A slushy puddle of memory splashes me in the face when I slide in beside Dad to drive his favorite Lincoln, and I find myself sitting in a darkened hot August 1970’s living room, somewhere in downtown Toronto.
The brocade curtains pulled tightly closed to keep the room cooler. The three of us noisy kids corralled in the Russian’s living room while Dad negotiates for a new used car. It was a creamy white Lincoln Continental Mark III. His first Lincoln. I can still feel the thick Turkish carpet through sock feet. He had been at it for a couple of hours and, as best as we could figure, they were $500 apart. It took the rest of the day to close to a handshake and passing of keys.
“Spring steel and velvet,” was how he described that car. The manic anticipation of dealing, then driving, his dream eased into deep satisfaction with each coat of hand polished carnauba wax. He loved that car. Our family split up, just for that drive home. I remember taking turns riding in the front seat way past midnight on the trans Canada highway rolling over four provinces.
“We were sifting along just over the ‘Century Mark,” he would say, cans of Coke cooling on the air-conditioning vent late in the evening, and early in the morning.
“Century Mark,” was the code word for a hundred miles an hour. And that 460 cubic inch FORD engine is still in production. Then it produced 375 horses wound up to racing pace. Lee Iacocca was in charge of Ford back then. He knew cars and people, and how to bring them together.
It was the first time we had air conditioning in a car, and the last time we didn’t. It was the source of many firsts: power windows, power seats, and genuine Corinthian leather. That car had high compression heads – 11.5 to 1, if I recall correctly, burned nothing but premium fuel. I remember sitting next to Dad the following year going along the Washington coast–on the wet sand, very near the ebbing and flowing pacific, just over the Century mark. I recall my mother screaming his name from the back seat. I thought it was cool. Not the screaming part.
We returned from Dad’s birthday lunch, now a few weeks ago, and he asked to go for a drive.
“Let’s go for a spin,” he said, and tossed me the keys.
We slid into the Lincoln on leather; now it is me, at the wheel. This one is smaller than the Mark III, and black. No ‘Century Mark’ today; just a leisurely spin down Beach Drive, a boy and his Dad, enjoying the road.
“Let’s go for a spin,” he said.
We did just that.