Sunday, December 24, 2017

My grandfather's car

My Grandpa John was the grandfather I knew best as he was alive and on this side of the ocean when I was a youngster. He was my grandmother's third husband (unheard of except in Hollywood) and they had gotten married in the late 1940s. He was a good man, kind and generous and I don't ever remember an angry word coming from him. He was retired the whole time I knew him so he was always around when I would jump on the train and head for Baltimore. Sometimes I would go with my younger brother and sometimes my parents would drive down for the weekend, but we went there often. It was only a couple of hours drive from Wilmington.

Grandpa John was an avid gardener/landscaper and it showed around the property. The house was modern colonial, but modeled after the actual colonial era homes in the neighborhood. Some of them were nearly 200 years old at that time. I spent time there playing with the neighborhood kids, building model cars, playing chopsticks on the baby grand piano, and playing with my grandfather's old U.S. Navy radio that had been salvaged from a ship after WW2.

One of the most fun things I would do with my grandfather was to go the bakery (Silber's for the world's best cheesecake, but I think it's gone now) or take a drive down to the Baltimore harbor or Washington D.C. for the day and hang out at the Smithsonian. I would look at the dinosaurs, geology displays, aviation displays in the various museums there. It was easy to spend days in awe at all the wonders that were on display there. We went there in style, too.

We would take my Grandpa John's Mercedes down there and put the top down if it was nice. It was just a two seater from the early 50s and way cool even for a 10 year old kid. The interior was leather and the radio had at least twelve bands, I'm pretty sure. I do remember picking up Radio Moscow when I was allowed to play with it. That car had so much class that it even smelled classy. I think it was the leather which was the only leather auto interior I had experienced at that point. The dashboard was walnut. Not a stick on woodgrain decal, but real, polished walnut. It was gorgeous! The door handles were on the front of the doors and they were hinged at the back. The fenders curved like Marilyn Monroe's hips and when we went zooming by we did get some looks. Grandpa John would have it gone through and repainted every couple of years and it was always clean and pristine.

As I turned into a teenager I started to have daydreams about that car. The kind of unrealistic fantasies that a teenage boy might have about automobiles. Surfing music had brought songs about cars to the top of the heap of popular music at the time. They never replaced love songs, but they came close. My fantasy was that my grandfather would give me the car when I turned sixteen. By this time my hormones had kicked in causing all the usual angst and confusion about life and my grandparents were talking about moving to Florida permanently. They had a place down at Pompano beach that I had been to a couple of times and were likely to make the move pretty soon. When I was fifteen Grandpa John sold it. I was crushed, but of course I couldn't show that because if I had told anyone about my fantasy they would have fallen over laughing. I kept it to myself, but it was worse than any girl could have done to me at that stage of my life. I was crushed on the inside, but went on as if my teenage dreams had never happened.

I am not sure anymore, but I believe it was an early 1950s Mercedes 220 cabriolet. It was gorgeous and was one of my first loves. 

Here we are in 1961, surf fishing in Florida. I was ten and my grandfather was a bit over 60.
And once more, just because.
These are very rare, but I found a few out there on the interwebs, just to see if I could. In pristine and restored condition they are valued at between $140,000 and $240,000 if you can find one for sale. At least I got to experience such a classic at one time in my life, both my grandfather and his car.


  1. That's a great story, Jono. Sorry that car broke your heart. But we all have a first time, don't we? Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!

  2. fabu car, jono! nice memories of your grandfather too. season's greetings to you!

  3. I enjoyed your trip down Memory Lane, but I wish you had gotten the car.


  4. better that you got your first heartbreak by that beautiful car..than by a beautiful girl.

  5. Precious memories fill this post.
    Both of that very classy car, and of your equally classy grandfather.

  6. What a car - you're lucky to have had the chance to ride in it so often! Your grandpa sounds like a very nice man, even if he did sell your first love.

  7. Back when I was in primary school there was a red vintage car (at this stage in time, forty years, I no longer recall the brand) with spoke wheels and a canvas top that used to drop off one of the other kids. That and one of my classmates whose father had a grey green car with triangular fins that looked sharp enough to get cut on.

    I don't even have a car. Always preferred motorcycles.

  8. I love your stories Jono. Happy holidays.

  9. What memories, huh? A beautiful story. MY family's car was a canary yellow 1969 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon with faux wood side paneling.
    My mom sold it when I was in boot camp.
    Okay, probably not a classic.

  10. Debra, I was lucky to have had the chance to appreciate such a vehicle. Better to have loved and lost....

    magiceye, Definitely lucky.

    anne marie, Thanks!

    Janie, It was a lesson in reality and expectations.

    JACKIESUE, It's difficult to carry feelings of resentment toward a vehicle.

    Elephant's Child, I was lucky to have such a man in my life.

    jenny_o, It would have been crazy to give me something like that. It was 6 or 7 years before I bought amy first car, a '67 Oldsmobile Cutlass. It was a POS.

    Bill, I've always liked cars like that. Never could afford one. Had a Honda Interceptor and a Honda Shadow, but there is no place to ride them around here and they are impractical most of the year.

    Linda, Thanks and the same to you.

    Al, The first one my parents let me drive was a '64 Ford Galaxie sedan. Got to use it for my senior prom in 1969. It had a great back seat.

  11. My mum and dad never had driving licenses so we never had a car. So I didn't really know much about cars, they were things that other people had. You were lucky to go for so many rides with your grandfather. He sounds like he was fun to be with.

  12. What a wonderful, sad, charming and sweet post.
    Sorry you didn't get the car but at least you were able to enjoy it with your Grandfather.

    cheers, parsnip

  13. Great car! Of such things are great unrequited love affairs made.

  14. Shammickite,I had a license for six years before I could barely afford a car and it was a money pit. In this culture they are a necessary nuisance, but once in a while one catches your fancy. If my grandfather's car had been a junker I still would have loved it.

    angryparsnip, It was amfun ride, but the time I spent with my grandfather was priceless.

    vanilla, There are only a couple of material things I have adored. That car was one of them.

  15. Ah, cars and cats, they do break our hearts, don't they... My first love was a Pontiac...
    Happy solstice and a great new calendar year!

  16. Wow, what a beauty! No wonder you were crushed. Ah... young love...

  17. The fenders curved like Marilyn Monroe's hips... no wonder you had daydreams about this car!

  18. Grandparent memories are the best!

  19. Onevikinggirl, I must say that is the only vehicle I ever loved, but I had a bicycle when I was a kid that came close. It was nothing special, but it took me to places I could never have gone otherwise.

    Diane, Yes, it was one of my early heartbreaks.

    Pixel Peeper, I still love swoopy cars (and swoopy women).

    Toni, Yes, they are!