Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dorchester, Massachusetts


Had my second vax yesterday at the First Parish Church in Dorchester, Mass. It felt like Christmas Day. A cool bright March morning in Dorchester, a mostly unsung section of Boston, adjacent to Southie. UMass Boston and the Kennedy Library are in Dorchester,  a large and varied neighborhood of mostly wooden houses, mostly triple-deckahs, with some big old ship-captain house on the hills and a mix of fascinating older buildings from back in the day when Dorchester was its own town.That yellow house looks like 18th c. to me, and no one's fussing over it.  Those triple-deckahs are over Boston, Cambridge,  and the rest of New England.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Always loved a Sleeper


You understand that restored '57 Chevys are usually not our cup of tea. But this is an admirable machine, quietly done and quick as a big steel bunny, with a fuel-injected EK-block 283ci V8 paired with a three-speed manual transmission. It was recently on the block for big bucks at BaT.  Look--any '57 that's  not painted turquoise is fine by us. Here's a Bel Air sedan  caught in Maine a while back. And a '57 wagon for sale in Saskatchewan. A 210 wagon in Moose Jaw, Sask. And here's a Bel Air wagon on San Francisco Bay that reminded us of Earl Swift's auto-biography of a '57 wagon

Sunday, March 28, 2021

This IS His Father's Oldsmobile

 Ron Thorn's restoration of his family's 1970 Cutlass Supreme: A.J. Baime's  story s in WSJ. 

Ron Thorn, 51, a Fender guitar principal master builder living in Acton, Calif., on his family’s 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was a kid, my father, William Thorn, was a car nerd. He was a member and the car pinstriper for the Toronto Modified Car Club in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1979, we moved from Toronto to Los Angeles. We had to sell pretty much everything, our cars, our furniture. We flew out to L.A., and the next day, my dad walked to a used car lot and bought a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. He painted the wheels the same color as the car’s body. That was our family car and our only car, all through the 1980s.

In the 1990s, my dad got a company car. The Oldsmobile sat in the garage and started to get neglected. I became a car guy and got a 1969 Mustang when I was 21. I tore it apart, rebuilt the engine. There were a bunch of other cars I worked on, all Ford and Shelby stuff, and I built a number of car-themed guitars, with Shelby colors and configurations. But I always loved the Oldsmobile. I would wash it every now and then, and start it up.

Around 2012, my father threw out the idea of getting rid of the Oldsmobile because he did not like to see it decaying. I said, “No way. Why don’t you let me play around with it?” I drove the car home and dove in.

I had worked on so many cars, but never any General Motors products. Mustangs were easy to tear down; you could do it in a couple days. But this Oldsmobile had so many trim pieces, so much chrome and stainless steel. It took a long time to take apart. I sent the carburetor to a guy in New Jersey to be rebuilt and replated. I got the seats reupholstered and I had a paint guy do the paint. But the rest of it I did myself.

Along the way, my father would ask how it was going. I would downplay it: “It’s going really slow.” Meanwhile I had the reupholstered front and back seats in my spare bedroom, and the carburetor sitting on my desk at work like a trophy.

I went all in on N.O.S. (“new old stock” parts). Anything I could not restore, I had to find. I joined Oldsmobile forums to hunt for these parts. I loved all the original GM packaging, the smell of the boxes, and the way the parts were wrapped in tissue paper. All these parts had been in their original packaging for some 40 years.

I finally got it all together after two and a half years, and it happened to be the day before Father’s Day, in 2014, which was also my parents’ anniversary. I took the car to a car meet at Bob’s Big Boy in L.A. I parked it, then went to pick up my parents in another car to take them out for a Father’s Day dinner. I told them I had to stop at Bob’s Big Boy to see somebody and that they could take a walk around and see the cars.

When we got there, I had people hiding in the bushes with cameras. When my mom saw the car, she just lost it. When my father saw it, he could not say a word. He just walked around it, touching it. For me, I had seen the process over two and a half years. He had not seen the car in all that time.

It was a great moment. I said to my father, “This’ll last you another 40-plus years.” But it was not to be. My father died five years ago, and the Oldsmobile came to me. Never did I imagine when I was a kid that I would someday be its caretaker.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Friday, March 26, 2021

Nash Metropolitan

from Jonathan Welsh, in N.J. "Here is a car that has fascinated me since childhood. Sorry about the single photo but I would have to trespass to get more. I imagine the owner still plans to get this one back on the road. Any day now. We can't see much but this could only be a Nash Metropolitan from the 1954 to 1962 model years. The spare-tire mount on the trunk gives it away. People often call it the first American subcompact car but they might be forgetting the Crosley and probably others that could make a case."

AL caught one of these in Harvard Square last fall; Alex Emond caught another on the high plains of Saskatchewan

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Pony Cars


1968 and 1966 Mustangs. Becky Jean Smith caught the cars in LA.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

1949 Dodge B1B half-ton


Clean machine in Dodge red-and-black,  up on the block at BaT.   Kinda reminds me of the Mercury M3 we found in Nova Scotia a while back.

1939 Ford COE

 Alex Emond saw the truck for sale at Hemmings with only 26000 miles.  "Here's a funky machine. Give it a makeover with a new chassis /engine and meld a vintage Airstream onto it , et voila. Don't paint it."

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Chevrolet COE Utah


Becky Smith caught the beast rolling east in Utah.AL posted some more Chevrolet COE's in New Mexico a while back.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Caught a Corvette

Heading west on MA 2. Thought it was something Italian, but no.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Pontiac Aztek, Montclair N.J.


The shape of crossovers (and takeovers) to come.

from Jonathan Welsh, in Montclair NJ:
While many consider it among history's homeliest autos, Pontiac's Aztek from the 2001 to 2005 model years foreshadowed the rise of crossovers, which have taken over the family-car market. As manufacturers try to attract buyers with increasingly extreme styling, Aztek doppelgangers proliferate. How about that Lamborghini Urus? Pretty close.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Monster Trucks


Thanks to Matt Dallet for the heads-up on this piece in Citylab :
"To get a handle on what’s happened to pickup trucks, it really helps to use a human body for scale. In some nerdy Internet circles — specifically, bike and pedestrian advocacy — it has become trendy to take a selfie in front of the bumper of random neighborhood Silverados. Among the increasingly popular heavy-duty models, the height of the truck’s front end may reach a grown man’s shoulders or neck. When you involve children in this exercise it starts to become really disturbing. My four-year-old son, for example, barely cleared the bumper on a lifted F-250 we came across in a parking lot last summer..."

(read the rest of the article here)

And see AL's cranky post  on truck giantism vs. the sharp new Canoo pickup.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Canoo Pickup Truck


Every year the brand-newest pickup trucks we see heaving themselves around here in Downeast Maine seem more gargantuan and cartoonish. Massive bogus action-hero toys, Tom Cruise-trucks, Trump-trucks. Make-My-Day-Masculinity Trucks. Like aggressive schoolyard bullies they make our full-size GMC 1500 from 1975 look like something tiny and nimble, maybe handmade, maybe from Italy.

There's so much ersatz masculinity thrown into US truck design. Consider, on the other hand, that Peugeot van from the Fifties we posted a few days ago. Okay, it's a van not a pickup--but form follows function, right? You can't really go wrong following that principle. Today's massive chrome-festooned pickup trucks are dream machine toys, fake manhood machines--every year, it's like  Dumb & Dumberer all over again. 

So it's good to know some people-and not just Elon Musk--have been rethining the concept of the pickup truck as a work and recreation tool. Thanks to Alex Emond for the heads-up on the Canoo truck, above. From Business Insider: "Electric-vehicle firm Canoo on Wednesday took the wraps off of a striking truck it says will hit streets come 2023. Preorders open later this year, but Canoo hasn't yet released all specs or pricing details....The startup initially announced a pill-shaped EV it plans to sell under a subscription model, but has since pivoted to offer commercial vehicles people can actually own. In December it announced a lineup of delivery vans of various shapes and sizes, and now it's moving into pickup trucks, which it's targeting toward businesses and regular consumers. Shares of Canoo rose more than 14% as of Thursday afternoon following the news...."

Monday, March 15, 2021

1975 Citroën SM, Amsterdam

from Guido Golüke, in Amsterdam: a walk in the park near the obsolete gasworks on a chilly sunday afternoon led to an encounter with this sleek machine from the Seventies.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Advancing Design. 1951 Chevrolet 3100

from Michal Moore in the East Bay: "This original survivor pulled in a couple of doors down from me but by the time I put away my bike and grabbed my camera he was headed off…"

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Mack R-600 Boom Truck

At the Sedgwick (Maine) Town Landing. Semi-retired. Last Mack we posted was a 1966 B-81. There is an attitude these trucks have.


Friday, March 12, 2021

1964 Cadillac DeVille convertible


Looking for a summer car? Maybe 'understated' is not a word that applies to this--or any-- generation of Cadillacs, but the '64 is hands-down the sleekest of the bunch. And this one's on the block today at BaT. And here's another specimen AL caught in Cambridge last fall.

'49 Merc and Lincoln Zephyr.

That LowTech guy, Marc Wöltinger.

This one could an hommage to William Eggleston