The Art of the Wheel

No matter what you think, your car is not fully loaded

Dellinger says that when the Texas Tornado finally gives up the ghost--and it's getting close--he'll sell it. There's a man in Houston who owns a parking garage and buys old art cars for display on the ground floor. He doesn't pay much, about $99. But he'll tow for free.

My father and The Big Car were together 22 years. He nursed it through fuel-pump problems, brake failure, air conditioning fritzes, and rust. He began keeping it in the garage, buying a smaller car for daily driving, saving The Big Car for special occasions. The Big Car outlived at least four little cars, two hurricanes, and an attempted theft. But in the end, it just couldn't outlive progress.

Two years ago, Daddy was in an accident. The Big Car was blind-sided by a minivan. The minivan was demolished, sending its occupants to the hospital. My father wasn't hurt. The Big Car suffered extensive damage, but could still drive away on its own steam.

Daddy says he spent months trying to find a mechanic to repair it. But none would fix the whole car. "I was ready to spend up to $8,000 to repair it," he says. "But no single mechanic would fix it. They only wanted to do pieces."

In the end, he donated The Big Car to a local soccer charity. He says this with only a twinge of regret.

He drives a truck now, a red 1994 Ford Ranger. It's a plain, bubble-shaped truck that remains just as the manufacturer intended it. "I'm into the clean look now," Daddy says. "Perhaps it's because I've gotten old."

But I know that he still harbors a place in his heart for The Big Car. I showed him a book called Wild Wheels that has pictures of some of particularly outlandish art cars. There's even a faucet car in there, designed by a man in Mississippi who says God told him to clean up his act.

"Hmmmph," Daddy says. "Look at that. He just put the faucets all over everywhere. It's got no style."

He pauses. "My car had style.

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