiting to be taken. “I can use a lot of this stuff,” I said, “But I only have $50.”
“No one else has asked about it,” he answered, “you can have everything you can carry.” It was almost too good to be true so I paid the man and went to work.
It took about an hour, but by the light of a flashlight I removed the door panels, the console and the buckets and then added a few exterior trim pieces, things like chrome rain gutter trim that I bent horrible trying to remove, in an effort to fill every bit of available space before my long return home. When nothing more would fit, I bid the man a happy farewell and headed home. I had done well, but I felt bad. Sure the car wasn’t perfect, but it was still too good to be scrapped.
My $50 had purchased quite a lot but, had been a little older and a little wiser, there are a lot of other parts I would have taken instead. In my rush to get all of the obvious bits I forgot many of the most important parts, things like the mounting plate and linkage to go with my floor mounted shift lever I had taken and all of the interior trim pieces that would have been required to complete my planned interior swap but in the end it doesn’t really matter. The next morning, in the full light of a new day, I realized that the parts I had seemed far too nice for the gutted piece of junk I was trying to repair and instead I chose to put them into the attic of one of my father’s outbuildings where I knew they would be safe while they awaited their eventual installation in the much better car I was so certain that I would eventually purchase. That purchase never happened and so I imagine that they are still there today, some thirty years later, a moldy, forgotten testament to the unrealized dreams of my youth.
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.
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'74 Nova. In '75 high schools still had mandatory drivers' ed, driving real cars on real streets. Our school's driver ed car was a '74 Nova. Me being an only child in a single parent car-less family grew up with little to no hands on car experience but the driver ed car turned me on to cars. I learned to drive, change a tire, check fluids, change fuses all on that '74 Nova. All the hands on learning paid off for me, including how to deal with the finicky seat belt ignition lock out.
I just recently did a major purge of parts for cars I no longer own. But, I still have a pristine set of wheels for a Spitfire, as well as wheels for a '93 Mustang SVT Cobra, and my long-gone Boxster. I think it's part of the car-guy disease. Oh, and just out of curiosity, did you mean to say “I was beginning to think you were going to make it.” Or, "I was beginning to think you WEREN'T going to make it."