The Best $5 I Ever Spent

The Best $5 I Ever Spent
By Russ Towne

I just had to have a car. I ached for one. Unfortunately, I was only fifteen and had a mere $300 in savings. Earning just a buck thirty-five an hour I knew it would be a long time before I’d have enough to make a noticeable difference in what I could buy.

I was impatient, but about the only thing available in that price range was a 1960 Rambler. It was a big, ugly white box on wheels that was nearly as old as me. I knew instantly I’d be embarrassed to drive it. Other kids in my school drove Mustangs, Camaros, Firebirds, and the like. But back then about the only thing worse than driving an ugly car was not having a car at all, so I swallowed my pride, spent every dollar I had, and got behind the wheel.

Ramblin’ Rosie

I named her Ramblin’ Rosie.

Her steering wheel seemed to be the diameter of a manhole cover, and without power steering it felt about as heavy to turn.

Rosie’s heater took about five minutes longer to warm up than the length of any trip I made.

She had an automatic transmission with different colored shift buttons on the dash board. They lit up like a Christmas tree when her lights came on. She was better looking at night.

Once, I accidentally pushed her reverse button when driving down the street. I knew in a heartbeat I was driving fast enough to blow her transmission. Rosie shook, shuddered loudly, and came to a standstill. My heart plunged to my stomach. I killed Rosie! Out of desperation, I pushed her drive button and held my breath. She lurched forward like nothing had happened.

She’d given another chance to me and I never pushed the wrong button again.

A Lot of Heart but Almost No Muscle

Many cars accelerate like a dream, with Rosie is was more like a nightmare with all the cars blowing past so fast they were blurs, and eighteen-wheelers loved climbing on my rear bumper.

Things got even more exciting when I tried to take her up a hill. Driving her over the Santa Cruz Mountains on Highway 17 was like never-ending, nerve rattling torture. I’d give her a head start by accelerating as fast as she’d go before the slope began, then try to keep her floored all the way up the hill. It was a race to reach the summit before she came to a complete stop. My heart pounded so hard and beat so fast I thought it was going to explode. White knuckles clawed the steering wheel so my sweaty palms wouldn’t slip off. My eyes frantically flew between the rising road and the dropping speedometer as it fell agonizingly closer, and closer to zero. Meanwhile ever-helpful drivers behind us prodded us to go faster in a wide variety of unfriendly ways.

Rosie kept me on the edge of my seat, but she always made it—-though just barely.

We Brake for Police

Once, Rosie got me involved with the police. It started innocently enough. Solvent spilled on her new brake pads when they were being installed. Later as I drove down a four-lane road, a police car which was hidden by parked cars on the side of the road suddenly veered in front of me to chase a speeder. Startled, I stomped on the brakes a little too hard. Alright, a LOT too hard. Rosie’s brakes completely locked up with an ear-splitting SCREEEEECH, thick black smoke, and the stench of burning rubber.

That startled the cop. He slammed on his brakes and did a complete donut in the middle of the road as he tried to decide which vehicle to go after. He took a look at Rosie. I guess he decided no one could have been speeding in a car that looked like Rosie because he ignored us and resumed chasing the speeder.

We didn’t wait around to see if he would change his mind!

Rosie Earns Some Respect

During the CB-radio craze, Rosie helped me to come up with my “handle” (a name one uses while talking on a CB). I became the Midnight Rambler. Like a lot of boys my age, I was a “Casanova Wannabe.” In my case it was too often more “Wannabe” than Casanova, but I liked the handle anyway.

My peers, who were unenlightened by Rosie’s finer attributes, occasionally made fun of her. That was largely corrected one night at a high school dance. The band played a song about a 1960 Rambler and mentioned it had bench seats that folded into a double bed. Those who knew what I drove turned to look at me. I just nodded and smiled, bursting with pride.

The Best $5 I Ever Spent

I paid $300 for Rosie, drove her for a few years, and sold her for $295.

That was the best $5 I’ve ever spent.

With Love,
Russ

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About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 4 young grandsons. I manage a wealth management firm I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of 23 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and enjoying our small redwood grove and fern garden.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Humor, Non-fiction Stories I've Written, Non-Fiction Writing I've Done, True Stories I've Written, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to The Best $5 I Ever Spent

  1. Mustang.Koji says:

    What a wonderful story, Russ. Being a car guy, I loved your analogies and quips about her…like about her heater. Did you have a suicide knob on her steering wheel? And indeed, for $5, she was the cheapest gal you had, wasn’t she? 🙂

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you for your kind comment, Koji. No suicide knob. As for your last sentence, let’s just say that I’ve had much, much more expensive ones–especially when it was my heart that paid the price.
      Russ

  2. ksbeth says:

    this is fantastic russ! rosie and rusty – what a team. ‘She was better looking at night.’ – yes, it happens )

  3. utesmile says:

    It is funny that you all assume cars are female….. fun story and you really didn’t make much of a loss, well done. My ex bought me once a VW Golf at an auction for £250 and es it did drive and had 4 wheels. My son and me called our drives in it “white knuckle rides”. We never knew if we will make it. I only had it for about 3/4 weeks, as it was too much of adrenaline spent on it. But that car definitely was no lady! 🙂

    • russtowne says:

      Don’t many women pick male names for their cars? If I was gay, I suspect the name of the car would have been male. ;-D! Your comment got me to thinking that Rosie was the first and only car I named. I guess I never quite got over her! ;-D! Thank you for sharing the fun story. I love your punch line!
      Russ

  4. bulldog says:

    loved this Russ I could only afford an old Morris Minor… if I see what they are worth today I wish I still had it…

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you bulldog. I have a friend who owns a Morris Minor and has had it for many years. He loves that car and tells many fun and funny stories about that car. From the sound of it, if Rosie and his MM ever got into a 1/4 mile race against each other the drivers would probably fall asleep before the cars crawled past the finish line.
      Russ

  5. willowdot21 says:

    I loved that Russ and all the more for it being of your own recommissioning. 😀 xx

  6. mimijk says:

    Smiling throughout – we too had a Rambler…which ultimately rusted out on the floor of he backseat. My sister and I could see the road if we looked down at one spot. My mom, told us to roll up the windows. to the royal wave and people would think we had air conditioning…Your Rosie served you even better!

  7. Wonderful story Russ

  8. Cathy Ulrich says:

    I so enjoyed reading this, Russ. What a great old gal Rosie must have been. My first car was a several year old Navy blue Pontiac Lemans with a 350 engine, and it had a LOT of get-up-and-go. But I doubt it kept its resale value as much as Rosie did!

    • russtowne says:

      I know what you mean about 350 engines, Cathy. Your comment brought a big smile to my face and reminded me that my second car was a brand new metallic blue Buick Regal with a 350 engine. I got to learn first-hand how the magic and power of compound interest can work against those who owe money. Six or seven years later it was finally all mine.
      Russ

  9. I was waiting….waiting…… great story Russ! 🙂

  10. Russ it sure does sound like a wise $5 investment! Loved this story!
    Diana xo

  11. billgncs says:

    You know, the one thing about having a true beater is that when you finally save up and get a newer or nice car, the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment is so strong.

    • russtowne says:

      That’s for sure, Bill. My second car was a brand new metallic blue Buick Regal with a 350 engine and crushed velour seats. They didn’t fold into a double bed though! :-C!
      Russ

  12. Mrs. P says:

    Great story, Russ! Ha! I remember those white knuckle rides to Santa Cruz but for different reasons. My 65 Impala had the power but also had a habit of overheating so instead of watching the speedometer we watched the temperature and kept the heater running full blast…what a bear that was on hot days. We prayed we didn’t run into traffic because that was a sure bet we’d overheat and there just weren’t many places to pull over back then.

    Rosie sounds like a lot of fun, love how she boosted your Casanova reputation in the end. 😉

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you Mrs. P. I too remember cars overheated going over those mountains in traffic, especially on hot days. That happened to cars of my parent a time or two. Very un-fun, especially with so few places to pull off that steep twisting highway.
      Russ

  13. I love stories of ‘first’ cars …. they are interesting and fun to hear…. I guess there are so many that can relate …. Diane

  14. Ok have no idea what type of car Rosie was unless she was something like the car thd dad drove in That 70’s Show that was a Rambler right……………oh maybe not I don’t have a clue to be honest

  15. sharechair says:

    This was fun….. and brought back memories of my own! I went through two really cheap cars in the mid 60’s. One was a very old red (late 50’s) VW beetle with a crank sunroof. Loved that car, altho everyone teased me about “winding up a rubber band” to make it run. The other was a “something-Valient” (I think). Ugly, ugly. SO SO ugly. My friend had a yellow camaro convertible with a black roof. My ugly ugly car was light blue. Yuch. But at least it ran. And I could drive over to my friend’s house and we could go out in HER car to look cool.

  16. My first car was a Nash Rambler! (I can’t remember the year of the car, but my brother passed it down to me in 1967.) The first day I needed to drive it to commute to college, it wouldn’t start. When I got home I saw that I had tried to start it with the gearshift in “Drive.”

    • russtowne says:

      Small world! Thank you for sharing the fun story. Did it have the shift buttons on the dash? I remember driving to college in Rosie and on freezing winter mornings her heater blew cold air right up until I drove into the college parking lot, then she’d warm up Just as I had to get to class. She was such a tease!
      Russ

  17. I LOVE Rosie! In just a few short paragraphs you gave her such character. Russ, you have a beautiful way with words, and I’m so glad you shared. I name my cars girls names, but I really don’t know why…maybe because when you have what we called the “beater” cars, we want to coax them along…much like you did when you thought you killed Rosie! (made me laugh)

    I remember having a ’63 Comet and thinking how horrible that was with those pointy fenders and powder blue color to the horror of my high school friends…Little did I know that she would become a treasure to others, and that a brilliant coat of paint changes everything! ~ You’ve inspired me to write about her. Thanks Russ!

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