Oh, the memories that are associated with that first Ford. I was just out of high school, couldn’t afford more than a few hundred bucks, but found this cool grey 1951 Ford convertible on a used car lot in South Chicago. Not the prettiest car, a somewhat ragged top with a rear vinyl window held up by large safety pins, some faded chrome and worn upholstery. But it had a feeling that previous owners had cared for the car. A ten-minute test drive told me that this was my car. Flathead V8, dual exhaust with a “just right” sound and a sense of endless possibilities.
That Ford carried me to a new job, to night school and on countless cruises in the streets of Chicago. Sublime in summer with the top down, good on snow in Chicago winters, the car ran beautifully for years. Its firm brakes and good handling saved me from many youthful driving errors. My friends and I met girls, hung out at drive-ins and went everywhere in that car.
Finally came a night when a friend had to go to an Air Force civilian auxiliary meeting, but couldn’t use his dad’s car. I had a late class, but volunteered to drive him over. Inside the meeting room, I saw the girl. Time stopped. I forgot about going to class, looked at that smile, listened to that laugh. We struck up a conversation, and learning later that she had taken a bus to the meeting, gallantly offered to drive her home. Somehow I managed to drop off my friend first and continued on slowly to her house.
Months later. sitting with her in the Ford on a chilly night at a drive-in movie, I proposed. She said yes and we married on an April morning. After the reception, not having decided where to go on a honeymoon, we just packed some gear into the Ford and headed south. It was a warm day, the top was down and the world was new.
That was over fifty years ago. I am blessed to still have the girl. There have been many newer Fords since then. The ‘51 Ford exists only in memories and photographs. I will never forget that car or the life it brought to me.