obody knows what triggers remembrances of events long forgotten. A memory from my boyhood hadn't been recalled in decades. Then I went to sleep, and a technicolor dream brought it all back. I had forgotten my rocket ride in a deuce coupe - that's a 1932 Ford mechanically modified to such a degree that no conventional car could catch it.
With my family I visited Alfred, a prosperous building contractor whose hobby was hot rods. In the afternoon, Alfred asked me if I'd like a ride in his home-built creation. Sure!
The deuce coupe looked rather quaint, even antiqueish, lying low to the ground and painted gloss black with motorcycle fenders. The doors were welded shut. You got in by slithering through the glassless side windows. Alfred and I got in, fastened seat belts. I felt reckless. "How fast will she go?" I asked
"Dollar-fifty," Alfred said.
I chuckled at the quip. Then my face was shocked into amazed disbelief. A hundred and fifty miles per hour?
The engine barked alive and the car burst onto the rural Connecticut road as though shot from a cannon. A sardine can with wheels and an engine. Centrifugal force plastered my back against the seat.
The deuce rounded curves like a roller coaster. Hardly any springs or shocks. Every road bump was a prize fighter's punch. The straightaway appeared. The wind whistled wildly; the scenery outside was a blur. The engine screamed and my ears hurt. Alfred spoke, but I could only see his lips move - something about "one-fifty." Awesome! In those days of Davy Crockett caps and early rock 'n' roll, even police cars couldn't catch the deuce on an open road.
We turned around, spurted back to Alfred's house, and jolted to a stop. I resembled Casper the Friendly Ghost. We hadn't hit 150 - just 106 before we'd run out of straightaway and had to slow down. Alfred was disappointed. Had there been a decent stretch of road, he could have shown me what this road king could do, he explained. Oh, I believed him. Exhilarating, that's what it was.
The days of building hot rods in the backyard are mostly gone. Cars are high-tech and the cost extreme. I was grateful to have caught glimpses of an American era so celebrated in novels and motion pictures: drag races, malt shops, hula hoops, drive-ins, and those home-built high performance cars.
Six or seven years after my "ride to end all rides," the Beach Boys wrote and recorded a song called "Little Deuce Coupe." Very popular, very American, and every word of it true. I knew because, for an afternoon, I had lived the legend.