By Elayne Bendel
Every car event we attend has its own charm and personality, but some leave a greater mark on our memories than others. Such was the case at the May 6 Imperial Club BBQ, which brought me back in a time warp unlike any other. Most of the vehicles were from the 1950s and ’60s and some were examples of significant cars from my own youth or those very close to me.
By training as a professional news reporter and inclination as a story teller for our LCOC visitors and readers, I try hard to keep personal comments out of our posts, but now and then an event happens that throws neutrality to the wind and Saturday’s BBQ was one of those. Of course, the food was great and the socializing with fellow car buffs was fun.
But the BBQ, hosted by Bryan Burns at his Yucca Valley, CA home, attracted some of the best mid-century vehicles in the Palm Springs area and their owners. Bryan’s own growing collection added to the fun. Besides Imperials, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Buicks, a DeSoto, Oldsmobile and even a Rolls-Royce, the event sent me rolling down memory lane. Seeing these vehicles brought some hazy childhood memories back to life in glass and steel. The words of the Carpenters song Yesterday Once More kept running though my bran.
You see, Bryan, Buicks, Lincolns, Chryslers and Oldsmobiles of the era were primary vehicles for our family, too.
Dad had a lifelong love of cars, and when I was young he was always tending to the family Buick before taking us out for a weekend drive and likely a pizza. I was a garage rat, hanging out with Dad on those Saturday mornings when he was changing the spark plugs or just washing and polishing the car. “The car runs better when it’s clean,” he used to say, and I can still hear those words echoing across the decades. It also runs better when it’s fast, and he did everything possible to make sure his was the fastest. Over the years we had a Buick Special, Century, Super, Roadmaster and Electra 225 as well as the other makes.
Dad was tested many times. He never fully overcame the racing gene. Corner traffic signals were often drag strip start lights in his mind and he never shrank from a challenge. The Electra 225 was the biggest sleeper of all. Ours was a 1965, one year newer than one in Bryan’s collection. It looked like a conservative doctor’s car and he looked like a doctor driving it. But it was a stealth muscle car and many a shocked young hot rodder was left in the dust by the Electra once the red light turned green.
My first car was a used 1961 yellow Buick LeSabre convertible. It was a beauty, but over time it morphed into a 1964 Lincoln convertible. Bryan has a 1961 Buick and several others as well as a ’64 Lincoln. I also had a ’56 Cadillac later on, one of which was at the BBQ. Saturday’s event was like a rewind cavalcade of my life in cars. It truly was yesterday once more…
Bryan’s 1961 Buick brings back memories of my first car.