Memories seem to come and go like a change of seasons but there is one that lingers and remains with me, forever alive…
It was back in the summer of ’73, early evening when I heard a peculiar loud rumbling sound coming down the street. I was upstairs lying on my bed reading a book winding down to the evening hours. The day was hot and humid, a time when all activity slows and becomes quiet and peaceful. The sound came closer and went through a series of rapidly decreasing muffled tones and then leveled off to a low rumble. I did not think anything of it at first but I found I could not contain my escalating wild curiosity. A few seconds later the sound abruptly stopped, there was dead silence. From my open window the birds chirped out in a frenzy of complaint at the momentary disturbance.
I placed my book down careful not to lose the page, rolled off the bed and moved quickly toward the open front window facing the street. I pushed the drape over to the side and peered out the window. There walking across the lawn was my high school friend Howard. In his wake, parked against the curb of the street sat this small strange looking green sports car with the top down.
The doorbell rang that familiar tin sound as I flew down the stairs. I opened the front door and there stood Howard grinning from ear to ear. He was a rather interesting chap—looking like a Brit in hippy garb. He sported a flat top driving cap, had on black rimmed glasses with long hair cascading down and spilling over the collar of a well worn plaid shirt hanging outside his dungaree pants.
“Hey man, wait till you see what I bought,” Howard drawled turning his head toward the street. With jingling keys we strolled across the front lawn. There it sat—a 1969 Triumph Spitfire, British green with a black interior. It appeared well used and had a foreign look about it that immediately caught my attention. It was pint-sized yet the interior was spacious. The shape was sleek in appearance with beautiful curvy, sloping lines, doors that tapered down toward the rear, and a large steering wheel that came midway up the small angled windshield. The whole car emitted an energy that was instantly intoxicating and evoked a character of coolness in a sophisticated kind of way.
We hopped in and Howard, perpetually grinning, fired up the engine. The whole car shook and vibrated to life as the gauge needles danced about every which way. I don’t know what it was but it gripped me really hard as we bucked forward and accelerated rapidly through the gears. The car was fast and aggressive moving at high speeds turning with trigger like precision. Looking out the windshield the chrome strips running the length of the hood above the wheels gave a toy-like boxy sensation that heightened the excitement of turning when you felt totally apart of the very fiber of the car. Everyone it seemed slowed down to take a look and stared in wondrous amazement. Occasionally another Triumph approached and would flash there headlamps twice, day or night, signaling a unique band of camaraderie like none other I have ever experienced.
It wasn’t long before we discovered the most scenic rural roads in New Jersey. Riding along a two-lane road we spied a hidden narrow road just visible in the dense green overgrowth of trees. Wild with adventure—Howard made a couple of sudden downshifts and quickly turned right and accelerated up a slight incline. The road leveled off and became narrower and shaded from the canopy of tall trees above. Howard flipped on the headlamps as we moved deeper into an maze of greenery and beaming sunlight. The cool air whipped about every which way through the open cockpit. Occasionally Howard had to tug down on the brim of his hat to keep from blowing off. Like on a roller coaster my body shifted this way and that way from the dizzying array of sudden turns at high speeds. The road snaked through the countryside and seemed to have lost all sense of order and was difficult to anticipate the next turn.
Funny, but the car seemed to be pulled along by its own spirit and wanted to go where few have ever traveled before. I was captivated and drawn deeper into its spell. To our left a large lake came into view and across on the other side by waters edge stood an old dilapidated boathouse. The car shook, rattled and rolled as we flew along the curvy road. The air became suddenly cooler with pockets of cool air from the stiff breeze coming in off the lake, so we turned on the heater. We swiftly turned left, than right and accelerated quickly—the car screamed as it shifted through the gears in high rev and whined its deep throaty sound. Suddenly I bucked forward in my seat as Howard downshifted abruptly and we slightly lost traction as the car screeched to a full stop at a crossroad. One road looked just as fascinating as the next. With engine idling, the vibration of the car was felt in my right elbow and arm leaning out the window..
The many adventurous excursions in Howard’s Spitfire possessed me to purchase my own brand new 74 Spitfire. Although the body style was slightly different, it was a real beauty! The French Blue exterior with black interior was striking and gave that same excitement and adventure. I often explored and discovered many off-the-beaten path roads, and could not wait to jump into the car each day. It was a part of me that touched my inner spirit.
Throw on a windbreaker with the collar up, sport a flat top hat, and step out to the garage. As the early dawn sunlight streaks its golden light upon the far wall, raise the garage door. The birds sing out a song of rejoicing for a new day has dawned. The cockpit filled with gauges, wood and leather calls out a compelling whisper. Pulling down on the brim of your hat you bend sideways placing one leg in, lowering your body and swooping in one smooth motion down into the seat. A momentary pause and then you reach out with your left arm and gently close the door. You sit there motionless as your eyes scan the sleeping gauges. All is quiet and still.
The memories of those times have never faded, and the spirit that moves the British sports car is alive. No better times are upon us than now to pause and follow the road of our dreams!
The best of times,
Bill Bezik, Bethlehem, PA