Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 3: Pre-Driving and Younger Childhood Family Cars

(This is part 3 of a multi-part series. If you wish to start at the beginning, click here)

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Long before any of us were old enough to drive, we lived out our auto experiences in the cars of others, with most childhood seat time coming in the family vehicles.

There’s a saying out there that your parents actually used to be pretty cool…before they had you, that is. By family lore, prior to my brother and me coming along, my mother (in her early married days) really enjoyed cruising a Triumph Spitfire around Kansas City. And also apparently enjoyed parking it, while not necessarily taking care of her parking tickets, according to my dad.

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She had a Pinto at one point (not cool), and this emblem (found last year while cleaning out my late grandmother’s garage) is all that remains of the car (the gas tank didn’t explode, mom just moved on).

Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 3: Pre-Driving and Younger Childhood Family Cars
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I really dig having this.

The first car of hers that I have firsthand memory of was a ’77 silver 4-door Ford Granada.

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Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 3: Pre-Driving and Younger Childhood Family Cars
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I remember its maroon interior had a velour quality I liked running my hands over while riding in the back seat. Seatbelts being a rather optional thing back then, it was way more fun to hunker down in the rear footwell facing backwards while playing with a couple of toys piled on the bench seat. Unsafe? Of course. When I became a new parent, I thought back to my unharnessed but risky freedom and wondered early on how our kids would possibly get through long car rides ratcheted into those hard plastic infant or booster seats. Let’s face it, the thin fabric covers don’t pad much. I know I had too much hip shimmy to stay strapped in (to my surprise they handled it just fine—maybe it was Pampers padding).

I distantly recall the Granada introducing several first (to me) car experiences: it had this wondrous music player called an “8-track.” Amazing! You could play a song that you wanted to hear over and over again, and without static like the radio had! Of course, I only remember mom having two or three 8-track cassettes in the glove box, and at my young age I didn’t really recognize who they were. One may have been The Carpenters. Come to think of it, I think she barely listened to them herself. Instead, we mostly turned to the radio, where I was drawn to the shiny silver knobs. I learned how one had to have delicate, surgeon-like hands to fine tune to station clarity with minimal static reception. I did not possess such dexterity at that age nor understand the vertical lines around the numbers, but I was in awe to watch how it was done. I could successfully push the square plastic buttons that would launch the needle from one end of the numbers to the other. That you could actually set those buttons was not known to me at the time. Rather, like a kid on an elevator, I was compelled to experiment in excess pushing two, three, and all the buttons at once. Analog times…with classical music and gospel always at the left side of the dial, rock n roll around 100 to 104, and talk radio or weather on AM (boring!)

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My last memory of the Granada is riding along with mom to the local bank one day. I was 5 at the most. Mom gave me the choice of staying in the car or going in. Hmm, this wasn’t the one that gave out suckers to kids so…I’ll stay. But then I got to thinking, which is dangerous with an active imagination…I’d seen plenty of bank robberies on TV shows, and I happened to have my shiny black cap gun with me. What if I took the faux Ruger and tuck it in the waist band and under my shirt, just like the undercover baddies? I could survey the vault, and none of the workers going about their day the wiser that a real bank robber was in their midst. Pulse quickened and adrenaline raised as the idea formed. Would I do something so bold and possibly dangerous? Even at 5 I knew robbing banks was wrong and all. I reasoned that I wouldn’t pull the gun out—Just case the joint and coolly survey the situation. It was settled, I’m going in! I concealed the cap pistol in the waist band and headed to the front door. I walked right in, got about ten steps, looked around, and then (unlike any TV show bank robbery I’d ever seen) suddenly my cap gun slipped down the waist band, passed through the leg of my shorts, and clanked plastically on the hard floor. Face turning red and not hesitating two seconds to see if anyone was looking at me, I squatted down, grabbed the cap gun, stuck it under my shirt, and ran out of the bank back to the Granada as fast as I could. My stick-up career was over before it began.

Please join me for part 4 of Life in Cars.

Summary

Vehicle(s): 1977 Ford Granada

Horsepower: unknown but likely the 250 CI I-6 with 86-97hp

Torque: unknown but likely the 250 CI I-6 with 185-210ft-lb

Interesting Facts: Could make a good getaway car for a 5 year-old bank robber with a cap gun.

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Representative Song: “We’ve Only Just Begun,” by The Carpenters

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