Many love stories are tales of woe. Some are stories of trials and tribulations. Some have happy endings. The story of the object of my automotive infatuation has a little of all of the above.
I was about 13 when I really fell in love with 1957 Plymouths. I had grown up in a family of car lovers, and I had watched Christine 80 times, but I never really saw it coming. Of course once it hit me it was too late. My young life was consumed with looking at 1957 Plymouths on the internet, dreaming about 1957 Plymouths, and reading every message sent on the Forwardlook.net mailing list, one of the only sources of reliable information available for these cars at the time. Pretty deranged for someone 3 years under the legal driving age. I have at times wished that it had been something else through my trials and tribulations. I look at other car enthusiasts with magazines full of parts for their cars with a jealousy that is hard to explain if you haven't felt it.
When the time finally came for me to purchase a 1957 Plymouth of my own, I made every stupid car buying decision in the book in one action. I thought buying a car from the Southwest was a bad idea because shipping would be too expensive. I thought that seeing 5 or 6 pictures of a car was enough to ascertain the condition. I thought I would "save some money" by purchasing a car that needed "a little bit of work".
Late one night searching the internet I found exactly what I was looking for a 4 door 1957 Plymouth Belvedere with a 301 V8 and a 3 speed pushbutton transmission. It was 6 hours away in Northern New Jersey and was being sold by another unfortunate soul who had been inflicted with the 1957 Plymouth disease. So bad did he have it that the small New Jersey town where he lived told him he had to get rid of a few of the fleet that filled his driveway. It was my lucky day.
We struck a deal over the phone which included delivery and I was thrilled. When the car hauler arrived with the car a little after 2am one Friday night a week or two later I was not so thrilled. The car was a lot rougher then I had thought. I only had to drive it around the yard once before I knew I had signed on for more than I could handle. For whatever reason after I parked it and went inside my house, beside myself with what I was going to do with the rusty mean looking old car sitting in my driveway, the horn made contact. The sound of a 1957 Plymouth horn on full blast rang throughout the neighborhood until I finally just started pulling wires. I'm not sure if it wanted to go back to New Jersey or was just making sure that everyone (including my neighbors) knew that it had arrived.
Over the next couple months our tenuous relationship was plagued with discoveries of failed mechanical components and new body parts covered in rust. I got so aggravated that at one point I tried to sell the car and cut my losses. Shockingly enough, people were not lining up to buy a rusty old car that needed 1 of everything. It was around that time that my Plymouth and I finally came to terms with the fact that like it or not, we were stuck with each other.
It took 3 years before a rust free shiny 1957 Plymouth drove under its own power out of the body shop and shifted into second gear on its own. It was the car's first time driving down the road in I don't know how many years. It doesn't sound like much now but at the time it was a moment of self congratulation and supreme jubilation. My celebration would not have been so triumphant had I known that 3 months afterwards on the way to a car show in New Hampshire the car would throw a rod in the engine and return to lawn ornament status for another year and a half.
It was about 8 years ago when I finally got the car sorted out to a point (engine rebuild and all) where I could start driving and enjoying it. It was around that time that the previous 4 years paid off in a big way. In the past 8 years the car has taken me all over New England and been a fair weather driver without any serious problems. I sincerely thought about driving it to Tulsa in 2007 for the unveiling of Mrs. Belvedere but due to time constraints I flew.
My Plymouth has shared a garage with quite a few other cars that have come and gone and it will be around to see quite a few more. Even though everything except the rear end and the steering box has been rebuilt, changed, or upgraded in some way since I've owned the car it is a driver quality car at best. It has already started rusting again and the fact it has two extra doors means it will never worth much money. Despite these facts, or perhaps because of them, I would sooner live in it then sell it. Love is blind, and stupid.