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by: McClain

When I was a wee lad (I’m referring to my age) I was all about piecing together those plastic car models. You know, the ones that came in boxes that you had to paint, assemble and glue? (Not in that order.)

I was recently walking through a craft store with my wife. While she was off smelling the fake flowers and petting the dog figurines, I meandered in to the car model aisle. I saw all sorts of badass muscle cars that were dream machines when I was a kid. When I was looking at the display, I saw an assortment of vehicles that reminded me of the fun I had when I was younger assembling models. It was an art. It was a craft. But it was no artsy-craftsy bullshit; it was cool. And people wouldn’t make fun of a boy who collected toy cars like they would make fun of a boy who collected shades of pink crayons.

I was completely fickle between the 1969 Charger General Lee (only $4.99!) and the 1970 Dodge Charger. They were both equally beautiful, but the 69’ only had an assembly difficulty of +1, whereas the 70’ was somewhere around +478. So, being your typical male, I opted for the formidable task.


When we met at the cash register with our respective items the wife looked at me cross-eyed, but she can’t help it because she’s cross-eyed.

“Do you have to get that?” she asked while glaring at my new interest. She had a miniature wooden birdhouse that was the size of a matchbox, to which no respectable bird would dare fit. How could she dare question my purchase?

“It’s a done dizzy for shizzy,” I said. That means, “It’s a done deal for sure.” I like to talk all gangsta’ and shit when I’m dealing with manly matters - especially when I’m in a girly store. You’ll find me slangin’ Ebonics while watching sports and when doing car maintenance. Hell, I’ve even known to let out a falsetto “Beeeoootch!” while shaving my nuts in the shower. It’s a man thing.

She doesn’t understand the male affinity for mechanics, despite our collective lack of knowledge. I don’t currently know much about cars, except for the basics; changing tires, washing the windshield, putting in unleaded gasoline, setting the interior ablaze with cunningly liberated lit cigarettes, etc. Basically, I know enough to survive. And even though I know which side the gas tank is on, I frequently park on the wrong side of an empty station and end up stretching the gas line across my car, in short making myself look like a dipshit. “Huh? No, it’s okay. I know which side of my car the tank is on. I’m just doing this ‘cause I’m in a hurry. Huh? Yeah, I know all the other spots are open and I’m one of two customers, but…” *SCREEEEECH*

It’s always a stab to the ego when you get a bunch of guys talking about cars and it just so happens you’re the only one who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. It’s like standing in the shower and it just so happens that you’re the one with the penis the size of a circus peanut while all the other boys have circus elephant trunks. That’s what it’s like not knowing anything about cars.

So we pretend we know what we’re talking about. I manage to make out the occasional “1.7 litre engine” or “Dual Overhead Cam” during my seldom car conversations. But because my enlightenment is based on plastic models scaled down small enough to cause eyestrain when attempting to distinguish the gas cap from the rear-view mirror, my conversation is limited. I’m always referring to the “fragile chassis” and how hard it is to put decals on the car because they “ALWAYS FUCKING TEAR!”

Brian: "Dude, I found a cherry 1.7 down at Old Man Humps car dump. I took the 1.4 out of my monster and dropped this bitch. Fit like a fuckin’ glove! My fucker will hum now! I’m pushing five thousand RPM’s before I put the car in first!"
Eric: "No shit? Is that a straight four or what?"
McClain: "Yeah? Is that a straight four or what?"
Brian: "No fuckin’ way, man! It’s a fuckin’ V6."
McClain: "Oh, yeah. Of course. So, is that, like, a straight V6 or what?"
Eric: "What the hell are you talking about?"
McClain: "Well, you know how when you piece the plastic caps on the engine and you have the choice between the aluminum and shiny metal colors? Isn’t that like the piston intake? Which, you know, connects to the regulator hose… on the… V6 block?”
Brian: "You’re stupid."
Eric: "Out of the club."

I would build these models and imagine myself (on a 1:64 scale, of course) driving around in the toy. I didn’t really know how an inanimate engine was supposed to crank, seeing as how all that glue inhibits movement. And because of my excessive glue usage it was difficult enough to remove the model from my hands, let alone shrink down to the size of a GI Joe and getting inside.

Sink my bones with Davy Jones, there's no way you're gonna fit me in there!
Here's what I'd probably look like if I were to
shrink myself down close enough to fit in the car.
Well, maybe...

But my whole world of model building was surrounded by the power of imagination, and my mind could drive to the corners of the earth without stopping for gas.

Have I mentioned that I’m not mechanically inclined?

I recently bought a secondary car. It’s affectionately referred to as the “hoopty” or “beater” or “fucking piece of shit.” Actually, it runs pretty good considering the odometer stopped at 200,000 miles (about 50k miles ago) there’s no radio, the a/c is busted, there’s no power ANYTHING and a loud grinding sound streams from the rear when I turn left.

McClain's "Phat Ride"
"Hey baby, want a ride?"

My limited expertise came in to play when purchasing this $800 car. I managed to state everything I knew about cars. That only took about two minutes. The remaining eight minutes of the ten minute sale were composed of him talking about fine details of this car, which, from what he said, might as well have been a rocket ship to me because holy shit, it has, “a 1.4 liter engine.” Well I’ll be a monkey shot in to space!

And while he’s heavily engaged in impressing me, Mr. Car Chaste, with his vast technical knowledge of radiator belts and temperature sensors, I’m inwardly engaged in remiss. “How come I don’t remember anything about all those cars I used to assemble? This freak is making me look like an idiot and I can’t recall one single thing about piecing together a car!”

Then I realized that I never really knew. “McClain, those were toys.” Not even close to the real thing. But I’ll be damned if anyone will ever know that the mass amount of technical wisdom I had was lost because I was too busy sniffing the glue to remember the name of that twisty piece that fits between that funny engine segment and that roundish wheel thingy.

Damn! For some reason cars in real life
have a lot more underneath their hoods.

Then I also realized that I wasn’t even that good at piecing together those plastic models.
“That’s a nice job, son. Is that the Millennium Falcon?”
“No, Dad! It’s a '69 Camaro!”
“What’s the muffler doing on the hood?”
“What’s a muffler?”

And when I wasn’t busy mucking it all up, I’d get about three-fourths of the way through assembling the vehicle then I’d get bored. I’d leave an assortment of plastic pieces and uncovered paint bottles lying on a sheet of newspaper to run outside and play BB gun tag. It’s a real game. One person would be in the house with a BB gun and the others would be outside the house throwing rocks at the gunman through windows or doors. If you hit the gunman, you took his place. If you got shot with the gun, well, you pretty much just got shot.

I wasn’t ADD, but my attention could be swayed fairly easily. I guess I wanted to be like that kid who had all the cool cars on his shelf, but I didn’t want to take the time and effort to do it myself. I just wanted it.

So the guy selling me the car starts to finish up with his dissertation on advanced mechanical theory as I slowly returned to reality. This guy sold me an hour ago, so listening to him ramble was painful. But because I didn’t want him thinking that I wasn’t paying attention, I asked him a quick question. You know, just so he didn’t think he could take advantage of my naiveté.

“So, is that, like, a straight V6 or what?”

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