Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ferrari or Ford, What's the Difference?

I confess I'm not someone who gets impressed by cars. As long as the engine works when I turn the key I'm happy, and Alaskans in general agree with me. If you go to Denver, Dallas or L.A. you'll see shiny new cars that will never see dirt but not here. The joke is that you know you're a real Alaskan when you go all winter (the full six months) without washing your car and with pot holes, rock salt, and gravel few people care to own something as impractical as a sports car--or if they do they store it in winter and bring it out for the six or seven sunny days we get every summer.

Having established that I'm practical when it comes to cars Andrew and I bought our first car ten years ago after law school (you can't count the sports car I owned when I was single that came as part of my dowry), trying to get the best deal we could. The '93 Ford Escort wagon we bought was as basic as you could find--forget power locks or power doors, it didn't even have a radio. But with four tires and seats for two kids we were thrilled. Now, 100,000 miles, two more kids and three sets of tires later that beauty is still going strong though five years ago it ceased to be "my" car (in favor of a minivan) and was passed down to Andrew. He's been uncomplaining about it all and has said he'd drive it until it's dead but every so often he gets restless.

It doesn't help that my own father loves cars and bought one of those new Honda Ridgelines (the trucks that look too cool to haul anything) and promptly set up convincing Andrew that he should buy his Jeep. Heated leather seats, CD changer, remote starter, four wheel drive--everything a lustful young Escort owner could desire--all with a nice family-discounted price too good to ignore. It probably doesn't even run on gas but testoterone.

I've kept out of the issue, leaving it up to Andrew and counting my blessings that we aren't talking about one of those stupid Hummers. But Andrew's boss even brought up the subject. Knowing my Dad and knowing his car was up for sale, he mentioned that "people look at your car and your car helps make your image," leaving us to wonder why Andrew's image needed updating (I should be lucky he didn't suggest a new wife) and why until last year he himself had drove a vintage Suburban that could have been owned by the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath.

But with such encouragement hitting from all directions is it any wonder Andrew has felt pulled to the Dark Side? I suggested that if he was serious about buying Dad's car he ought to get the Escort fixed up and ready to sell. It chugs and loses power when it accelerates and the problem has worsened until you have to avoid on-ramps or risk being followed by a 15-mph procession of angry cars honking and wishing death upon you.

A year or two ago he'd swore he'd not put another dime of repairs into it and he took it to the shop hoping the recommendation would be euthanasia. I, however, was reasonably confident it would be something simple like a clogged fuel line and sure enough it turned out to be the spark plugs and other small details. The mechanic called Andrew to report the estimate and with wonder and awe he said he'd taken out our spark plugs (possibly the originals from the factory) to look at them but that when the air had hit them they'd disintegrated in his hands.

"I've never seen anything like it man," was his comment. I believe the shop has since swept up the ashes and now has them stored in a container with a plaque underneath as proof for all who proof of the legend.

But the good/bad news is that the car is once again on its feet and running great. Andrew was grumbling that the stupid thing probably has three or four more years of life in her yet. I'm going to have to keep my eye on him, I wouldn't put it past him to sneak into the garage at night and start ripping out parts as sabotage--luckily he wouldn't know which parts to remove.

My kids aren't helping the situation either. I took them to see the new Pixar movie "Cars" and the part about Ferraris fascinated them. Driving home they wanted to know what a Ferrari was and in an offhand way I said they were a fancy sports car. This obviously wasn't enough explanation because a day or two later I heard them talking about a friend of the family who had a "cool Ferrari." Knowing this man well enough to know what he drives and knowing that it was most definitely not a Ferrari (a Honda Element if you can imagine a car less Ferrari-like) I had to prove it with pictures from the internet. Shameful that young boys could grow up today and not know what a Ferrari looks like--I mean I'm not impressed by cars but I'm not stupid either.

Seeing that picture of a Ferrari--and I have to admit they're cool, Magnum P.I. was my favorite show as a kid--changed their little worlds and they wanted to see one for real. However, as previously mentioned Alaskans don't care much for Italian sports cars, they're just not that helpful pulling a trailer of snowmachines or hauling the sled dogs to town and to my knowledge there's only one Ferrari in Anchorage. I see it every few years in the summer, an older model--red of course--and it still looks pretty good.

I told the boys about it and Lillian must have been listening because when we're driving around they're regularly convinced that they "just saw The Ferrari." Or more acurately, "Woa! Mom! There it is! There it is, the FERRARI--I SAW IT!" But so far it's been false alarms. Andrew and I laugh and think that now we're looking for it the chance of seeing it is probably next to nothing but nonetheless the kids are constantly on the lookout and nearly scare me off the road every time they think they've seen it. You'd be surprised how every Trans Am, Corvette and Camaro looks like a Ferrari to an eight year-old, especially if it's red.

Yes, they've looked so hard and long that they're beginning to feel that the whole Ferrari thing is an urban legend. They've become more and more skeptical until I don't know if I could convince them that there really is a Ferrari here in town if it pulled into our driveway.

Which brings me to Friday night. Andrew and I were out, and if you like irony we were touring car lots, when there it was at the intersection of 36th and New Seward, making a right turn south. The Ferrari. Of course the kids weren't with us and later when we told them we'd seen it they looked as if we'd told them we'd seen Santa cruising midtown. We assured them that it was true, we really had seen it but I'm not sure we convinced them.

I wonder if I should tell them about Lamborghinis?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think, that Ferrari is much more faster than Ford ;)
But Lamborghinis forever!!