Friday, April 30, 2010

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - The Classic Caddie

My 1956 Caddie is a classic, but after several days of travel and way too much fun, the ole girl was feeling her age. I have to admit I’d neglected her care. Regional culinary specialties seduced me and being the weakling I am, I let them. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret a single bite. How can you regret indulging when faced with some of the best Tex-mex and barbeque on the planet? Passing it up wasn’t an option. As it turns out, pushing the ole girl to the limit day after day and night after night proved to be my downfall. Surrounded by faces from the past my brain made the connection and spent the weekend telling the Caddie she was still a teenager. The Caddie did her best to keep up.

I returned to the pit ready to put the Caddie through her paces. I hoisted her onto the ¾ rack and programmed the torture device for a half hour drive. The Caddie’s wheels spun. Her shock absorbers protested every bump and pothole. Instead of a well oiled machine I found myself at the wheel of a rusted out wreck. Five minutes into the drive the Caddie groaned and made for the shoulder. I knew she had more in her so I sucked more air through the intake manifold. The ole girl revved up a notch.

We came up on the second hill and the junk in the trunk threatened to drag the Caddie back down. The timer said twenty minutes to go. I shifted into low gear and shoved the junk up and over the hill. We coasted down the other side. I turned on the air conditioner (the onboard fan) and reveled at the sensation of riding with the top down. I knew the worst was yet to come. I’ve traveled this road several times. There are more hills to traverse, higher and longer than the first ones.

Fifteen minutes in – the halfway point- and the Caddie began to overheat. We came to a flat spot in the road and I poured some cold water into the radiator. She responded immediately and I thought we just might make it to our destination. Another hill, the mother of all hills loomed on the horizon. I poured more water in and tucked the junk in the trunk in tighter. My hands gripped the steering wheel like a vise. I coaxed the ole girl up the grade. Halfway up the Caddie began to lurch. I needed to do something drastic or we were going to end up grill first in the ditch.

I punched the accelerator. The fuel injectors opened wide. The intake manifold sucked oxygen out of the air. The Caddie fired on all cylinders at once catapulting us to the top of the hill. She shuddered and backfired. I eased up on the pedal, shifted into neutral, and let her coast downhill. I wiped dew off the windshield and poured more water into the radiator.

The ole girl purred. For a while there I feared my vintage Caddie had turned into a Ford (Fix or Repair Daily – or Found on the Road Dead) while I was out of town. The ride home was smooth. The ole girl preened the whole way. She had every right to be proud. She’d been in the garage way too long but true to her classic status she’d performed admirably. I patted her on her well padded seat and promised not to neglect her again.

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