On this Auto Owner Story Podcast episode, Dave interviews his sister, Gayle Hughes and asks her to share some of her early memories about the cars she drove and her driving experiences.
Gayle tells about getting her license when she was 17 and driving her brother’s ’68 Camaro Rally Sport to school and on errands while he was overseas in Viet Nam. She remembers struggling to become proficient driving the stick shift, lurching through different speed zones while trying to figure out what gear to drive in.
Another memory is of a drive through town with her brother just returned from his military service. This incident, one of his first occasions behind the wheel since returning to the States, involved waiting in a left-turn lane for a green light but turning against the red light when the driver behind him honked. It shook them both up a bit, but they both had a good laugh.
At age 18, she moved out of the house, and since her step-dad said she absolutely was not going to be allowed to take the Camaro, she had to buy herself a car. The first car she bought was a black MG Midget convertible with red interior. She loved driving it and would frequently put the top down on a sunny afternoon and drive the winding roads of the Ventura foothills. Being low to the ground made it corner well and made it such a fun car to drive.
After about a year of costly repairs at the service department of Weber & Cooper, the dealership where she bought it, she felt she couldn’t afford to keep spending money on repairs and decided to get a different car. She test-drove a Pinto, a Vega, and a brand new 1972 Mercury Capri with only 50 miles on it, which she ended up buying.
She chose it in part because of how solid it felt compared to the “tinny” feel of the Ford Pinto and the Chevrolet Vega. And at a cost of only $72/month, the Capri was a sporty, sturdy, fun to drive option, better for her in so many ways than the MG Midget.
She drove the Capri for several years, sold it, and then bought it back from the person she’d sold it to a few years later, making her the car’s first and third owner. She had very few maintenance issues and remembers it as being a great car. She drove it from Southern California when moving to Idaho in September of 1978 and afterwards ended up selling it to her sister-in-law.
She relates how she really loved driving, especially once she had the ’72 Capri that was so reliable. On evenings when she didn’t have any commitments after work, she’d eat dinner and then get in her car, turn up her music and go for long drives through the mountains to Ojai and back home after being out for several hours. On weekends she could venture out father through San Marcus Pass to Solvang or along the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara to visit its quaint shops. To this day, she still loves to go on road trips or reminisce about the excursions she remembers from days gone by.
One fond memory about her Capri is of her frequent visits to Ventura’s J & M Drive-In. She had become such a regular customer the owner would see her car pulling in and start preparing her usual order. On one particular visit, the owner asked why she had driven away before ordering the previous week. After talking at length about the incident, it turned out that there was another ’72 Capri with a driver who looked similar enough to be her but wasn’t.
On another memorable occasion while sitting in her Capri eating her burger and fries, she tells of watching a guy who was painting the exterior of the Peacock Carpet building across the street. Climbing up and down ladders and shirtless, she remembers admiring his rugged good looks. Several years later, after meeting her future husband, she found out the painter was him.
In commenting about servicing her vehicles, she relates that taking her first two cars to the dealership was a positive experience because she trusted them. Her older brother Dave was a mechanic in the dealership’s service department.
She was trained by her step dad to get regular maintenance services done to take proper care of a vehicle. She believes the regular oil changes and other maintenance they’d had done is one reason the Capri was so reliable for as long as she had it. Even after the 40,000 or more miles put on the car by the 2nd owner, it continued to run well for her and the sister-in-law who was it’s forth owner.
In closing, she adds that the importance of maintaining a vehicle was drilled into her by her step dad who insisted that taking care of her car was her responsibility. She believes that today’s parents of young drivers need to reinforce the value of regular vehicle maintenance by example. She believes that keeping a vehicle maintained will ensure that it provide reliable transportation for years to come.