Learning how to drive a 4 Speed Manual Stick Shift (A True Story)
My new husband was an avid race car driver
I had given my beautiful, shiny red 1954 Chevrolet convertible to my brother, shortly after I got married, without ever having driven it, as I still did not have a driver's license.
How did that happen? I was old enough to buy a car, but not old enough to drive it.
See the link to previous hub below of how I went from a Hillman Minx to Chevrolet.
- What the Hill is a Hellman
How buying a first car can put a person at risk for all kinds of problems...and adventures.
My new husband also drove a stick shift, but his car was a souped-up hot-rod with "a 4 on the floor."
When I was in my car with my brother, as he was driving I paid close attention to how he shifted, and how he coordinated, the shifting and the use of the clutch, but I don't think that he wanted me to learn to drive in my car because if I did not drive, I had to depend on him or Dad for transportation.
My new husband also drove a stick shift, but his car was a souped-up hot-rod with "a 4 on the floor," and I watched how smoothly he shifted gears, sometimes he would shift from 2nd to 4th, bypassing 3rd.
All of our dates, were spent at the drag strip, stock car races or movies.
Bill and I met when we were kids. Our families lived next door to each other, and then my family moved away, and we lost all contact with him, and his family for several years. Then one day he walked into the ice cream shop, where I was working, and we started dating, and my brother started dating Bill's sister.
All of our dates, were spent at the drag strip, stock car races or movies. I never thought anything of the fact that we did not go to nightclubs, or bars, since I do not like the taste of booze, and he never drank any alcohol that I knew of.
My new husband was an avid race car driver, and drove stock cars before we were married, until one accident, that required having to be cut out of the car, and that was the last time he drove in a stock car race. But we still went to watch the races, and he was friends with some of the drivers.
Bill was angry that, I had given my 54 Chevy, to my brother instead of him. I don't think that he knew before we were married that the Chevy belonged to me, and nothing was ever said about it, so, I think he assumed that it belonged to my brother in the first place.
I soon realized how expensive drag-racing can be.
Shortly after Bill and I were married, all of our monies, his and mine was spent on drag-racing, I soon realized how expensive drag-racing can be, with entrance fees, slicks, transmissions, blown engines, carburetors, and lakers (side-mounted exhaust pipes, that had caps on them so they were not loud, unless you wanted them to sound like a "real-bad machine" then they were open.)
One day when we were broke, Bill decided to sell his guitar. A bartender he knew had offered him a good price. Bill and I took the guitar to the bar and we parked on a side street around the corner. After the bartender paid Bill for the guitar, he then gave him a drink, and me a coke. Bill finished his drink, set the glass down and passed out. What's the matter, can't he drink? I told him, I did not know, that I had never seen him drink before. Then the bouncer came over to us, and I asked him to help me get him in the car.
I slid behind the wheel of the barely, street legal, souped-up hot rod
I took the keys from Bill's pocket and the bouncer picked him up flung him over his shoulder, as if he were a sack of potatoes. The bouncer put Bill in the passenger's seat, and went back into the tavern, and I slid behind the wheel of the barely, street legal, souped-up hot rod.
Who could I call? I could not think of anyone to call who could drive my husband's hot-rod home. So, I decided to drive it myself. I stuck the key in the ignition, pressed in on the clutch started the car, I shifted into gear, pushed the gas peddle at the same time that I popped the clutch, instead of going forward, it screamed backwards, I slammed on the brake, totally forgetting about the clutch, and it died.
Luckily there was no car behind us. I realized that I had shifted all the way to the right, and down, putting it into reverse. I looked at the shift knob with the shift pattern on the top, so I would not make that mistake again.
I re-started the vehicle and this time I shifted it into 1st gear, let off the clutch and stepped on the gas, the car screamed out onto the main street, then just when I was getting the hang of shifting and had that bad machine under control, up ahead the light was turning red. I stopped and it died, forgot the clutch again.
When I got the car started again, and it sat there, rocking with it's mellow sound, ready to scream out again, a squad car pulls up next to me, the officer rolls down the window motions to me and asked me if I wanted to race. I shook my head no, and the light changed to green. "Come-on" he said, I shook my head no, and we, the cop and I sat there and the light changed to red again.
Why did my husband have to be passed out beside me?
I looked over at Bill, and didn't see any signs of life. And I thought what if he is dead? I had never seen anybody have one drink and pass out like that, why did my husband have to be passed out beside me? Why did a cop have to be sitting right next to me? What if the cop were to stop me? He would take me to jail.
The light changed to green again, and the officer smiling put his hand out as if to say, "after you." Oh well, here I go!...I was so nervous, I popped the clutch gave it gas and the front wheels came off the pavement and the machine screamed down the deserted street. The officer must have thought that I knew what I was doing, and was racing him, because he came zooming after me.
The officer's eyes lit-up and I knew he was thrilled to be able to just park the "bad machine."
Finally, I got the hot-rod under control, and slowed down. I glanced in the rearview mirror and the squad car was behind me. As I turned off the main street onto the street I lived on.
I did not know what to do. If I tried to park the car I would either hit the one in front of me or the one behind me. So, what else could I do? I stopped in the street, and with knees so trebling and weak, I could hardly walk. I approached the squad car, said to the officer, "Could, you park the car for me, it is my husband's car, and I am not use to a stick shift." The officer's eyes lit-up and I knew he was thrilled to be able to just park the "bad machine."
"Well let's go get your license."
As the officer got into the car, Bill opened his eyes, looked at the Officer, slid down into the floor board and just sat there. The officer parked the car, got out, handed me the keys, as I thanked him, he got in the squad car, and drove away.
I got Bill out of the car, and into the apartment, and he never said a word, until the next day. When, I told Bill what had happened. I don't think he believed me at first. Then he said, "Well let's go get your license."
"You stay right here, don't move"
The following Monday Bill and I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles and I applied for a license, and passed the written test, got a number to take the driving test. Bill parked the car in the lot next to the driving course. The drive tester called my number, and we went to the car, and got in.
Okay...the test taker said "I want to go down to that corner and turn right." I managed to do as he told me, without burning too much rubber. Now I want you to park between those two curbs, he said. I pulled up to back into the parking spot as I had seen Bill do. I was so proud that I did it so gently, but then I put it into reverse, it screamed into the parking space, hit the curb, the test giver yelled "STOP," and I hit the brake without using the clutch and it died, I re-started it and pulled forward hitting the other curb. The test giver yelled, "where are your seat belts?" In the back I said. He sarcastically said, "That is a good place for them," then he said, "YOU STAY RIGHT HERE, DON'T MOVE."
I got in the passenger side, Bill told me, the test giver told him, "you get that girl out of here, and don't bring her back until she can drive." As we were leaving the DMV, my brother was coming in with his wife, Bill's sister, to get her license. My brother had traded the 54 Chevy in on a new car, an 'automatic', and I asked him if I could re-take the driving test in his new car, and he handed me the keys.
While my sister-in-law took the written test, I got a new number and waited, and was hoping not to get the same test giver. My number was called and what a relief, it was a different test giver, and I passed the test, with flying colors.
Now I have to practice driving the 4-on-the-floor.
The following weekend, we listened to WLS radio that echoed the familiar: "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday at beautiful US30 Drag Strip, just south of Gary, Indiana. Bill and I were already on the way.
We paid the entrance fee, and as we waited for a turn to qualify, to be matched with an equally fast machine, Bill asked me if I wanted to qualify the "bad machine." As he is laughing, and telling his racing buddies, how I almost did not get my license. He should not have laughed. And I headed for the hot rod, before he had the chance to say, he was joking.
Now I have to practice driving the 4-on-the-floor, and what better place to do it than at the drag strip.
I sat waiting for the light to change, with the racing slicks mounted, and the lakers open, and with that mellow rumbling sound, and the vehicle rocking, like a puppy with it's rump in the air, and chin on the ground, ready to pounce into some mischief. When the light changed, I was flat out gone.
When I drove back around to the pit area, and handed Bill the qualifying ticket, he walked away mumbling something about, how is he going to ever beat my qualifying time, if he is matched with another hot rod, qualifying at that same speed.
At the Drag Strip
Race time bested by qualifying time
Bill won the race with his race time less than my qualifying time.
Yes! He should not have laughed at me.
© 2012 Shyron E Shenko