Monday, February 22, 2010

In the Snow, Man

I learned to drive in a 1962 Ford Falcon station wagon with a straight-six engine that got swapped for a rebuilt block a while after the car had passed 100,000 miles.

The Falcon, for those who don’t know the car, was a predecessor to the more famous Mustang. The Falcon was a great family car. We even had two seatbelts—one for the driver, one for the shotgun seat.

The Falcon I grew up in got a new home this weekend, hitching a ride north to my sister’s house.

Our particular Falcon got its start on the East Coast, as did I and two of my sisters. Dad was transferred to New York for four years mid-career, with the promise that he could return to the West Coast office when Mom had her fill of historical tours in New England. This is Gertie’s old parking sticker from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, where we lived when Mom and Dad bought the car.

I was not the only one who learned to drive in this car.

It came with all the features. The radio had five presets for stations you really liked. Once it warmed up, it had excellent sound. Some stations had news. Others had music. Some had classical music. On the weekend you might pick up a ball game. All bases were covered.

Nowadays in cars that have fuel injection systems there’s no such thing as a choke. I learned to drive with a manual choke on an engine where fuel mixed with air in the carburetor before being delivered to the firing cylinders. And I learned that I could almost always set the choke better than any of the automatic chokes on later model cars. This was great in situations like starting the car at any great elevation, or in cold weather.

Note the defrost knob, next to the choke.

To get the defrost working—to keep condensation from fogging the inside of your windshield—you pull out the defrost knob, and you also pull out the knob marked “PULL FOR TEMP.” That brings in hot air from the engine block and routes it up to the vent below the windshield.

For heat for the passengers, you pull out the next knob over, and then you reach under the dash and open up the boxes that serve as vents into the cabin. If you turn this knob, a fan will go on to blow the hot air in a little faster. This was a warm car on a cold, rainy day. Five high-schoolers in wet clothes were enough to overpower the windshield defroster, but you could usually roll down a window and solve that problem.

Rounding out the instrument cluster were a cigarette lighter, designed to light cigarettes, and an add-on Dad installed: a genuine moo-cow horn. We always had a great time driving in farm country.

Factory air.

We put the car on a trailer headed north, and a day later my sister drove north to catch it at the other end.

Gertie in her new home.

1 comment:

Papa Bradstein said...

She only has two seatbelts because Mom and Dad paid the extra for the optional feature.