An Old Hwy 61 blog and photos by Gail Gates

“I’m not an expert of cars but I know how they make me feel.”
― Gwen Ro

My husband, ambling towards our rather non-descript Subaru, came to an abrupt stop. And while I wouldn’t say drool was dripping from his mouth, I could feel his heart racing.  What had caught his attention?

Nope. Not a fine looking woman…the usual suspect, by the way. Nope, not a bouncy dog or, again, a bouncy woman.

The object of his lust on this day was an old MG convertible.
He walked around it.
He took in the contours, colors, and chrome.
He smiled.
A lot.
And I completely understood.  That MG was gorgeous.

What is it about classic cars that make us happy?

I am not a car aficionado by any stretch. Mostly I’m happy when I turn the key, the car starts, and it gets me where I want to go.

If asked my opinion about a V8 I would say, yes, I drink it on occasion.

The mechanics of what makes a car cool interest me way less than the style of a vehicle.  I want sleek. I want that cool factor.

And that, perhaps, brings me to the crux of the head turning occurring when a vintage car rolls by. They are unique. Memorable. Distinct. Part of the past that was innovative and interesting.

The other day while driving to Target, I caught a glimpse of a powder blue and white classic car cruising around town.  Just seeing it transported me back to my childhood in the 1960s. (Looking online, the car that seems closest to my dusty recollection is a 1953 Chevy Bel-Air.) 

My Great-aunt Margaret owned such a car, and I can still see her driving down the highway at about 45 miles an hour, steering wheel clenched tightly in both hands.  Margaret was two inches shy of five feet tall. Therefore, her silver-haired head barely topped the dashboard.  It was cute.  And naughty.

Shhhh. Don’t tell anybody but…Margaret never had a driver’s license.  That sweet little lady would ninja-drive, slooooowly, the two miles between her house in Giese, MN, to my grandmother’s house.  It was quite the family scandal with her being a good Lutheran and a known law-breaker.

Oh, Margaret. How I loved you.

My first car was a 1972 blue Ford Maverick, a hand-me-down from my brother, who had enlisted into the Army. I don’t even want to know what went on in the Maverick while he had it, but I have nonetheless heard a few dark rumors. Therapy helps.

Anyway, I paid $2000 for the Maverick and, as it turned out, my freedom.  A car is flat-out liberty! Sixteen, with a license and wheels? Are you kidding me? Wheeeeeeee!

Mom nicknamed the car “Herbie” after Disney’s Love Bug movie.  No matter if you love or hate Ford cars, Herbie was one great car.

Horrible winter roads?  I never got stuck.

He was reliable and trusted.  I felt safe with Herbie.  We were a team.

When the temperatures dipped into the minus ’20s and 30’s, Herbie would make this strange wheezing sound–heeeeeehhhh–while shut off and parked for the night!

Mom, hearing Herbie from her bed, would take a blanket and gently place it over Herbie’s hood. Without fail the sound stopped.  We never knew why it happened. We just accepted Herbie was one of the family, and needed love too.

So, yeah. Cars leave tracks in our memories and hearts.  The old classics, the muscle cars, the station wagons, and the vintage pickup trucks, help us remember our youthful past and passions. 

Leave us a response and tell us what your first car was! Did you love it or survive it? J

If you are looking for a classic car fix along Old Highway 61—and what better highway to cruise–please check out the events calendar at: