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Friday, August 1, 2014

Flight Of The Aerolark



[Please excuse repost from March, 2011, but do consult pumphouse thermometer above -- heat has evaporated my poor brains, which were mostly water.]

In the early 1950s, my uncle drove up in a new car. New Car, wheeee! It was an Aerolark sedan, made by Willys of Jeep fame, sold to people who wanted the sturdy dependability of a service vehicle in their family cars. I was little and scampered out to see it.

Uncle had the hood up so we could see its works. No light alloy anywhere. Valves were in the block, and the block was all heavy slabs of cast steel secured by big black bolts. Six pistons and twelve tappets made no more noise than a soft spring rain. Carburetor drew with satisfied, throaty sighs. It was an engine built for the ages and I was entranced.

But what most fascinated me was visible only after the great gray curve of the hood banged shut. It had an ornament on its snout, a sculpture in chromed steel of a streamlined dreamship, an avicular aerodyne that seemed to speed thru space despite being bolted down. I was lifted and held up where I could look down on it. And there it was, the essential Aerolark, the soul, and beneath, reflected in the shiny hood, a sky of scudding clouds.

Yesterday I got out my sketchbook and returned to that moment. I drew and remembered. The '50s were a very forward-looking time but there were setbacks. For example, sometimes I was given a dime, and I liked dimes (still do!). I liked Mercury's winged head. It represented fleetness and futurity, but one saw fewer and fewer of them. New dimes had Roosevelt on them and I supposed it was prudent and accurate to leave wings off his head but I was disappointed. There were many disappointments.

Then I began to grow. After my tail dropped off, I commenced to think, and realized much of thinking is the creation and identification of reliable analogies. One encounters symbols sacred and profane, pedestrian and sublime. One fashions them into patterns and, from patterns, derives axioms. One strives for algorithms of enduring stability. One strives for method, synthesis that embraces the outer nebulae and the human heart. We strive for a design that will always choose the future that best includes us.

So I share here an image that has soared across my sky in dreams and hopes, a shape composed of negative drag and anti gravity that speeds, despite its antiquity, into a bright future. It has its own vitality, its own life, roaring and streaking over all stages of labor, love and living. One looks up and sees the Aerolark caroming into the future, raises one's hat-brim, wipes the sweat from one's eyes and reverently exclaims, "What the hell was that?"

23 comments:

  1. The cars from the 50's and 60's had so much style and character...not like the angular plastic things we drive now. They had beautiful hood ornaments...I especially like the Indian head from the Pontiac...early 50's....it lit up.
    So sorry to hear you are once again suffering from a midsummer heat wave...keep hydrated.

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    1. Must agree. Cars now look crouchy and grouchy, like they're about to scurry down a hole.

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  2. The photo's I goggled appeared to resemble a mid-sixties Alpha Romeo Super.
    Yeah, when engines and cars were approachable.....

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    1. Is that the one with the cooling problems? I remember a friend trying to drive one in a parade back then and having an awful time. Hope Alpha fixed that and maybe have some tips on cooling off this valley.

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    2. I had a '67, it had a dual overhead cam, a 4-cylinder engine that put out 147 bhp as I remember. Didn't have cooling problems, but the distributor shaft was bent, and would 'stutter' except above 3K rpms....

      It's 51 here this morning, sorry about that.

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  3. Intense heat tends to evaporate the best from all of us. Texas is presently having a rare cool spell and I'll do my best to send it your way. I thoroughly enjoyed the repost. My father had a Willys Jeep before I was born. He later bought a Willys car (a nifty red and white one) when I was a small child.

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    1. I remember the Willys Jeeplike station wagon --we had a green one, other color was gray -- but Uncle's sedan was truly meant for the mass market and was aesthetically comparable to the best early '50s cars. And yes, send cool air --hold the dust. Thanks!

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  4. Oh my, Geo, that is too hot.
    It was 82 here today, mind you, we do get hot days here but never over 100 (at least not this summer)

    I enjoyed this post, very much.
    I can see you being entranced over your uncle's car.
    My husband's father had a car dealership and my husband has a love of cars and knows every car on the road .

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    1. Oh Margie, I checked the thermometer at 10p.m. and it's only down to 85! Could you fan some cool air westward? I bet your husband got to try out all the new cars when he was growing up. Lucky kid!

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  5. Those early cars had something which I think is sadly lacking from the current boxes. Charm. Lots and lots of charm.
    And I am sorry that the heat has put you into meltdown mode. Summer makes me a sad, sorry, soggy and grumpy mess.

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    1. "...sad, sorry, soggy and grumpy mess." In a California August, that phrase describes me on a GOOD day. In fact, it was efficient air conditioning that got me to buy a car from this century. Sometimes, alas, I sacrifice charm for comfort.

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  6. I'm actually tearing up as I speed toward to the final line and then I'm like, of course. This is Geo., after all.

    (Socks have been impressed off.)

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    1. Kind lovely Suze: In this heat, nobody wears socks but it's fun to imagine they're all impressed with me. Thanks for that fun idea!

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  7. This is the first year in many that I have not visited CA. It is usually so much cooler there than here, but this year the coasts have exchanged their weather. I have to admit that I am enjoying your lower temperatures.

    I remember that back in the 50's a new car was something very special and would always cause excitement and interest in the neighborhood. The women would admire the two tone colors and the men would keep their heads bent over the workings of the engine, discussing every little nut and bolt. Today's cars all look alike and very few are special. People spend more time talking and bragging about their phones.

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    1. Arleen, I'm afraid our parents' generation might have been the last one that understood its possessions.

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  8. Dear Geo.,
    I'm not sure whether I ever saw an Aerolark in my life (though quite many American vintage cars (which we call 'Oldtimer') drive through Berlin, very majestic.
    We have so very high temperatures here, too - if I could (but I can't) I would open the top of a (my - but it isn't) convertible and drive slowly along the Ku'damm, listening to Billy Idol's "Hot in the City"...

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    1. Dear Brigitta,
      That famous street would be a fine place to revive hood-ornaments, stylized dancers, rockets, rams, stallions, archers and angels all chrome-plated and shining in the sun!

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  9. I once had a mark 2 Jag. I think I bought it for the bonnet ornament.

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    1. Ah, the leaping silver cat --beautiful bit of sculpture!

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  10. Funny that we get nostalgic about cars.
    I never mourn a previous lawn mower or vacuum cleaner.

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    1. A puzzle, yes. I can only opine --as a former gardener and custodian among other jobs-- that cars are EVENTS where mowers and vacuums suggest only the work cars get us to and from. There is an emotional charge to them that other machines lack.

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  11. 110, yikes! I can understand daydreams of higher, colder altitudes.

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    1. Indeed, Squid, the brain --he percolates in this heat, this absence of weather!

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