In “A Bronx Tale,” Chazz Palminteri’s mobster character, Sonny, says, “You’re only allowed three great women in your lifetime.”
I agree, but I would amend it to say, “You’re only allowed three great loves in your lifetime.”
And, with all due respect to all of the beautiful, amazing, smart, and loving women who have been and are currently in my life, my three great loves have been: my 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo, my 1982 Chevy Camaro and my 1992 Honda Accord.
This is not to say that there have not been (and are) women in my life who have meant everything to me, but the love that I am talking about is a different kind of love.
The love that a man has for his car can spring from many different roots.
For me, it started as a child in the suburbs of NYC, where a car is not only necessary for transportation, it is a core part of the culture and helps define who you are as a man.
For instance, my first two cars were Chevys because my dad, my role model for what it meant to be a man, was a Chevy Man.
He loved to drive, and many of my most powerful and cherished childhood memories were the long, scenic drives we would take as a family.
Cars also defined freedom as nothing else could. The idea of being able to jump into a car and go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted was always intoxicating to me. What better way to demonstrate my independence than by jumping into my car, picking up some friends and just driving around?
So, at 17, I bought my first car, a used 1976 Monte Carlo. The car had a hood that was longer than an aircraft carrier’s landing deck. With a pale yellow exterior, a white Landau vinyl half-roof, and a white interior, I looked like a 5′ 5″ pimp cruising the streets of my hometown.
Everyone in town knew that car, and for a fairly introverted 17-year-old, that equated to acceptance. In so many ways, that car really was my first love.
Then a year to the day later, I bought a brand new 1982 dark blue Camaro Berlinetta. It was the first year of the Camaro’s redesign, and I was one of the first people in my town to have one. As much as I loved my Monte (affectionately known as “The Banana”), this was a totally different kind of love.
I was the first owner. I was its first, and there is nothing quite like that feeling.
“The Layomatic,” as my friend Ben named it, was another step in defining who I was as a man. It was a muscle car, but the Berlinetta model also had class. I won’t comment here if “The Layomatic” lived up to its name, but it made me stand out from everyone else, just as “The Banana” had.
Ten years (and two engines and three transmissions) later, I purchased a brand new dark red 1992
Honda Accord with a gray interior. The choice of a car speaks volumes about the person who owns it. When I bought the Accord, it was the first time anyone in my family had owned a foreign car.
Yet another step in my independence from my family. My choice of an Accord also spoke to where I was in my life.
The Accord was highly rated for reliability. That’s where I was in my life: Looking for reliability and not so much for flash.
Well, the Accord stayed with me for 22 years (longer than any woman has to date), until January of this year when it just couldn’t go any further. I could not have asked more from it, and I am still dealing with having to let it go.
Since I now live in Brooklyn, I recognize on a cognitive level that I don’t need a car to get around. But try to tell that to that boy who grew up with cars being such a core part of his identity.
Some day, I may buy another car, but, for now, I am going to try and get used to not having one. In fact, I wrote this while sitting on the train on the way to visit my brother and his family.