Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Well, it's not the General Lee...

Once upon a time I heard a Car Talk episode where the guys were talking with a woman who was referring to her car by name. Not GTO or Camry; more like Maryanne or something of that nature.  Tom and Ray then went into a discussion about how only women name their cars, at which I took umbrage.

Really?  You got annoyed with Click and Clack?  You need to lighten up.

It was because their theory was flawed.  I had direct evidence of this, in the fact that my dad named several of his cars since I've been alive.  At that time, oh, 15 years ago, I thought about emailing them about how they were way off base, but never got around to it.  So here's my semi-public refutation of their proclamation and alternate hypothesis:  Only people with imagination name their cars.

My dad had a parade of named cars, starting with a 1964 Mercury Comet convertible, which my father called Big Daddy.  I think he thought that was funny, since it was considered a small car for the vintage.  It had been his first car, and sat in our garage in various states of functionality for my entire life.  It would probably run today, if my brother could find some lead additive for the gas tank.

Later, there was a 1982-ish Ford Mustang convertible, which he called Junior, for reasons I found obvious.  It was the car in which he drove me to my wedding.  Big Daddy was my first choice, but he was not up for the 40 mile journey from the house to the church where I got married.

When I was in high school, Dad bought a 1985-ish Ford Mustang which he called The Howlin' Wolf, because it was so noisy.  It was his own personal car not to share, because at the time no one else in the house knew how to drive manual transmission.  We also had a 1986 Ford Mustang which I named Lazarus because it died and was resurrected so many times.   That car took several beatings, and just kept running.  Once my brother ran it into the garage door when he was about 14 while trying to move it so he could play basketball in the driveway.  I took it to college my junior year, where I learned to keep a screw driver beside my seat so I could jam it in the butterfly on the carburetor when it slammed shut, preventing the car from starting for lack of oxygen.  The paint color was the light-blue metallic fleck that Ford eventually recalled because the paint just fell off after about 5 years.  Unfortunately, we were not the original owners, so they wouldn't honor the recall on Lazarus.  I had a friend who told me it looked like I had re-entered Earth's atmosphere without my heat shields.  A car that gets that much attention definitely needs a name.  My dad and the aforementioned brother finally set it on fire one day, which was the end of the line for Lazarus with our family.  It was replaced by another Mustang, which was never as cool as Lazarus. It didn't last long enough to earn a name, I think.

After I got married, I bought my first new car: a 1994 Mercury Tracer, which I named Lolita after about a year.  My reasoning was that she'd seen way too many miles for someone as young as she, and the name seemed apt.  After a while, when she wasn't so young anymore I called her Lola. Then I could sing that Kinks song when I started her up in the mornings.

Dad's tendency to name cars doesn't seem to have been picked up on as readily by my brothers as it has been by my sister and myself.  She names all her cars; so far I think they've all been males.  Including the one she called The Meatloaf, no reference to the dashboard light intended.

Upon further consideration, I amend my hypothesis to the following:
Only people who are awesome name their cars.  Me. My dad. My sister.  All awesome.
I rest my case.


  1. That was delightful, and it all sounds so familiar. I don't think my dad ever named his cars, but he can tell you what every single one was and when he got it, most likely with a story about some place he went in the car with someone... I've always named my cars, but I certainly never admitted it to anyone in my family. I think my favorite part was your description of Lazarus with its deaths and resurrections. We definitely had several of those at my house when I was growing up.
    Fantastic post!

  2. Thanks! I think maybe we need a union or car-namers or something of that ilk. The Car-Namers Anti-Defamation Society? Too unwieldy? I'll keep working on that.

  3. I think it's so cute that you believed that story about Nick hitting the garage door trying to "move the car" to "play basketball". He was, in fact, "moving the car" to "go pick up Jason". And the mustang after Lazarus was named "Lothar"... Nick hit a guardrail with it AND the hood flew up on the expressway while he was speeding. That was before I got it. Those 2 mustangs were joined together (Lazarus and Lothar) to form one racing machine that was actually named Lazarus (painted on the hood) for whomever Dad's racer friend was. There was picture of it on the fridge for a long time.

  4. Oh yea... Lothar was replaced by the '66 - "The Rustang".

  5. The Rustang was my favorite. Partly because of the hole in the floorboard. Plus, I thought Lazarus/Lothar was an even swap. Although it was a crappy deal for us, since Lothar had no radio. But also, no fire damage.