The Marine View Driver: A Fascination with Exotic Models

In which the author realizes he has an automobile-sized hole in his psyche.

by Mike Smith

You know what? I’ve never owned a sports car.

It is kind of amazing when you think about it. I had plenty of money to buy cars before I ever got married, and had the potential to marry a girl who doesn’t like sports cars—as small as that chance may be. But it is odd that I never did own one. I had the chance, many times.

When I was in high school I got my first job at a restaurant called Paul’s Dock in Redondo. You know the one you can see from the Des Moines Marina if you try real hard? It’s now known as some little greasy spoon called Salty’s. (I supposed I should use a winky emoticon thingie here, eh?)

But when I worked there it was quite a hangout for everyone from my junior high and high school teachers to a few local celebrities. One of the owners of Paul’s was a teacher at Puyallup High School—his name was Paul. So it was a magnet for the Literati of South King County.

ferrariConsequently I got to see some pretty fine cars. As this was the inconsequential late ‘70s, we saw our share of original T-Birds, Corvettes, and Ford Cobras. One of our customers actually drove his Ferrari to the restaurant. He’d give us rides once in a while.

It was at this time that I realized a Ferrari is for driving or looking at, not for riding in. It was not a comfortable car for the passenger. It might have been fun to drive fast but to be driven fast was perplexing and not a little scary. It was a car for being seen in, not for sight-seeing. Perhaps they have improved by 2014.

triumphOne of my co-workers at the restaurant was a senior at Federal Way High School. He had a Triumph Spitfire.  It was a tidbit of a car that had almost no power and two side-draft carburetors that competed for air, fuel and maintenance. But it was actually kind of fun to drive and be driven in. Take that Mr. Ferrari!! My friend offered to sell it to me.

datsunAnother car was the infamous Datsun 2000. As you know by now, I was quite an automotive expert and to me the Japanese-built Datsun was exotic. Looking at it again from the perspective of thirty-odd years, I think it was probably a copy of something else even more exotic. But, it was owned by one of my teacher-type restaurant patrons and he offered to sell it to me. I don’t think he taught business, because he offered a seventeen-year-old a payment plan.

corvetteOne of our customers owned a 1953 Corvette! The rumor was that he had found it wrecked in some poor grandma’s garage and offered her $200 for it. Then he proceeded to rebuild it from the ground up. Oh, we ate that story up—my apologies to any of my friends that got that story from me. You have to admit that it is a romantic notion.

I imagined in my unstable adolescent mind that having a sports car would be the way to go—the secret to true happiness that might even attract the right kind of girl and a ticket to real adventure. The owner didn’t offer to sell it to me, but I asked how much he wanted:  $ censored multiple thousands; a wee bit high for me. But I sure felt cool asking. I probably looked substantial to him too in my cutoff shorts and tank top.

Instead I bought the 1952 Chevy with blue flames you read about a couple of weeks’ ago. Deliberative, that’s the word for it. Wise, discerning; choose your adjective.

The one common denominator in all of these car offerings is that I declined. I was not in a place to get parental approval. After all, what did they know? They were way past seventeen. That is the weird part: I could have afforded most of the cars I came across but I declined.

Who wouldn’t want a sports car when you are in high school? One of my friends had a Porsche. Another had a Corvette. I had a… ‘coupe. I bought a two-door hard top with no back seat so I could take friends to the movies… twice? The only adventure in that car was trying to control it when going the speed limit, or when someone turned the horn on in the middle of the night. Sheesh!

Having a sports car might have created some fun memories. But I never did the deed. That’s the way things go.

While I sit here with some free time on my hands, I consider this fact a tad bitterly. Why didn’t you ever buy a sports car, you dummy? Obviously, I don’t know.

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