You’ve Really Changed

You’ve Really Changed

You’ve Really Changed

by Glenn Kramer

Originally published in the July/August 2009 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 289).

I don’t know when it started. Maybe it was Mrs. Klecka, the rich lady down the block who had a ’49 Cosmopolitan. Or, the Popular Mechanics ‘Tact Book of 1953 Cars” that I got for being a good boy at the dentist. It had a beautiful Capri  convertible as well as a performance comparison of the ’52 vs. ’53 (I loved the huge taillights). Anyway, my obsession with Lincolns started early and manifested often.

When I was 18 (1965), it was time to get my first car. While most of my contemporaries were lusting after hot Chevvies and Fords, I wanted a Lincoln. With a budget that topped out at $600, my choices were, uh, limited. Without describing the gut wrenching angst that accompanied the search for a ’58 or maybe a ’59 convertible, I finally spotted a ’59 on Easter Sunday in downtown Baltimore. I immediately signaled the driver, a black man, to pull over. Remember the year. He thought I was a cop. Hilarity ensued.

Finally, I made an offer. He accepted. A week later, accompanied by my sister, who lent me some of the money, I picked it up. Amos, the seller, shook hands, smiled and said, “I promise you nothing but grief’. Wow, a prophet. An accurate one. The car was Earl Sheib light blue, with black leather. Despite the endless repairs (two transmissions, u-joints, fuel tank, fuel pump, water pump, mufflers, recaps, etc.) that kept me well under the poverty level through college, I LOVED it. It was fast, 0-60 in under 9 seconds. Maybe that helps to explain the two transmissions. After three years of service, it finally died when a wheel bearing seized up on the way back to the naval base at Norfolk. It limped back to Baltimore and was parked in front of Dad’s house. He hated the car and now got to look at it daily.

Meanwhile, I found a ’60 coupe, perfect, 50,000 miles, white with tan leather, a/c, power lube, it had everything. The price? $600. My wife borrowed most of the money from my grandmother and wired it to me. I persuaded her to get on the bus to join me for the weekend ride home. Reluctantly, she agreed. In the ensuing few days, I discovered that the generator was fried. Plus, it was an expensive Delco, used on a few a/c equipped ‘60s. No matter, I could manage the 250 mile drive on the battery, if I was careful. I picked her up Friday afternoon at the bus station and she admitted that the car was beautiful. I said, “Let’s go!” I tore out and got on the road. It was warm and she wondered about the a/c. I commented that, with the breezeway window, you hardly needed it. The first clouds of doubt crossed her previously unwrinkled face. We got to Richmond and, since she hadn’t eaten since morning and we were retracing her route, dinner was a must. Unfortunately, dinner would eat into daylight. I knew a restaurant that would be just perfect. It was next to an Esso station. I gallantly dropped her off at the door, waited until she went in and left the car at the station with instructions to charge the hell out of the battery. After dinner, I got the car, met her at the door and continued on. As dusk became night, she wondered why I didn’t turn on the lights. Eventually, I did. We made it to the house in Baltimore (thank God for 90 pound batteries) and went in to see the folks. I told dad to look out the window. There were two of them. He was not thrilled.

The point is that I loved both cars. Dating in the ’59 Mark IV, touring in the ’60 Mark V, remembering the first time I used the floor mounted signal seeker to find a fresh station while keeping my arm around my date (NHTSA be damned). They were great, flawed, memorable cars.

I’ve had several terrific cars since, ’69 sedan, Mark VII LSC, 12 cylinder BMWs, Eldorado convertibles, which brings us up to the present, 40 years later. I now own…a Mark III and a Mark V. Admittedly they are newer, a ’70 and a ’79, but they are very similar in concept. The Mark III, like the old Mark IV is fast and a little raucous. The Mark V Collector’s, like the older ’60 coupe, is slower and more luxurious. One other thing is similar.. .gas mileage. It’s the decimal point in the price that’s changed. Now that I’m in my 60s, I guess it’s becoming obvious that this focus must be a trend. Lincolns, you never get over your first love.

Glenn’s 1979 Mark V and 1970 Mark III side by side today.