Tuesday, December 7, 2004

The Little Engine That Could...Says Dad

In his younger days, my father raced cars.  He loved cars, and everything about them.  Restoring them, tinkering with them, looking at them, selling them.  He lived and breathed cars.  At his car lot, his office walls were lined with everything related to cars, from calendars to license plates.  But there was this one black and white photo of a 1962 Ford Falcon with racing numbers and business names painted on it.  For years I saw that photo on the wall, and thought nothing of it.  I just figured all along it was another photo of a car.  Then one day, I asked Dad about it.

He looked up from his deposit book, and casually replied, "The Falcon?  I beat a Corvette with that once."  Then he started to whistle.

Huh?  Did I just hear him right?  I looked at the picture again.  "You what?" I asked.

Still focused on the deposit, he replied, "I beat a Corvette, with that Falcon."

"Very funny, Dad.  You beat a Corvette...with that," I laughed. 

He was deadpan serious.  "I did," he said as he scooped up a set of keys on his desk.  He stood up, still whistling, walked across the office, and stepped outside.

I didn't believe it for a minute.  He was always pulling my leg.  Joking with me, pushing my buttons, and I was pretty sure this was one of those times.  I didn't question the fact that he raced that car; I was certain he had.  But to beat a Corvette?  Impossible.  Not likely.  No effing way!

But, I was intrigued.

A few minutes later, he strolled back in the office.  I was giving him that look, you know, the look...the out of the corner, narrowed eyes, wrinkled nose, you don't fool me, mister! look.

"Hey, honey, would you mind watching the office for a few?  I gotta run to the bank."  He grabbed a dealer plate from his drawer, stopped and stared at me.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I just don't believe you."

Bewilderment crossed his face.  "Believe me?  I said I'm just going to the bank."

"Dad!  Stop toying with me!"

"Toying with you?  What are you talking about?"

"That!"  I pointed to the photo.

And he started laughing.  I knew it!  He was kidding.  "Honest, honey, I really did," he replied.

Before I could say anything, the door opened and in walked Walt, a long time friend of Dad's.  "Ask Walt.  He was there," Dad said as he passed his friend.  "Be back."  And he walked out of the door, whistling all the way.

Walt smiled and sat down in a chair.  People were always stopping by Dad's business to just visit.  You never knew who was going to walk through the front door.  I looked at Walt with a smirk.  He knew something was up. "Ask me what?" he asked.

I pointed to the photo.  "Tell me about the Falcon," I said.

It started out small, and then the smile soon spread from one ear to the other.  "The Falcon?" He whistled.  I was beginning to think the Falcon was a hynotic word.  Everytime someone said the word, they'd start to whistle.  Then, the bomb dropped.  "Your Dad beat a Corvette off the line in that car."

"So, it's true."

"Oh, it's true all right."

I still didn't get it.  How could it be?  "So, that car really did beat a Corvette?  I don't see how."

"Well, now, the Falcon wasn't stock, you know," Walt explained.  "Bobby Jackson, he was the mechanic, he had the touch with engines.  And the Corvette, it was stock.  Straight off the dealership floor."

I thought about it for a minute.  "So, what your saying is that the Falcon was a little more suped up than the Corvette."

"A little.  But not much.  But still, it was your Dad's driving that got the Falcon off the line from start to finish.  Of course, it was just a quarter mile."

I stared at the photo, picturing in my mind the smoking tires, the roar of the engines, the streak of color as the two cars screamed down the track.  Now that would be something to see.  "What year was that?" I asked.

Walt thought for a moment.  "Well, now, it was 1963, I think.  Your Dad was working for Adams Ford at the time.  That's where he got the Falcon."

1963.  I was six years old, living in Los Angeles.  The year before, Dad had come down for what would be his last visit.  1963.  That was the year everything changed, the year a lie fabricated out of jealously became a wedge driven between a father and his daughter.

I was still staring at the photo, imagining what it must have been like to witness the day a Ford Falcon beat a Chevy Corvette in the quarter mile, when Dad returned from the bank.  As he and Walt talked, I sat quietly watching him engaged in conversation.  Wondering.  Did that race take place before, or after he got the news that he was not allowed to see me?  If it was after, did his frustration with a situation he had no control over become the impetus that launched him off the start line that day?  Did he find a way to turn all that negative energy into the power he needed to achieve the impossible?  To somehow, beat the odds. 




childebrand1968 said...

I believe it.  My dad has a '63 Falcon that my brother has been slowly restoring.  That thing can move and with a great mechanic (like your dad had), they are one powerful machine.  I've never been a fan of Corvettes (too small for my tastes) but I love the power they have.  Falcon's engines are just as big, and with some tweaking, they can have more horsepower.  My brother has since restored a ragtop Fairlane ('64).  Now that you've asked him about the picture and gotten the details--why not ask him if it was before or after the news of not seeing you again...

Have a great day


delela1 said...

Sometimes I wish I had asked him back then, and now it is too late, for he is gone.  But, I think I already know.  At any rate, based on your comment, and other's from his friends, Falcon's weren't exactly mild mannered machines.  Dad did say the same thing you did, about tweaking the engine for more hp...and having the right mechanic.  I may have that picture, stashed away in a box.  If so, it will soon grace this page.