Michael L. Oliver lives in the Napa valley with his wife, Barbara, where he grows wine grapes in his retirement. He has deep ties to Chico State University as well as with a succession of cars which seemed to mark phases in his life. What if those vehicles could talk and give their own perspective? In Oliver's new book, seventeen of them do.
"Through the Headlights: An Auto-Biography" ($20 in paperback from Henway Publishing, www.HenwayPublishing.com) is an inventive romp through the minds of an AMC Rambler, a Porsche Carrera 2 Cabriolet, a VW Bug, and fourteen others, all owned by the central character, "Leroy." Coincidentally, Oliver's first car, and Leroy's first car, were both 1931 Model A Fords. Cars, Oliver writes in a Foreword, all have their own "personalities, quirks and needs which they make known to us." Listen to you car.
The Model A found itself in Chester in 1956, having first been purchased back in Oklahoma for $750. But after a succession of owners, the car came into the possession of young teenager named Leroy, not legally old enough to drive, but who's counting? Leroy was a delivery boy, but one frosty day the Model A took a spin right into a snowbank. No one was hurt, but, writes Model A, "One of many flaws with teenage boys is that they tend to worry about their consarned image when they ought to be worried about their mortality." Leroy will meet Model A again many years later.
Then, in 1960, came the 1955 VW sedan. In Chico, at the frat house parking lot filled with cars, the sedan writes, "I was the only German car around. A few of them made fun of my accent, and pretty much all of them thought I was odd looking. I could sense it. And when they learned that I had only 36 horsepower it caused a few headlights to rise."
Cars follow Leroy throughout his life. In an Epilogue, Leroy is lying sedated in the hospital, the victim of a heart attack. All of his cars return and there is deep conversation about life, purpose, and, mostly, death.
One can learn a lot from a car if one doesn't blow a gasket.