After my senior year of high school I was ready to get my first bona fide car. I had driven a Chevy Vega that we bought from my grandparents for a dollar. I had driven my folks cars, the Buick Skylark and the Chrysler LeBaron; but now it was time for me to take the wheel of my own transport. I was going to be driving to college every day and it did not make much sense to continue to be a "renter."
My dream was to own a Jeep. In my eighteen-year-old mind that would be the perfect drive on the road and off the road. I wanted something rugged enough to handle the dirt roads on our hills but still be cool as ice when rambling up Dickson Street. The more mature adults in my world did not see my point. Everyone kept telling me, "Jeeps tip over." I think of this everytime I watch The Christmas Story in which Ralphie has his heart set on a Red Ryder BB Gun and the adults keep saying, "You'll shoot your eye out!" Ralphie got his BB Gun. I didn't get the Jeep.
If I had been able to come up with my own money to purchase a car worth anything over a dollar I could have been choosy. Not having enough money I had to depend on a complex money laundering scheme that involved a family loan, mysterious benefactors, and my uncle the bodyshop man. The car they came up with would not be my first choice. It was practical, extermely good on gas mileage, and would not tip over in a hurricane. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 1983 Renault LeCar.
I felt a swirl of disappointment. Small, economical micro cars were not cool in the mid-eighties. This was way before the current popularity of the Mini-Cooper. Volkswagon Bugs were still cool in a hippie sort of way, but even Bugs did not look like something the Weebles would drive. Then there's the fact that this was a French car. If it were wine or dessert that would have been great, but French cars don't rate high with teenagers. And then the name . . ."Le Car?" It reminded me of the pseudo-French of the the Peppy LePew cartoons wherein every object has the article "Le" attached to it: "Le Skunk, Le Cat, Le Voom Voom!" At least this particular car did not have the words "Le Car" emblazoned on the doors like some (like the one in the photo). Of course it did not help that my relatives kept joking about the name calling it a "LEE-Car" with a definite emphasis on the "LEE" pronounced with backwoods Arkansas gusto.
I held on to the Le Car for quite a few years. It started college with me and graduated college with me. It survived a direct hit from a Buick Roadmaster in Hot Springs. When the clutch went bad my father labored tirelessly to work in the compact mess of French engineering to keep the little roller skate running. Le Car got the "just married" treatment from friends before Karen and I drove off from our wedding. It was broken into by a neighbor's relative and the $10 radio was stolen. I got my radio back and built a better relationship with the neighbor. Le Car made the trip with us when we moved to Abilene. It lasted for a while and that's where it finally died.
I wheeled the little car that could into our front driveway on Judge Ely Boulevard. It sat there for a few weeks until I finally sold it to a man for $150. He was buying it for his daughter. He thought it would be a practical and economical car. I pointed out that at least it didn't have "Le Car" emblazoned on the side of it.
I cannot say that I miss Le Car. If I could have any of my old rigs back this one would not be top of my list. Nevertheless, this car was there for some of my happiest years and it was a gift from family members who made an effort to provide for me.