News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

January 11, 2011

MS. TAKES: They don't make cars like they used to

TERRE HAUTE — I’m not much interested in cars. I do like the fact that they can get me to where I want to go, and home again, faster than I could make the trip by walking or bicycle. Other than that, I’m indifferent.

The first car I remember was Dad’s “Velie.” When I mention it these days, no one seems to know what I’m talking about. The Velie was built like a big packing box on wheels and weighed about the same as an army tank. The wheels had wooden spokes and the interior was deemed not too grand to transport two kids and the family dog.

It was the Velie, in fact, Dad used to break Lady of chasing cars. She developed the habit suddenly and we feared she would be injured. So, Dad backed the car out of the driveway and proceeded to go around the block carrying a couple of paper bags full of water. When he came around to our street, Lady gave chase and Dad dropped a bag full of water on her head. She never chased another car.

But cars have evolved since the old Velie. Our next car was a Ford sedan and cost something like $600. It smelled new, not like a wet collie, and we thought it was the ultimate luxury even though it had no heater or air conditioner. There was no radio, no tape deck or CD player and a pretty basic interior. We froze in the winter and sweltered in the summer, but it did get us where we wanted to go.

I have developed enthusiasm for some car models from time to time. After seeing “National Velvet” when Peter Lawford stepped out of a little MG convertible with wire spoke wheels, I wanted to own an MG. I never have. I also liked the first Thunderbird and, more recently, tumbled to the charms of the Miata. Always, when it came time to buy a new car, my Best Friend would sympathize, but insist that a sports car was not practical for a family car.

So we would buy a four-door sedan. I could transport the boys to and from assorted activities and always bring Huckleberry because not even a new car was too elegant to transport Huck. Over the years, our practical cars came with more bells and whistles and we even had one — until I cracked it up — with a GPS system which kept trying to send us to Holland, Mich., where, apparently, there was another street address like ours.

Just like our newer cars, the old Velie had four doors. They just don’t make them like that any longer — thank heavens!

Liz Ciancone is a retired

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    March 12, 2010