Lee Pitts: It’s the Pitts 4-9-12
April 9, 2012
The namesake of the great Chevrolet brand was Louis Chevrolet. After he sold his stock in General Motors he founded an airplane company that went broke and he and Mrs. Chevy lived the rest of their lives in poverty. His widow was so mad at him when she was asked years later what kind of car she drove she replied, “A Dodge.”
I don’t know why it is that we become captive families of either Ford, GM, Chrysler, or any of the other 2,000 car companies that have existed that produced over 5,000 brands of cars sold in this country. But we do. I have a hunch it has a lot to do with what our parents drove. Mine was definitely a GM family, and more specifically an Oldsmobile family. My dad was a long haul trucker and believe me, he knew what kind of cars were breaking down beside the road. I don’t remember my parents ever buying any other brand of automobile than the one started by Ransom Olds, who by the way, was mass producing cars four years before Ford Motor Company started in business.
This may surprise you but my first car back in 1972 was a hybrid! That’s right, it was a cross between a car and a pickup known as the El Camino. It was part urban and part country and it didn’t fit in with either crowd. But of all the 350 models I had to choose from in 1973, I liked it the best. It took me until my last year in college to realize that if I was ever going to have any chance of meeting and marrying a high class woman that I’d have to have a high-class vehicle. Even better yet, a classy vehicle like the 1972 brown, Super Sport El Camino with a 396 engine under the hood I fell in love with when I first saw it. I went back to buy it the very next day and found out that I wasn’t the only one who loved it. It was gone and I was devastated. My heart was broken and I thought there’d never be another to speak to me as that car had done.
The dealer found another El Camino close to the one I fell in love with and it served its purpose: I was married to a classy women within two years. My next car was furnished by the livestock newspaper I worked for, a Dodge with 200,000 miles on it. That Dodge was a great car but I quit the job, and my wife and I moved to Australia where we bought a forerunner to the modern automobile, a 1960 Holden that we called Whitey. That GM-built car took us all over Australia and my wife and I looked like old fuddy-duds as we cruised the continent down under on the wrong side of the road.
By rights I should probably be a Ford guy because my Grandpa, who had a lot to do with my upbringing, was a Ford man; never drove anything else. But I was turned off Fords because my grandparent’s station wagon had a rear seat that faced backwards in which I had to sit. Back then such seats were appropriately called “barf benches.”
The first truck my wife and I bought was the only non-General Motors truck we ever owned, and it was probably the best. We’ve never owned an SUV but we did pay my Grandparents $600 for their Ford Econoline, which had the unique feature of an inside-the-cab motor and no front end. You looked straight down and there was the pavement. Throw a hay bale in the back to sit on and you had a sports utility vehicle, that are so popular today. When Herbie finally died and the wrecker came to buy it from us the price was determined by how much gas was in the tank.
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Knock on wood, we’ve never owned a lemon or a car I’d have wanted to sell to someone I didn’t like. I credit this to the fact the we never bought a “Monday Car,” a car made on a Monday when UAW workers call in sick and more inexperienced replacement workers fill their shoes. By far the best car we ever owned was anyone of the five Olds Cutlass Cierras we wore out without ever having serious car trouble. My only complaint was that big birds for some reason liked to poop on the dark blue one.
If it’s true you can write a person’s life story by the cars they’ve owned, I guess about the best you can say about me is that I’m a person who was loyal to the brand.