A while back, spurred on by a brochure for Corvette that came in the mail, I asked whether I should buy a new car or keep my old car. I did a blogpoll that a lot of people voted in, and I wrote later commenting on how impractical it would be for me to have a Corvette, but also talking about my personal history with Chevrolet. I noted that the only cool car I'd ever had was the 1961 Chevrolet Impala convertible that my father passed on to me, and that, when the time came to buy my first car, I chose a Chevy Chevette (the lesser 'vette). Chevrolet had a place in my family's story. I neglected to tell the older and more important family story that involves Chevrolet. In the 1930s, my grandfather, George Dewey Althouse ("Pop"), was a car mechanic with enough money to start his own business, faced with the decision which make of car to work with, a decision that came down to Chevrolet and Pierce Arrow. He chose the Pierce Arrow. That is the perfect example of making what is simultaneously exactly the right and exactly the wrong choice. Pop worked on beautiful cars before he went out of business.
What car did Pop drive when I knew him? A Pontiac. And it was a Pontiac that my father bought when he handed down the Impala to me. Before the Impala, the previous two cars my father had owned were both Nashes. I particularly remember the day he brought home a new car in the mid 1950s. The old car had never been a new car to me, so it was the first time I had ever experienced the event of introducing a new car into the family. Though it was the same make as the car it replaced, the new car was much bigger and flashier, in the style of the 1950s. It was a fleshy tan color with a white roof and the spare tire mounted -- who cares if it's ridiculously inconvenient? -- in front of the trunk. I remember being fascinated by the big fold-down armrest in the middle of the back seat. Another amazing feature of this car was the gas cap, which was hidden under one of the tail lights. Of course, in those days, people didn't pump their own gas, and my father used to get a kick out of pulling into the gas station, saying "fill 'er up" to the attendant, and watching the poor man search in vain for the gas cap. The light actually pulled out and up. But the most amazing thing about the car was the hood ornament. Scroll down on this page and you'll see one that's quite close to what we had. All the kids on the block were fascinated by this hood ornament. You think a Jaguar has a cool hood ornament? You should have seen the hood ornament on our Nash.