Ever get an earworm from years ago stuck on the brain? I do. It happens to me all the time. Back in the 1970s, Chevrolet used a very catchy jingle to sell its cars to the American public. The chorus of the jingle went “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet”, supposedly to signify to the world that Chevys are “all American” automobiles.
My dad was a dyed in the wool Republican, and he almost always bought American made cars. I mostly learned how to drive in Chevrolets. The first vehicle I used regularly was a 1983 Chevy S-10 pickup truck. It was blue and no frills. It didn’t even have a cassette player, nor did it have an automatic transmission. I learned how to drive a four speed stick shift in that truck. Unfortunately, despite its being an “all American” automobile, that Chevy S-10 turned out to have a pretty heavy lemon rind. The head gasket blew three times within the first two years my dad owned the truck. The first time it happened, I was on my way from Gloucester, Virginia to Richmond, to help my older sister, Sarah, move. The truck gave up the ghost during rush hour traffic, although fortunately it was only a couple of miles from where she lived.
I remember the engine died at a stoplight at an exit off of Interstate 64. Some very pissed off motorists pushed the lightweight truck to the shoulder of the road so they could be on their way. I was 17 years old and very upset. These were the days before we all had cell phones. I ran across the street to a Citgo station and used a pay phone to call Sarah, who was pissed off that the “fucking truck” as she put it, had conked out. We had it towed to a service station and I missed school the next day, which was unexcused and cost me a much needed letter grade on my report card. Sarah, who was upset about the truck, later got upset with me because I was complaining. What was supposed to be a quick trip to Richmond to help her move turned into an ordeal.
I don’t even remember what we ended up doing. The truck needed new parts and I remember the repair was expensive for my dad. It had a blown head gasket, a hole in the radiator, and a busted water pump. I think he eventually drove to Richmond with his 1986 Chevy Astro van, which was a better vehicle than the S-10 was, but still kind of sucked. He eventually owned three of those boxy vans, though, and I eventually learned how to drive a vehicle with horrible blind spots. He’d just keep trading them in for newer models. I think his final vehicle, before he gave up driving and eventually died, was a Ford pickup. He still loved his American cars. My mom still drives a Buick Park Avenue. She’s had several of them. They don’t make them anymore. She says that when that car finally dies, she’ll just quit driving. They kept the Chevy S-10 for another year or so and the head gasket blew twice more. Dad replaced it with a 1986 fugly beige Nissan pickup truck with a camper shell. That thing was not nearly as cute, but it ran for years. I think my dad owned it for over ten years, using it to haul trash, until he finally got rid of it because it sounded like it was going to explode.
My parents loved their American cars, but I think my experiences with the Chevy S-10 truck have permanently scarred me. When I finally bought my first car, I got a Toyota Corolla. That thing faithfully ran me back and forth from Virginia to South Carolina for three solid years. After I got married, we kept the car for four more years. It was the getaway car at our wedding. We traded it in for a 2006 Toyota RAV 4, which we drove for thirteen years until we finally swapped it for our 2020 Volvo XC60, which is Bill’s car. I drive a 2009 Mini Cooper convertible, which is a lot of fun, but has its own issues. When it’s time to replace my car, I may go back to Toyota. But I won’t be buying American, even though it’s supposedly good for the economy. Nowadays, even the cars you think are from a certain place turn out to be from somewhere else. Our Volvo was built at the factory in Sweden, but Volvo is owned by a Chinese company now.
I still think it’s funny that Chevy was all about Americana back in the 70s. It was a good old reliable American car… and as “American” as all of those other things, like baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. Which, if you think about it, aren’t even all that American themselves. The Germans are pretty good at hot dogs… and the Dutch are pretty good at pies… and I don’t know about baseball, but I bet there was an early inspiration for it from another culture. Anyway… I say “fuck it” to baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Give me a car that runs reliably and doesn’t leave me stranded on the side of the road with clouds of steam pouring out of the tail pipe.