My first car was a 1967 powder blue Triumph Spitfire with a white convertible top. It cost all of $2,500 new. I bought it when I graduated from high school. I put $500 down and paid about $72 each month. Gas was about a quarter a gallon and the thing ran on air. It was fun, fast, sexy, and definitely cool. I felt like major hot stuff zooming around town at the wheel, especially after I’d spent my high school years driving my mom’s 1958 Rambler Ambassador station wagon. It was humiliating. You could polish that puppy till it blinded you. It was still the definition of “uncool.”
So cruising the A&W drive-thru in my spiffy, new, dude-magnet with the music blasting was definitely sah-weeeeet. It was my first experience with a stick-shift and I took to it like a seasoned NASCAR superstar. Oh, yeah. Pop that clutch and I was gone. Eat my dust people … Fortunately, this was before the days when cops had radar.
I’d just turned eighteen, the luggage birthday, and my life as an adult (legally anyway, I’ve never truly copped to it) was just beginning. No longer could anyone not carrying a badge tell me what to do. Not that my mom had ever done much of that, or that I ever listened when she tried. In fact, if my mother taught me anything about respecting authority it was … yeah … can’t think of a damn thing.
The time was the late 60s, early 70s. The place, San Francisco. The birth control pill had just been invented and “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” were the order of the day. I named my Spitfire “Spit.” I was stoned a lot of the time back in those days and needed a name that was easy to remember, especially since I often misplaced the actual car.
I lived in what was then the Starbucks-free village of Mill Valley in Marin County. Saturdays, Spit would often take me and a friend up to the top of Mount Tamalpais where we’d park, then drop acid and hike all the way down the Dixie Canyon Trail to Bolinas beach. Depending on how ripped we were, it would take between one and three hours. Once there, we’d make our way to the one and only bar where we’d drink beer all afternoon, then hitchhike back up to the top of Mount Tam, pick up Spit and cruise on home to an evening of Sara Lee chocolate cake and the Moody Blues. This was still an innocent time when you could do such things without fear of your body being found half-cannibalized years later in the basement of some loon.
Monday through Friday, Spit would speed me across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, a hub of junkies and hookers, where I worked in a non-descript building that housed a recording studio and mingled daily with musicians from the Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater, CSN&Y, and my personal favorite, Santana. Nights were spent at hidden away little blues clubs in North Beach where Spit never once failed to find me a parking spot despite the heavy odds against us. Weekends would find us at the Fillmore rockin’ to the likes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, admission $3 plus you got a really cool poster. Somehow, Spit always managed to get me safely home, although many times I had no personal recall of the journey. I look back on those days now and marvel that I’m still alive.
Spit carried me for the last time in 1972. Her final months were a series of breakdowns and malfunctions that caused Triple A to banish us for all time. I ended up selling her to my mechanic for $50. He promised she would go live on a nice farm in the country and spend her remaining days roaming and playing with all the family dogs whose children had been assured of the same thing.
To this day I still have dreams of Spit—that magically there she is, all polished and new—and together once again, we cruise the drive-thrus of our youth, sucking back on a joint and listening to the tunes of The Grateful Dead. Good times ...