Now the Director of Public Relations for the City of Chicago Treasurer’s Office, Lilia Chacon is far better known for her almost 20 years as an award winning TV reporter for Fox News here in Chicago. She won a Peabody Award, and an Emmy for her coverage of the Chicago Auto Show.
Lilia Chacon And Her Porsche At Ginger Man
I remember my first car more vividly than my first kiss. It was a bright orange 1972 Opel GT, and frankly, few boys have thrilled me the way that car did. Or disappointed me.
Heartbreak? Betrayal? This car had Mr. Wrong written all over it.
The first car I ever owned was a 4-speed manual with 2 seats and headlights that had to be popped up by pulling hard on a lever. There was a small area in back where an acrobatic third passenger could fit, and it’s amazing how many were willing. And able.
This, after all, was the car of my miss-spent youth. It was also the car of many miss-spent dollars.
I paid $1000 for it in the summer of ’77.
The muffler fell off on the way home, but by then it was too late: I was already in love, besotted with its curvy flanks and Corvette wannabe nose. But under that stylish skin was a malignant collection of mechanical failures just waiting to spring.
The fuel line was so poorly designed that every time it got below 20 degrees it would freeze. The engine would sputter to a stop, usually on some deserted stretch of road between Northern Illinois University and my parents’ home in Northbrook.
Those were the days before cell phones, so I would coast onto the shoulder and hike through snowdrifts to some farmer’s house. Then some unlucky boy would get a pleading call to come fetch me. And he would.
Did any of these young men know that the Opel came first in my affections? If so, all they had to do was wait: the car was leaving me, one piece at a time.
I found a German mechanic, a guy named Werner, who ended up costing me more than my college tuition. These were the hard lessons that come from falling in love with a machine, and throwing good money after bad.
It wasn’t all bad. There were moments of sheer joy, pushing the stick shift through its gears, cruising along Lake Shore Drive, or speeding down farm roads while rows of corn flickered hypnotically in my peripheral vision.
But you didn’t have to be Dr. Phil to know this love affair would come to a bad end.
It was spring of 1980. I was working at the City News Bureau and had taken a lease on a 3-bedroom apartment in Lincoln Park with two girlfriends. We called ourselves the ‘Roomettes’. It was time to commit to city living and say goodbye to the Opel.
A very nice man answered my want ad: he was willing to pay $800 to buy the car for his daughter. I got up early so I could drive to his home and have him drop me off at work. I never made it.
A woman in a Lincoln jumped the median and hit me head on. The impact tore the Opel into pieces, and left me unconscious on the road. My neck was broken in three pieces. The rehab would take a year and a half.
When I was well enough I visited the junkyard. I took one last look at the crumpled orange sheet metal that was my first automotive crush. And I took a memento, something I still keep along with teenage diaries and old 45 records. It’s a gas cap: shiny, chrome-plated, with a lightning bolt emblazoned on it. And my car-loving heart knows that lightning will never strike twice.
Video interview with Lilia coming next time