Does your Car have a Soul? As seen in CKD by Ron Springer
One of my favorite movies has always been Christine. Based on the book by Stephen King, the movie features a 1958 Plymouth Fury with a “dark side.” Christine is no ordinary car. She is an angry piece of iron bent on revenge and she shows it. I like the movie in part because it is good entertainment, but also because it reflects (Hollywood Style) what I truly believe…that cars have personality, emotions and a soul…albeit rarely as destructive as Christine.
Now, don’t flip the page just yet, stay with me for a few more lines before you cast me as some kind of Hillbilly Lunatic with too many quarts of Shine under my belt.
My belief in the existence of an Automotive Soul has come about over a lifetime of driving and maintaining almost every kind of vehicle you can imagine. I have had Model T’s and Muscle cars; Dragsters and Kustoms; New Cars, Tractors, Trucks and Beaters. Without exception, all of them have had “Quirks” and “Traits” that cannot be explained away by simply applying Mechanical Knowledge and Pragmatism. They have all exhibited, to one degree or another, “behaviors” that most of us would say are more common among Flesh and Blood than Rubber and Iron.
Take the 1976 Camaro I drove in High School as an example; I flogged that car on a daily basis. I raced her, beat on her doing Brodies and Burnouts, overloaded her suspension and even took her down roads better suited to 4X4’s than Sports Coupes. But I also cared for her daily with great love and concern. Over the years that I had that car I will bet I lavished a hundred gallons of wax on her. She got basic maintenance every time I took her out, and I showered her with gifts of performance goodies and accessories whenever I had two Franklins rubbing together in my wallet. I never gave her a name, unless “Baby” counts because that is how I referred to her when I patted her on the dash and urged her to give me just a little more. On one occasion, running on fumes with her gas gauge well past the red and with no source of fuel in sight, she got me in with a lot of coaxing and encouragement. “Come on Baby,” I said, “Just a few miles to the gas station…you can do it!” When I stood there at the station pouring Ethel into her tank I watched as the digits on the Gas Pump rolled past her 21 gallon capacity and kept rolling…all the way to twenty three plus. She had never held that much gas before and never did again. Even accounting for the filler neck and air space in the tank, there simply wasn’t room for all that fuel…She was very thirsty!
I have had other cars that were effectively “One Man Vehicles.” A little Jeep that I once owned would carry me around without so much as a Hiccup, yet whenever someone else climbed behind the wheel she would lay down and strand them. I would hook up the trailer to go and retrieve her (and whatever unfortunate person had fallen victim to her cantankerous nature) only to arrive and find that whatever issue caused her to stall had mysteriously vanished. It finally got to the point that nobody else would even ask to drive her. She never gave me any trouble, but then I did get her a custom car cover and I never drove her in the mud. She trusted me.
And what about the cars and trucks that start every time I bump the key, while everyone else who tries to bring them to life seems to need a set of Booster Cables and a can of Ether to get them to go. We currently have a ’53 Hudson Super Wasp that fires right up for me. I would wager that a half dozen people have tried to start that car unsuccessfully. But I understand her and know what she needs. I have taken the time to get to know her and I have made allowances for her idiosyncrasies. I also pat her on the back fender on a regular basis and reassure her that I have not forgotten her.
Tradition has it that all Cars are Women, and there may be something to that thought. Without relying too heavily on stereotypes, it has been my experience that if I treat my Cars at least as well as I treat the women in my life; They never let me down. But there is more to it than simply being faithful and doing the things that are obvious. I have found that when I am sensitive to the needs of my car by making her a partner rather than a slave, my car seems to respond by performing above my expectations. When I talk to them…compliment them and show them that I care, they seem to respond better than they do with I am preoccupied, insensitive and demanding.
There are however, some notable exceptions to this premise. Take the car I drove when I was single and uncommitted in my early twenties. She was a British Sports Car and she was definitely one of those “One Man” kind of cars. I loved that car, and spent countless hours proving my affection. I gave that little car much more than I took back. But on more than one occasion she simply refused to motor when I had a date in her passenger seat. There was a solenoid in the glove box that would freeze up every time a girl sat in the car with me. I would have to reach over, open the glove box door, remove an access panel and tap on the solenoid to get her going. I could just hear her chuckling every time it happened. When it was just the two of us, she performed flawlessly…never had to tap on anything. But bring a strange woman into the picture and her jealousy came out.
I am currently having some opportunities with my ’09 Sierra. I try to take care of her in accordance with what I perceive as her needs, but she seems to want more. I keep her relatively clean, change her oil as needed and I even bought her a new set of tires recently. She sees me in the driver’s seat for more miles than any other vehicle I own. But we are still having problems. I think one of her issues may be the name we gave her. We call her B.A.T. – “Big Ass Truck.” In the beginning, we were doing alright. She was new, and I added lots of accessories to her. She got bigger tires, lots of chrome, cold air intake, a cowl induction hood, and even a performance programmer. But apparently that has not been enough.
From time to time, when I run the A/C she will suddenly stop blowing cold and switch to heat…then back again. The folks at the Dealership are stumped and have not been able to diagnose the problem. Other times, her fuel gauge will give inaccurate readings which has resulted in two instances of her stranding me on the side of the road with an empty tank when her gauge still showed a quarter tank. Again; There was nothing wrong with the gauge or the sending unit. I have tried to keep my temper, but I have gone off on her a few times and I am not proud of it. But, truth be known, I’m not big on late model vehicles and maybe that shows. I would trade her off but she is capable of carrying 5 passengers, carrying a nice load of cargo and pulling our Fifth Wheel. I suppose we need to have some “alone time” for a good detailing and maybe an off-road adventure, but I just can’t get excited about it…slow learner.
et ita abscedit Ron