Esquire Piece:  My Car Story (1998)
Posted: 26 June 2008 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]
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My Car Story by Elmore Leonard
Esquire (Oct 1998)

In the mid-1950s, I worked for an advertising agency writing print ads, magazine and newspaper, on the national Chevrolet account. 

One evening after work, the senior vice-president and account executive, Colin Campbell, stopped by my office to say his Bel Air was in for service and to ask if I could give him a lift home.  We lived in adjoining suburbs north of Detroit.  Together, then we left the General Motors building and walked two blocks to the lot where I parked for fifty cents a day.

I should mention that Mr. Campbell was Mr. Chevrolet at the agency, perhaps the product line’s most loyal champion.  He would spot typos missed by proofreaders.

As we approached my car, I said, “Here we are.”

Mr. Campbell said, “Where?” looking around for a Chevy Bell Air or at least a Biscayne.

I said, “Right here.”

He said, “This is what you drive?”

I admitted it was.

He stared at the sporty little subcompact, light-blue, with the canvas top that rolled all the way back, and said, “What is it?”

I told Mr. Campbell it was a rear-engine Fiat 600.

He said, “Oh.”

And that was about it for conversation on the way home.

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Posted: 26 June 2008 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Ha, that’s good.

My wife used to be a sales rep for Stelco Steel and when she took over the GM account in Canada Stelco gave her a company car, a Pontiac 6000.

It was either that or she’d keep driving her RX7.

What is Elmore Leonard’s favourite car now? In Tishomingo Blues Robert Taylor drives a Jaguar, so I’ve wondered….

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Posted: 26 June 2008 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I was a service advisor for the Torrance, California Toyota dealer in ‘83. I remember this guy bringing in his Supra claiming it would miss hard, but it was unpredictable. Our mechanics could never seem to catch its engine missing, even with an overnight stay.

Deciding to leave it at the dealer for a week, I had to drive the man up to his home in Palo Alto. Halfway up the hill, sure enough, the car missed - and hard. It was almost a miniscule stall. The man was so thrilled I was there to witness he beat the steering wheel several times.

I thought he might cry.

When I got back I described it to our best mechanic. Turns out it was a plug wire. The dealer replaced them all, free, and the service manager, an honest-to-God Irish emigree with an accent that made you want to drink, even put up with listening to the guy’s bitching when we returned the car.

Thing is, while this was going on, over time, I said at some point to my boss that, “Even Toyota can make a lemon.”

Holy shit, as Robin might say. The guy was so pissed and red-faced beyond his usual Irish burn, that he almost choked. He was so mad even his glare lasted only a second. He walked away without a word. Of course, now I realize the guy was so angry he wanted to punch me.

One of my fellow advisors gave me a talking-to for about thirty minutes, mostly along the lines, “What were you thinking.”

I was young.

If I could have afforded it I would have been driving a Jag myself. Which would have been okay with ol’ Barney - the dealership sold Jags and Maseratis as well!

Now we now Mr. L has a real set of cojones!

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