I don't remember much about the first girl that I thought I had deep feelings for... not where I was when I first saw her or not even much about what attracted me to her aside from a pair of skinny legs. (That's another story for another time.)
But I do remember my first real love, and of all people it was my dad who hooked us up. It was May, 1968 and I was two months shy of my sixteenth birthday and probably spending most of my waking moments counting down the days to the one when I would take a test to receive my temporary driver's license. It was the only test I ever looked forward to, then and to this very day.
I had my eye on a neighbor's little British car, a 1962 Ford Cortina that was for sale for around two hundred dollars but my dad wasn't going to have any part of it. He was a Ford guy but he was strictly red, white and blue when it came to buying anything and having any foreign car around the house was not an option.
The garage behind our house was his playground and he loved tinkering with and fixing his own car whenever the need arose but he wouldn't even open the hood of something not made in America. And since I was something of an apprentice with tools back then he reminded me of that whenever I would drop hints about the one I had my eye on. I can recall him saying something about cars that were made over seas being one-nineties. "One day on the road and ninety days in the shop."
Another of my dad's sayings about such topics was "The only tool you can operate is a car key."
I was told that when I got a little older and more mechanically inclined, and when I lived somewhere besides home I could buy all of the cars that wouldn't start or break down daily that I wanted, but since we both knew that it was his money that would buy that first one he would have some say in what it would be.
It was he who found a 1960 Ford Falcon advertised in the paper for one hundred and fifty dollars and when he asked if that sounded like something I would want I probably said whatever any sixteen year-old kid would. Whatever it was I ddn't hesitate when he asked if I wanted to go with him to look at it. I think it was that Saturday afternoon that I first knew that love at first sight was a very real emotion.
In the years that have passed I have owned more than sixty cars, most of them Ford's and I have restored a number of basket cases and turned a few of them into show-cars, some of them in the garage that my dad built and I now own. And through the years I did learn to master more tools than a car key. But of those cars that included Thunderbirds, Galaxies, Fairlaines and a few other Falcons, none meant as much to me as that first one.
The photo shown above is a model made by the Franklin Mint. It was a gift from my wife that she paid one hundred and fifty dollars for, the same amount my dad paid for the real thing more than forty-five years ago. And because it isn't likely that I will ever find a white 1960 Falcon with a black and gray interior that looks exactly like my first set of wheels, right down to the same hubcaps and checkered trunk liner, this is one of my more prized possessions.
The Franklin Mint is notorious for getting it right with their small recreations and this one is a dead ringer for my first love. And by the way, that other first love with the skinny legs was a little neighbor girl whose father was selling that old Cortina and even though I didn't get that car she was the first girl to ride in the one I got.