Saturday, May 14

These Are Your Worst Driver’s Ed Stories

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I never had formal classroom driver’s education, but my father owned a car lot and wanted to teach me how to drive. So I had access to all sorts of cars to practice on.

We started out with large cars since Dad’s theory is if you can master piloting a boat, the small cars will come along naturally. This was around 1985 and we had an early 80s Crown Victoria on the lot. We went for my inaugural drive and I promptly ran over a bush backing out of the driveway. No harm to car or bush. My ego was a bit bruised and I was gunshy.

We then got on the road (a small residential street) and I hadn’t figured out where the corners of the car were. As oncoming traffic came along, I nervously pulled over to the shoulder and waited for them to pass.

After doing that 3 or 4 times, Dad said, “We’ll never get anywhere if you pull over for every car. You’re doing fine and I won’t let you wander into their lane.” It got better from there and in a day or two I could drive nearly-normally.

Then it was time to drive a stick. We had a 280Z 5-speed. I had seen other drive sticks for years, so kind of knew the motions. This was Central Florida, so the terrain was pretty flat. I got my rhythm pretty quickly. Dad was impressed, so he said, head west on this road for a bit. And that’s where we came to an intersection that stopped sloping upward, probably 5% or so. I was stopped at a red light and it was pretty steep, especially for Florida.

Dad took out a glass and a flask and FILLED the glass with scotch, pretty much to the brim. I was already nervous about stalling on the start and he put the scotch in his lap and said, “Start smoothly. Spill a drop of this and I will run you over with this car.” (I didn’t believe he actually would as it would necessitate a detailing to get my guts removed, but I got the message.)

The light turned green and I revved the engine a bit more than I should have, but feathered that clutch in like a pro. I modulated engine speed and clutch engagement. We inched forward and then gained speed nicely, engine revving and clutch slipping the whole way. After a very long 10 or 15 seconds, everything was getting normal and it was time to shift to second. No problem there, except for a bit of an odd burning smell. We continued the drive uneventfully.

Not a drop of scotch was spilled, but I’m pretty sure I took 10,000 miles off that clutch’s life at that intersection.

Overall, it was a good experience learning to drive. Thanks, Dad.

I’m not sure Bunta would’ve ever used scotch, but using a cup of liquid to gauge vehicle stability is a time-honored tradition. Not spilling any of it, on your first try, is commendable. As an aside, your dad had a 280z in road-salt-free Florida — is he looking to sell? Asking for a friend (me).

Submitted by: Lars Vargas has high hopes for 2022

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