'55 Chevrolet Bel Air
Just before I turned 18, my dad inexplicably traded our mundane '51 Hudson two-door on a brand new '55 Chevy V-8 Bel Air. Talk about an instant love affair! Up to the time just before this picture was taken, this car was a gorgeous two-door hardtop. My dad bought it new the summer I turned 18, and he surprised everybody by not picking a stripped-down, economy model. No, sir, this was the top-of-the-line V-8 sporting a special paint called Dusk Rose and almost everything a young male would consider necessary. I added the AM radio, since Dad didn't want to pay the dealer's price. The fender skirts, the rear antenna and the dual exhausts with the Sportsman mufflers all came as soon as I could scrape up the cash, because, after all, the car needed them to be super cool in the late '50s. When not away at Penn State, I spent my time washing, waxing — Simonize in the can, of course — and admiring that car, as did everybody in town. The wide whitewalls were always spotless. There was never a bug on the windshield. And, except for a slight scratch my mom put on it while learning to drive, it was perfect. I loved that car, and Dad and I made a deal for me to buy it from him when I graduated. That brings us to the picture, which still brings tears to my eyes. My younger brother was returning from a date and took his eyes off the road long enough to come to a quick stop against an obstacle. My brother was okay, but Dad entrusted the banged-up '55 to a cut-rate body shop, after which the car was never the same. It ended up as a trade on a four-door Chevy Corvair, and, when I graduated, I bought a '53 Oldsmobile 88 convertible. Since then, I have owned 20 cars, but my all-time favorite is still Dad's '55 Chevy.