The old intersection was a familiar spot after a lengthy journey. Once I reached the corner of Victory and Reseda, I knew I was a couple of blocks from walking into the door. Sometimes it was good to be home. Other times, I just wanted to bounce back off somewhere else.
On Amigo Avenue, the street where I lived, our corner lot at Gilmore Street offered plenty of curbside parking for any of the cars our family owned and any car I would take home from a rental car lot. As with many days in the Valley, when the sun was setting in the west came this shimmering white light across the mulberry trees that would give any of those vehicles a shimmery gleam to our property. In the early years, Mom’s Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Luxury sedan would catch that sheen when she arrived home. On most days, that meant things were OK in the world – even when they were not.
Mornings were just as special. The blue sky yielded no sun as it gleamed in the back yard. As the cars out front faced north, it let off a lovely welcome to the day.
Nothing made these views more spectacular than the cars themselves. I figured a My Favorites post to help the memory work overtime would be a great way to bridge the name of this website with a little bit of automotive history.
And, a forewarning, nothing is in chronological sequence here…
1967 CHEVROLET IMPALA: The Bloom/Cohen lineage was more of a loyal GM one than the Stern/Schwartz’s. Dad experimented with anything and everything…but Mom stuck with GM for herself. The Impala replaced the 1965 Plymouth Satellite Dad got because Mom refused to let go of that drab green 1960 Chevrolet Corvair. When the Corvair finally gave way in 1970, the white Impala Sport Coupe became hers. We couldn’t have it any other way! That fastback styling over a full-sized, Coke-bottled design was absolutely stunning. To augment the all-white body (no vinyl roof – an unusual thing for a Stern car of that era) was a blue vinyl interior. No bucket seats up front, but Mom had a huge instrument panel with the largest dials I’ve ever seen in any vehicle! This Impala had a 5.4-liter (the 327, for you Chevy aficionados) V8 connected to a Turbo Hydra-Matic 3-speeder (I know it wasn’t a Powerglide – I swore it wasn’t!). It was just a smooth ride – and big enough to take 4-5 Cub Scouts with the Den Mother behind the wheel. The Impala eventually gave way for mom’s final car – and my brother’s and my first car…
1972 OLDSMOBILE NINETY-EIGHT: The story goes that Dad bought the car from a business partner of his. It is unclear who put the gash on the nose of the car – and whether the story of running it into the fin of a 1950’s Cadillac Eldorado was true or not. When Dad split, he left Mom with the Olds. The tech was simple: A monster 7.5-liter (455 cubic inch) V8 with half the ponies it would normally have thanks to emissions regulations from the Nixon Administration. This was connected to another 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic box fed to the rear wheels. It was huge: Six Boy Scouts and an ex-Den Mother behind the wheel – or six members of the Reseda High Varsity basketball team with the JV Baseball manager behind the wheel. The trunk held five fully laden backpacks ready for an overnight campout seven miles into the Angeles National Forest – suspended by a jacked-up and strengthened rear end (as mentioned before in the last post). This Olds superseded any Bravada for going off-road. Imagine its gravel and dirt road capability while being called affectionately by Mom the "Queen Mary." Land yachts weren’t supposed to turn off the main road into the mountains! In my care, it became the "Cruise Missile" where it was relegated to Valley driving and underage drinking. It died a quiet death in January of 1983 under my care. The electrics were no longer willing and able to give it life. It is always said that you’ll never forget your first car. I am always reminded by it every time I get behind the wheel of one – even the ones being reviewed on this website.
1985 VOLVO 740GLE: Mom never bought a foreign car. She was as American as Ronald Reagan (that’s whom she voted for in 1980 and 1984). When my brother decided to replace the lime-and-avocado green 1974 Ford Mustang II Ghia, he became the first one to own a car with a nomenclature outside of North America in our household. It was a Mazda. I ended up getting the Mustang II…and, eventually, the Mazda. I traded the latter in for a Nissan pickup. However, on a Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to get a car from Hertz at LAX. Though it was the day before the turkey feast, there were massive flight delays coming into said airport. So, I got lucky. They had two cars available to me – I chose the better one. The Volvo was a stately machine, though still a brick of a design. The brick was leaner – quite luxurious, might I add! I liked how the 2.3-liter Red Block four-banger and four-speed automatic motivated this Swedish premium sedan during my Thanksgiving and Black Friday journeys in 1985. It certainly looked nice out front of the house. Strangely enough, I actually wanted to own a new one – until I saw the sticker in 1990. I stuck to below a $16,000 budget for the Acura. That’s how impressed I was with the 740.
1985 FORD THUNDERBIRD: This particular bird of prey was the first car I ever rented. I’m now talking a couple of T-Birds later – a beige color base model. It seemed strange after all these years I’d fell in love with a rear-drive, Fox platform, aero-designed, so-called personal luxury coupe with doors the size of a smart forTwo. Hertz had them on special all the time in the mid-1980s…that’s why. The Thunderbird wasn’t perfect with its floaty front end and lazy driving abilities. I should take that second part back since I did get my second speeding ticket ever in one. Despite the driving experience, which started to wear on me over the course of a year or so, there was some significance to this ninth-generation T-Bird. It began a design revolution for North American automobiles. The use of aerodynamics and curves were first employed on the T-Bird. Ford knew they had a design language that would change the way American consumers looked at the automobile.
1987 FORD TAURUS: There were two of them – for two special occasions. They graced Amigo Avenue in front of my house after some serious driving up-and-down California. The first one (a light beige GL) made it to San Diego during the NFL season for a Chargers game. Considering I had the work Christmas Party back in the Valley, it made the drive up to from Qualcomm Stadium an easy one. That first Taurus made my inaugural intercity drive flawless. Two months later, I had to take another one (a white GL) to fetch my late Dad’s things from his last girlfriend. That meant taking the Taurus up Interstate 5 to the Bay Area – Novato and San Rafael to be exact. After attending a Golden State Warriors game in Oakland, I had to return back home in quick haste. So, it became a rainy overnight drive. Bruce Hornsby never sounded better on the cassette deck through the Bull’s interior. I could get into the design, the tech – every detail of the car the truly brought Ford back into the game in the 1980s. What the first generation Taurus did was to steer me towards the automobile we know of today. Vehicles have improved like crazy since then, but the modern North American automobile began at this point. How did the Taurus look on Amigo Avenue? It graced it effortlessly.
Cover photo by Randy Stern