The Old Packard

51 fordAs a rule, Sunday was not an exciting day when I was growing up -- unless Uncle Dan was coming by to visit my grandmother. If that was the case, then we could look forward to getting in the Packard and pretending we were going around the world.

You have to know that our dad bought the plainest, cheapest model car that was available. If they still sold Model Ts in the early 50s, he might have owned one. As it was, our 1950 Ford was the base model in black and there were none of the niceties we take for granted today. There were no floor mats (unless you bought your own) to go over the plain rubber floor covering. No radio. No automatic transmission. No nothing. The seats were some sort of sticky vinyl that was a form of torture on a hot summer day. Put a family of six in it and you were headed for a bad day any way you looked at it.

51 packardUncle Dan drove a 1951 Packard and it had all the bells and whistles. I remember that it was tan and had an Ultramatic or Hydromatic transmission. It was the first car with an automatic transmission that I rode in, and it had a big V-8 engine. While it didn’t have the big fins that were to come later, the car seemed massive to me. You could put five or six kids across the back seat (and we often did have that many when all the cousins piled in). The seats were cloth too, and we felt like we were in a chauffered limosine when Uncle Dan took us for a ride. The suspension was the complete opposite of our Ford, which was stiff and unyielding.The Packard was more like a large boat that bobbed with the current and had such exaggerated pitching and yawing motions that we thought we were aboard a huge ocean liner.packard interior

Even if we did not ride anywhere, it was not unusual for us to sit inside the Packard and take turns behind the wheel, steering the big ship across unexplored oceans. For us, it was like a treehouse on wheels. All the buttons, handles, ashtrays, dome lights and dashboard controls were all prop instrument panels for our imaginary trips around the world.

As I think about it now, the Packard was the forerunner of computer video games that now inundate the world -- from Guitar Hero to Grand Theft Auto -- but we had the privlege of using the Packard as our prop, and our ticket out of another boring Sunday.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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