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Books With a Car as a Character–or almost a character

I spend a lot of my time in the car. I live where there is no public transportation and, once again, I have my 70–80 minute (one way) commute twice a day (but only 3 days a week now). So, cars are kind of a big part of my life. From my first little mini Honda wagon to my current mini-SUV my cars have all had character. I got to know them before there were things like “check engine” lights. I knew their “healthy” and “unhealthy” sounds, smells and shudders. My recent change in vehicles promoted this post.

The best of them all–The Empress

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“The Empress” as the 1938 Packard Super Eight convertible was named, not only carried the crew of Harvard friends and their girlfriends, it became scholarship boy George’s prized possession. This book is so fabulous I cannot put truly into words all that it is to me. I love it–I’ve read it several times and it makes me want to know and hug all of the characters including that car. The Last Convertible By Anton Myrer is very, very sadly (and wrongly) out-of-print but widely available used for a reasonable price. The tv mini-series was good, too.

The Family Car

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“Foolish Carriage” was the name efficiency expert (industrial engineer) Frank B. Gilbreth, Sr., gave to the family’s cantankerous touring car. He alone could start the engine. The others had to just hop in and hold on for dear life. Foolish Carriage has a role throughout the first book, Cheaper by the Dozen, and a cameo at the start of the second book, Bells on Their Toes, both by two of Gilbreth’s twelve children (11 of whom lived to adulthood), Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. The original Cheaper by the Dozen movie with Clifton Webb is good. The Belles on Their Toes movie is also good, but takes more liberties with the story. Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.

The Magical, Flying Car

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James Bond creator Ian Fleming, who wrote the original James Bond novels, became a father fairly late in life and by today’s terms he pretty much sucked at it. He and his wife left their son in London with nanny while they went to Jamaica each winter so he could write the new book. Their son tragically died of a drug overdoes. The one moment of parenting greatness that Fleming had was writing Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang for son Caspar. Today, it has been bastardized into a series–like so many once great stand-alone children’s books. That always makes me sad. If the original author had wanted a series he or she would have written a series. I like this cover best for it echos the vintage sports car Fleming owned and loved. Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang The Magical Car by Ian Fleming.

The Other Magical, Flying Car

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Seriously, did anyone NOT love Ron and Harry’s joy ride in The Chamber of Secrets? Mr. Weasley’s car was the star of the show to me. The Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling.

 

The Original Mom-mobile that became an Icon

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Not every car gets an actual biography written about it. Confession time: I am a VW bus freak. I own this “biography” and have dipped into it from time-to-time. It is surprisingly readable. I will finish, and review it, eventually. [See the bottom of this post for more on my love of the VW bus]. The VW Camper Van: A Biography by Mike Harding.

The One I Want to Read

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This is likely much more about the drivers, but….. Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best by Neal Bascomb.

Do you have a favorite book with a car as a character–or almost a character? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

Other Car Posts

Bussed [My Obsession with the VW Bus]

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Life Magazine cover found here

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Bussed!

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Yes, it’s a play-on-words! I’m bussed–in the Old English “kissed” meaning of the world! I love the VW Bus! The much-overused word “Iconic” was possibly coined just for this marvelous vehicle. My love affair started young–with the collection of Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels that my brother and I shared growing up in the ’60s and early 70s. His kids, and now his grandkids, play with those same cars. One of them was an olive green VW Bus–like this:

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These vehicles became cult classics in the 1960s and 70s–and not just because the Kennedy family kept one at Hyannis Port to haul around Caroline, John and all their cousins. These were the de-facto Hippie Van to end all Hippie Vans. Back in my childhood though, they were vehicles on which you’d see a decal for a prep school or an Ivy League college as well as for US Army or Air Bases in Germany. You just knew that kids riding in those knew how to play soccer or row in a crew. Back then a lot of folks took possession of a VW in Europe, drove it on their vacation (or while posted to Germany with the military) and then brought it home. It was way cool to leave the European plates on when possible. This one is especially swoon-worthy:

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When we were traveling I always liked to spot what I thought of as “bus-trucks” or, in today’s speak, maybe “bus-hacks.”

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In high school I envied a friend whose family had a VW Bus Camper. That would be how I would camp! But it was so unique a vehicle that they made it into the local paper. In the interview, his parent’s stressed how  practical it was. I just thought it was cool. Ah youth….

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Back when I was in college, and dreaming of my future married life, I thought if need be I would be willing to drive the “new” version of the Bus–the Vanagon. Not as cool as the original, but preferable to a huge Buick Woody-Wagon if I ever had too many kids. (This was before mandatory child seats).

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Sadly, in spite of all the VW Buses shown on travelogues and in Marlon Perkin’s Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, by the time I got to Malawi in 1989, Toyota Vans and Dual-Cab Pickups had replaced the beloved Bus. This made me sad. They were way cooler than something a suburban housewife back home might drive.

What could be better for a fun road trip than a VW Bus? Well, perhaps an aging VW Wanagon. On Amazon I discovered this fun lite read and just had to buy it. Order it! Read it on your next road trip.

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Saving Charlotte by Kat Wiechert

Recently I read that VW is coming out with a re-born Bus. I’ll tell you something. I have no need for a mini-van, but if I publish my novel, I will buy one of the new buses and wrap it with my book’s cover art!

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Finally, I picked this book simply for it’s cover. It’ll make a good second book for that road trip in the VW Bus–or take it VW Camping! Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson.

Today the front of the VW bus is probably as well known as the White House. It adorns gourmet sugar cookies, purses, t-shirts, dressers and recycling cans. The bus “body” has been made into coolers, baby cribs and children’s beds. If it has a flat surface that surface has likely been considered for a bus image! Here is my Pinterest VW Bus Board

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