There was Hugh’s Mustang HO - he bought it before he knew how to drive stick, for which he tapped me to give him pointers. It had the Merkur-style spoiler on the rear window.

There was Michelle’s Corolla AE86. I wasn’t sure which I loved most, the car or the girl.

Let’s be real, it was Michelle. I had a terrible crush on for her. My Jalop tendencies don’t extend so far as to completely overpower the ineffable longing and frustration that sprang from the crossroads of her sweet demeanor and my teenaged hormones. I went out with her one time. In my dad’s car, because my car was not suitable for dates.

Speaking of which, there was my (and John’s!) Opel GT. Mine was eye-searing yellow, John’s was a faded, dusty red. Mine looked better but his ran more reliably. The mid 80s was a bad time to find parts for weird, extinct-in-the-US German sport coupes. I don’t know how John did it. When dad and I rebuilt the Opel a year or two later, however, it was a different story. Successful curbside wrenching won me a reputation for gearhead instincts previously unsuspected by my friends.

There were dozens of Malaisemobiles. So much smog strangulation, as far as the eye could see. Even farther, though, were battered 70s sedans, Coke bottle hips and catfish mouths gaping to inhale the ozone layer and fart it back out as a layer of soot and sneering indifference.

In teacher country there was Miss Mask’s 1967 Corvette Stingray. She had bought it new and was still driving it when she finally retired. She could make that car walk and talk. And when it talked, by God you listened because there might be a test on what it said. It was funny to see roly-poly Miss Mask clambering out of that car. Sometimes she drove an Accord, which somehow didn’t suit her personality as well.

It was a better time.