As I thought about my origin story as Tom the Car Pro, it didn’t dawn on me right away. I’ve been obsessed with cars for as long as I can remember. But I never decided to like cars. It was involuntary.
When I was little, there were two cars in our family. One was a 1983 Dodge Aries wagon in the most incredible shade of hearing aid beige you’ve ever seen. My dad drove that car on his long commute most of the time, so I’d accompany my mom on her errands around town in her car: a 1965 Volkswagen. It was dark green, and we called it Green Car. My mom owned that car since it was one or two years old, before she met my dad, and long before having kids.
My origin story began with Green Car
I think that Volkswagen is the reason that I became aware of cars. Green Car didn’t look like the other cars on the road in suburban New York in the late 1980s. Our Volkswagen was different. It was weird. When we had to get gas, there was no door on the side of the car that you used to fill up. You opened the whole front hood to find the gas cap. And under that hood there was no engine, just a spare tire. The engine was in the back. And so when we’d see another VW on the road, it was exciting. The other driver would wave at us when we drove by! Nobody waved at us when we rode around in the Aries.
And maybe that’s why my fascination with cars started. Maybe I was always on the lookout for another Volkswagen like ours. Or maybe it was all the weird things about our green VW compared to everything else that made me start noticing what made those less interesting cars different from one another, too, and my curiosity snowballed from there.
So long, Green Car
I was six years old when my parents sold the VW. Late one night in 1989, while parked out on the street, some jerks tipped Green Car over onto its side. Volkswagens don’t weigh much so it was just as easy to flip back onto its wheels as it probably was for those unfeeling sociopaths to knock it over. Green Car’s fenders were dented, but the car’s days with our family were already numbered anyway. If I remember correctly, my parents had already purchased another more family-friendly vehicle by this time: a 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity. After all, the back seat of the Volkswagen didn’t even have seatbelts.
We sold Green Car locally, body damage and all. I have a distinct memory of riding home from summer camp in our neighborhood carpool, and seeing our Volkswagen making a right turn at the end of our street, being driven away by its new owner. I never saw Green Car again.
To this day, the sounds of a classic VW evoke an emotion in me that I can’t explain and that most wouldn’t be able to understand. The “meep-meep” of the horn, the lumpy sound of the air-cooled boxer 4-cylinder engine, and the chirpy exhaust note take me back to my happy childhood.
This blog wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have that Volkswagen
Green Car is my origin story. I believe that I have that Volkswagen to thank for my single greatest passion. If my parents didn’t still own this weird old car when I was a little kid, I can’t imagine that I would have developed a fascination with cars to the same extent.
As an adult, I did own another car that came close to bringing out such strong emotions. On the day that I had to trade it in, I genuinely cried. That car was a 2002 Hyundai. Stay with me here! In my next post, I’ll explain myself as I take you through my full car history. Thanks for reading!
Update: My dad sent over these 2 pictures, which might be some of the only ones that we have of Green Car. After a minor fender bender, a replacement fender was purchased for $40 and a screwdriver and socket set were the only tools needed for the job.