Saturday, July 14, 2007


When you are shooting a road picture, you need the right vehicle to transport the cast down the road. The car becomes another chracter that speaks volumes about the film or person driving it. I gave the car special thought knowing it would have such a big impact.

My first thoughts on cars always lead to Station Wagons. The station wagon is an American icon. They've faithfully hauled families all over. Marketing types tried to make them sexy, but let's face it, they are just utilitarian work horses meant to haul stuff, kids, dogs, bikes, mattresses and miscellaneous junk.

My family never had one while I was around (I take that back, they owned a purple station wagon when we lived in Portugal...I was 18 months old), but many friends of mine have recounted tails of piling into the family station wagon and enduring long hours on the road. My buddy across the street, when I was growing up in Illinois, was from one of those famlies. Their cool Caprice Classic had the ever popular "way back" seat that faced backwards. We loved to sit there and make faces at on coming traffic. We only got in trouble once or twice for it, but we had fun.

My girlfriend Christine and I started to shop for the right station wagon back in early June. We looked into a 72 Olds Vista Cruiser (leaked oil like a sieve), an 84 Ford Country Squire (too Clark Griswald like), a 1963 Buick Special (too cool), another Olds (was hot rodded) and finally the 77 Plymouth Volare. It was a great adventure meeting people.

We met the guys at the transmission shop in Puyallup that swore their Olds was a barn find. There was the guys in Deer Park that really wanted to sell me their Caprice Classic, but it was pretty beat. The Vista Cruiser was alledgedly the guys grandfather's car and in perfect mechanical condition, but, what about the big puddle of oil under it?! And then their was the nice old guy that was on the car lot. He loved to talk and probably was a little lonely. We spotted the Buick on the old guy's lot in Helena as we drove through on a location scout. The coolness of a 1963 Station wagon turned us off, not to mention the steep price tag: $3900. We had to test drive it just for fun, but I had to remember how to shift with Three on the Tree. It was pretty sweet and all but just not what we were looking for in a picture car. Our car needed character but it also needed to look less like a hipster car and more like some dad's car that was making an attempt at being a family man.

In the end, none of the cars we'd seen yet felt right until we stumbled on to Dusty. We found Dusty in Greenlake, just north of Seattle. A musician had him. Dusty lead a good life hauling around band equipment. Apparently, he'd even been to NYC and points in between while on tour with the band. He was well traveled and well loved, but another car came in to the musician's life and Dusty was left to rot in the alley. The musician seemed pretty anxious to get the cash plus, I imagine it was time to get Dusty out...the landlord was sick of seeing an old car rust away, I'm sure.

Dusty sputtered back to life with just a little effort, cleaned up (but junk was still in the back) and put up for sale on Craig's List. I took a brief test ride in Dusty. The musician was a little worried about me driving Dusty too far with the expired tabs. "Don't get me busted, man, that would be a raw deal." I promised not to get caught so I kept it short. A deal was struck and I now owned a sweet station wagon. That was Saturday. Christine and I came back for him on Tuesday. Problem was, Dusty would not run. Maybe he didn't want to leave the alley, his home and the love of the musician (he really did love Dusty but clearly, at this point, was jonesin' for the cash)...who knows...but we got to bottom of the problem. Dusty was out of gas.

Now Dusty is sitting in my alley and is pretty sweet. He's got a funny grill that was repairded with some sort of fencing to simulate a grill. There's the vice grips for a window crank. There is the odd smell that only an old car can have...kind of musty. And the steering wheel is sticky for some reason.

Dusty is about to be treated to some love: oil change, air filter, shocks, brakes and whatever else he needs to be safe and sound and he'll get some fuel. He might not know it yet, but he's gonna be famous, sort of....

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