Opinion: Enduring fondness for fast cars

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Commentary by Ward Degler

Our village hosted the Porsche parade last weekend. Every year the proud owners of these zippy little sports cars line up their steeds along the Brick Street and talk Porsche with one another as hundreds of onlookers ooh and ahh.

My sports car period included two Porsches. Alas, the period ended when I realized you don’t own a sports car, it owns you. I spent all my time and a lot of my money on my cars. I endlessly changed the oil, replaced the brakes, fine-tuned the carburetor, rotated the tires, adjusted the valves and lovingly washed, waxed and polished every square inch of the vehicle.

There were road rallies, gymkhanas, club meetings and dozens of impromptu gatherings with other drivers. I was never home. My kids didn’t know who I was.

It was good fun and totally absorbing. Even after I sold the last one, I wistfully gazed at anything wearing wire wheels. And, I confess, my heartbeat still revs up close to the red line whenever sports cars show up on my radar.

I’ve owned a lot of cars since those days. Family sedans mostly; sensible Chevys, sedate Fords and lumbering Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs. Some good, others not so much.

But my favorite car of all time was none of these, not even a Porsche. My one and only true love was a car I never even got to drive —  a 1935 Lincoln.

It was the May 4, my 12th birthday. Our sleepy little town was experiencing a rare burst of energy because the Shell Oil Company was putting a pipeline through the area.

Pipeliners, as we called them, took up room and board with many of the townspeople. Our renters were the Smiths, a leather-faced welder everyone called Hardrock, and his wife, You-all. Both born and raised in Kilgore, Texas. He had a beat-up pickup truck and she drove a shiny new Kaiser.

Hardrock and the other pipeliners loved to play poker and usually invited men from the town to join in. The stakes were sometimes hefty. Lots of money, and on this occasion, a 1935 Lincoln that had been left at the local Chevy dealer during the Depression and never reclaimed.

When Hardrock learned it was my birthday and that I was born in 1935, he insisted on giving me the car he had won the night before.

Sadly, Dad wouldn’t let me keep it and Hardrock sold it to someone else. But for about a week, I was the most popular kid in town, and I spent a lot of time in the basement of the Chevy dealership sitting behind the wheel of my very own car.

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