Henrietta Hay Column July 03, 2009

From the Essex to the Smart Car: a road map of my life

I have always been fascinated by wheels, and various ones have taken me on a lot of the more exciting experiences of my life.

The first car I remember was an Essex coupe. There may be readers who never heard of an Essex, but it was an automobile produced by the Essex Motor Company of Detroit from 1918 -1922. The Hudson Motor Co. continued producing the Essex until 1932.

I can’t remember that much about the Essex, except traveling down the road in it with my parents.

But oh, I do remember the Hudson, which came next. It was manufactured by the Hudson Motor Co. of Detroit. The Old Hudson is the car that took us all over Colorado during my school years.

One day we drove through the Carleton Tunnel. Cut through over 9,000 feet of almost solid granite in 1890 for gold trains, it went between Leadville and Basalt and was later made into a one-lane automobile tunnel. It was good training for driving through the Eisenhower Tunnel many decades later.

The Million Dollar Highway was exciting, barely two lanes of dirt road. I loved it, but my Illinois-raised mother threatened to get out and walk.

And then I trundled off to college in 1930 and met the Model A Ford. Nobody had a car at the University of Colorado. Well, almost nobody. My boyfriend had a Model A Ford convertible with a rumble seat. He loaned it to me on occasion. It did great things for my popularity.

Later the Model A took us across the country and back to Denver. Twice. Great car!

Somewhere along the way, a new ’56 Chevy arrived. It was the one that took me to Phoenix several times and that was the automobile that introduced me to Monument Valley, one of the most spectacular valleys in the world.

The most exciting car I ever had was a ’64 Triumph Spitfire. It was a convertible, made in Britain and it was a gem of an automobile. It was blue, like the sky.

Once my boss told me that if you drove a car with the top down fast enough in a rain storm, you would not get wet. He was wrong.

I have loved all the cars I have been lucky enough to own, but only the Spitfire could compare with the Honda Prelude, the last car I owned. I knew I had to let it go as my eyesight failed.


Maybe gasoline was in my blood. One of my uncles threatened to sue the state of Illinois when they refused to renew his driver’s license. He was 95.

Oh yes, I had another set of wheels during those active years. It was a Kawasaki 175. I still have the motorcycle validation on my last driver’s license (expired).

But the fun didn’t end when I gave up my Prelude.  A couple of friends have a Bobcat, which they let me drive one day. I drove it maybe a hundred yards, turned it around and drove back to where I started. Wow.

Returning to cars, I don’t get to drive them anymore, but I can ride in them. My boss at The Daily Sentinel, Denny Herzog, took me for a ride in his BMW Z convertible. It was like riding on air, with my hair flying.

And I finally met a hybrid, Barbara’s Toyota Prius. Hybrids run on gasoline and electricity and get 52 miles per gallon. They are possibly the car of the future.

And there was Sue’s big, bright red Classic Chevy Caprice convertible, so much like my ’56 convertible.

Nearly a hundred years of enjoying cars. and I finally had a ride in Carol’s Smart Car.

From the outside it looks as though the back end had been chopped off, although very artistically.  But it is made by Mercedes and the inside is luxurious and full of goodies.  It gets 40 miles per gallon and rides and handles like magic.

From the Essex to the Smart Car, I have lived in an exciting century and had a great time.

Henrietta Hay can be reached by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).    


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