Monday, March 5

Volvo 544

Moe's beloved car, purchased used in '63 to drive across the US of A with his young bride Grace Manning post-Peace Corps, remained parked in front of 1860 San Ramon or 1530 Euclid Avenue until sold in 2000. The 544 was the first production car with seat-belts as standard and I recall the smell of the red seats on a summer's day - or the hot black dash-board when parked in the sun. The thing had excellent gas mileage even then, a six piston engine I could understand, and rarely broke down (excluding an epic return-trip from Yosemite on the freeway in a snow storm, circa 1979). She was always reliable for the 0600 pool-run (Katie in the back seat, me up front) and afterwards Moe took her to San Francisco on the ferry or, when that service stopped, the North Berkeley Bart station. The 544 was profiled yesterday in the New York Times, which Moe points out, refers to her as "humpbacked" and treasured by many people today. While cars now may be more airo-dynamic or stylish, none elicits the short honk and quick wave of two guys passing each other in a vintage 544.