How I came to drive Vittorio Tessera's car.

First published in the LCUSA members' magazine, the Specialist, April, 2008.

Many of us know of Vittoria Tessera. He owns Casa Lambretta near Milan, Italy. Many of us also know Alex Mackenzie, one of the owners of Vittorio's United States distributor, Casa Lambretta USA.

One fine early Spring Friday I was at my office, doing my work thing here in Portland, Oregon. Fellow Lucky Bastards Scooter Club mate Rudy called me up and made the simple statement, "Dude, Alex needs a favor."

"No problem, lets see what we can do to help a brutha out," I replied.

Seems Vittorio had purchased a car that resided in Redmond, Washington. Redmond is just east-southeast of Seattle. He called upon Alex to arrange to have the car shipped to Italy. However, nobody in the Puget Sound area was willing to ship direct. Alex, being the resourceful fellow that he is, found and booked shipping out of Portland. Problem was, the car was in Redmond, 200 miles away.

So, Alex called Rudy. Rudy, being the dedicated family man that he is, wanted to help out but couldn't drop all of his family plans at the last minute. Rudy knows that I'm a "get things done" kind of guy, so he called me and told me the situation. I didn't have any hard plans for the weekend, so I agreed to take the project on.

I coordinated details with Alex via email and telephone and the next morning, Saturday, my wife Courtney and I were off to Redmond. We drove up in our hatchback, chatting the miles away. We found the shop where the car was located without problem.

And there it was, a 1963 Mercury Colony Park station wagon, Monterey edition. It was all-original with 55,000 original miles. It was nearly immaculate and had obviously been VERY well cared for. The paint was almost as new, the chrome didn't have any pitting or corrosion and the interior was flawless. This 19-foot long beast was beautiful!

The engine fired right up and sounded great. It needed brake fluid, but after that we slammed the hood closed, stopped at a gas station and then hit the highway back to Portland. Courtney followed in our car. Sounds like a done deal, right?

Not so fast. Seems our sweet Merc had other plans for me. While it was fun to drive (think low, floating suspension, lots of wind and road noise and a big, rumbling engine with plenty of grunt), what I did not know was soon to make itself known.

About half way to Portland we came through another rain shower. I reached down, twisted the wiper knob and... nothing! They worked 20 minutes ago, but now I had nothing. Ain't that just great. F@c!ing vintage vehicles! I figured the car had probably blown a fuse, so I took the next exit to see what was what.

As I slowed to a stop at the end of the freeway offramp then engine died. I gave the key a twist and got nothing. Absolutely nothing--not a click, a whir, a fart... nothing. It was as dead as dead. Okay, this trip just got a lot more interesting.

I jumped out, popped the hood and discovered that the alternator belt was completely slack. Since the alternator hadn't been spinning and providing electricity I had been running full-loss off of the battery the entire drive. And that battery was now D-E-A-D.

We were about 5 miles south of Centralia, Washington and about half way to Portland. The exit we stopped at had a gas station, a MacDonald's and that was it. A kind motorist helped me push the Merc to the gas station (that thing weighs about 2 tons!) and from there I started making plans.

The station didn't have any tools, of course. The attendant told us about a strip mall a few miles back up the freeway, so off we went to Home Depot. I brought back a cheap socket set and a large screwdriver and proceeded to crawl under the car, in the rain, to adjust the alternator belt. Courtney, meanwhile, sat in our car and supervised.

Once that was done I borrowed a set of jumper cables from the station, hooked the Merc up to the hatchback and let it charge for a bit. A half-hour later and three attempts to start the Mercury with no avail told me that the battery was too far gone. So, back up the freeway we went to buy a new battery. Good times!

As you might guess, in the end the new battery did it's job. The alternator was spinning, all systems were go and we were gone! Once back in Portland, I parked the car in Rudy's garage to keep it out of the rain (my garage is too small for that tank).

I picked it up on Tuesday evening to drop it off at the shipping company on Wednesday. I stopped at the gym on my way home and got in a workout. When I came out of the gym it was raining again--gotta love the Pacific Northwest! I jumped into the station wagon, fired it up and began to head home.

Now, most of us know that the gauges on our vintage vehicles aren't all that accurate. Seems the same is true for the gas gauge of the 1963 Mercury Colony Park station wagon. I thought I had a little less than a quarter tank of gas (enough to take the car to the shipping company the next day) when in reality the tank was empty.

You guessed it... the car died on me. Again. This time in the city, one block from the gym. I pushed it (again) around the corner and parked it. I didn't have my cell phone with me so I walked the two miles home in the rain.

Courtney wasn't home. I stripped out of my soggy sweats, dried off, put on clean clothes, grabbed a can of gas from the garage, jumped into our car and drove back to the waiting Mercury. Well, it seems somebody either loved that car or saw me push it and walk away in the rain and maybe felt sorry for me, because there was a bundle of flowers under a windshield wiper waiting for me! I got a chuckle out of that and when Courtney got home later than night she thought I'd bought flowers for her.

The next day I dropped the car off at the shipping company and emailed a scan of my receipts for gas and a new battery to Alex (I returned the tools for a refund).

I hope Vittorio likes his Mercury wagon, because I'm not so fond of it anymore! I'm kidding. It's a beautiful car, but there are reasons I keep my vintage vehicle collection limited to two-wheelers: They're easier to push!

Vittorio, have fun! And whenever you're in Portland, don't hesitate to call on the Lucky Bastards SC.

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