Tracking suggests my 1975 Lesney Atlas will arrive tomorrow.
That’s my earliest gearhead memory.
I have others.
Continuing the Gearhead Story, while the little dump truck incident took place in the far northeast corner of a single story home on the 900 block of East 31st Terrace in Hutchinson, Kansas, it wasn’t long until I was playing cars in a brick planter in front of a house somewhere in Dearborn, Michigan.
My dad was in the Army. We moved a lot; eight times total before winter break my sophomore year of high school to be precise. Halfway through first grade, we got orders for Michigan. Upon arriving, we stayed with some friends a few days.
What’s a first-grader to do in a new city where he has no friends and hasn’t yet started school? You guessed it, I played cars. I played cars inside on the carpet. And when I could go outside, I took a couple choice machines with me to cruise between flowers in the brick planter box on the front porch.
I can’t remember the cars I had at the time, but I remember one of them had rubber tires with actual tread designs on them. I remember sitting on my knees on the front porch, slowly steering that car back and forth, checking out the treadmarks left in the dirt.
You know what else had rubber tires at that house in Dearborn? Dad’s friend had some kind of 6-wheeled, amphibious ATV parked in the backyard. It was small, though big enough for maybe two adults. It’s faded, grey chassis-body sat over six, knobbly, paddle-style wheels, skid-steered via twin sticks.
I think we (my little brother and I) got one ride in that thing, down through the tall grasses under the big trees at the bottom of the backyard, where a small creek crossed the property. The water wasn’t more than a couple inches deep and maybe a foot across, but I remember the jouncy, mechanical ride through it; scarcely enough water to make a mess, but enough of a splash to make it exciting.
I never got to drive the six-wheeled whatchamacallit, but today, my daughter has a Matchbox version of the same basic thing she likes to play with in the bath tub. Hers is a dark red with a roll bar and some tools in the back. It takes me back, ya know?
We weren’t in Detroit a week before my dad’s brand new Chevy conversion van was stolen right out of the driveway. Years later, I would learn it was actually fraudulently repossessed, collateral damage in the savings and loan crisis of the early 80s. Which explains how Dad got his first Toyota Hilux almost immediately.
Detroit is where I first saw the cartoon Danger Mouse. He had a white, convertible sports car (and a sidekick who said “Cor’” a lot). This is also around the time Inspector Gadget came out. If you were at least potty trained in the early 80s and grew up playing with cars, I know you remember the Gadgetmobile.
While I’m reflecting on my childhood and growing up a gearhead, is it strange of me to connect dots suggesting my first new car purchase – a white 1997 Eagle Talon (which had the black roof) – and most recent automotive desire – a white Mitsubishi Delica Starwagon van – might stem from watching Inspector Gadget?
What if I told you I was the one who, that fateful afternoon Vanessa and I spent brainstorming names for our unborn child while driving home on the Piestewa Freeway, came up with Penny if it was a girl? I promise I wasn’t thinking about Inspector Gadget at the time! (Though we had just finished watching LOST.) Is the connection to Gadget too tenuous?
I’d never thought of it that way before…