by Laura Crum
My husband named this photo “233 horses”—I believe because the Porsche has 230 horsepower (?) I am not by nature a car person. But we bought the little red convertible as a wedding present to each other. My husband wanted a sports car. I wanted a reliable car, not one that was always in the shop, and for me that eliminated the British and Italian cars. Andy wanted a car that handled well, and I wanted one that felt solid and strong. We settled on a Porsche as the logical choice. And Andy was sure that we’d have a child (despite the fact that we were pretty old when we got married), so he wanted a car with a back seat. And he wanted a convertible. So the Carrera Cabriolet (I hope I have the terms right—not a car person, remember) was pretty much the only option. It was also one of the few sports cars that actually fit my six foot seven husband.
We shopped for awhile, but when we came across this 84 Cabriolet with low mileage, we bought it. The photo was taken shortly after we bought the car, up in our pasture in Mariposa County. The three horses in the photo—Gunner, Flanigan and Freddy—are all dead now. Andy is dead. But the car…the car looks pretty much the same as it does in the photo. It runs great. It is as alive and thriving as it ever was. Which is to say not. It’s not alive. Still, I found myself unable to sell it.
While Andy was alive, I never once drove this car. It was tricky to shift and a race car by nature and Andy had it remodeled (seat moved back, steering wheel changed out) to suit his tall frame. He also remodeled the suspension and the clutch in order to do autocross with the car. Not only did I have no interest in driving it, I couldn’t have if I had wanted to. I rode in it a lot, as did our son (Andy was right about that part). But the car was Andy’s car—we all thought of it that way. Papa’s red car.
When Andy got sick and we knew he did not have a lot longer to live, he told me I should sell the Porsche and get something more practical. I told him the truth. “I just can’t.” The car meant something to me. It represented Andy and our life as a family. I have so many memories that the car is a part of. So I asked Andy who could help me fix the car up so I could drive it. And he told me who to go to.
After Andy died, one of the many, many things on my list of things to do was to get the car to the Porsche mechanic he had recommended (Tim Benson of Fast Lane Porsche, if anyone is interested). And eventually, the car came back to me, with the seat and steering wheel back to the original, the clutch redone so that I could deal with the shifting (I have not had a manual transmission to drive in many years), a new top (the old one leaked), and completely detailed. It looks, as I said, much as it does in the photo, which was taken about fifteen years ago. The little car is thirty years old now. But it looks and runs great. And I am learning to drive it.
Why am I doing this? I am not a car person. But I “love” the little car. I love it because it was Andy’s, because of the memories it holds, because my son is fond of it-- just because I could not sell “Papa’s red car,” and if I wasn’t going to sell it I had to learn to drive it.
And this has made me think a bit about the wisdom of being fond of material objects. I am not talking about the obsessive love of collecting more and more “stuff.” I am talking of the fondness one can have for a beautiful, well-made object like this car, or a lovely musical instrument, or a piece of fine art, or a good chair…etc. Such things can be cared for and they will not just last your lifetime—they can last for many human lifetimes. There is some peace in being fond of them.
I’ve spent my life loving horses and other animals, as well as a few people, and the thing is, they die. I’ve written a lot lately about death and I haven’t any more thoughts to add to that subject right now. But there is no question that the death of a loved person or animal is very hard for us to bear—whatever it may mean in the grand scheme of things. Maybe I would have been better off to be a car person after all? Cars do not die (though I suppose they can be smashed).
I drove the little red car yesterday. I’m getting used to it. It’s like a new horse—you have to get the feel of it. My husband told me that when I talked of driving it. “You have to get along with it.” And you know, I think I am going to be able to do that. I think I may become fond of driving it, actually. It is quirky and iconoclastic, a bit like an animal. As Andy once said of this car, after driving a generic rental car, "At least it has a little heart and soul."
So yes, here I am, the person who has loved horses and ridden horses for her entire life—and my current project is this little red car. I have not ridden a horse in many months—though the horses are all healthy and doing fine, and I take good care of them. But I am driving the little red car. And yesterday, when I was done, I took a rag and polished the dust off the hood. This is not something I ever could have imagined myself doing in any moment of my past life. And I think I could feel Andy smiling.
Maybe I am becoming a car person?