river muse

The COVID car

By CASS COLLINS
Posted 9/30/20

What have you done for yourself during the pandemic? Learned to knit or fly-fish? Perfected a dish from Larousse Gastronomique? Perhaps, as a friend did, you successfully re-tooled your business to …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
river muse

The COVID car

Posted

What have you done for yourself during the pandemic? Learned to knit or fly-fish? Perfected a dish from Larousse Gastronomique? Perhaps, as a friend did, you successfully re-tooled your business to accommodate social distancing rules. Me? I bought a car.

Not just any car. This is a car to stave off mortality. Is there a better time?

My first car was a little VW Karmann Ghia convertible. Black with red leather interior, it had already lived a good life before we met. It taught me to drive a stick-shift, for which I am forever grateful. But not before accelerating into the carport on one of my first outings. That is how I came to be acquainted with Harry Pfaender, the appropriately named auto body man in Bantam, CT, where my family spent summer weekends.

That car came to be known as Beer Can for its ability to be dented with a light squeeze. It saw me through my first year of college in Boston, with many side trips to Vermont and Connecticut. Beer Can could move fast and she did, often doing 90 on the Northway. She had some quirks, as you might expect from a $100 car. Often I would have to carry her home from a friend’s dorm, down Beacon Street, she in neutral, me steering while walking alongside. But when it came to real challenges, she never let me down. Once, with the promise of a massive snowfall, my friend and I decided to go shopping in Boston from Vermont. If you have ever been to Vermont in winter and don’t ski, you will know we were suffering cabin fever. Only a few exits from our starting point, the storm kicked in and we decided to turn back. Just then, Beer Can’s heater went south so we had to open the windows to physically remove the frost from her windshield. I trace the lack of feeling in my fingertips to that day.

In the end, Beer Can rejoined Harry Pfaender in return for a tow. I like to think he fixed her up nice and I have been known to search for her on eBay on especially cold nights.

As an adult, I have made more sensible car choices: a minivan or three while the children were young, a Prius when we made weekend journeys from the city to Narrowsburg, a sturdy Volvo for our recent cross-country road trip in a nod to aging hips and backs.

Then came COVID-19. Even though we weren’t going anywhere, my thoughts turned to those days with Beer Can and the feeling of freedom I had on the open road with the top down and Billie Holiday on the tape deck. On the sly, I began searching for a modern version of Beer Can.

While my husband writes novels in his spare time, I strain my eyes comparing sport cars on my iPhone. In the before-times, I would listen to the Car Talk brothers sing the praises of the little Mazda Miata. I found lots of them on the internet, some much too expensive, some much too cheap. Finally, I found one that was older but with low mileage in a pleasing shade of white with brown leather interior. A more modern, sophisticated version of a Karmann Ghia, with safety features built-in. If not now, then when?

the covid car

Comments

1 comment on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Stephanie

Nothing better than a leisure drive on a fall day with the top down. Enjoy your covid car!

Monday, October 5