The old geezer’s garage looked like a train had hit it, but the inside was immaculate. He led the way past a pile of tires ten feet high, and a chrome radiator from an old Rolls Royce. The cap was still on it, with the Winged Victory still flying. He turned toward me and beckoned to the far corner.
“There she is,” he said. “I haven’t started her up in dogs’ years, but you’re welcome to try if that will help you make up your mind. I’ll leave you to it. If there are any questions, I’ll be on the porch.”
He looked old in that sort of way where he tottered when he walked, but you could imagine him still re-shingling his own roof, just ‘cause that was what you did. I smiled and waved, and turned back to the reason I had come calling.
I grabbed a corner of the old tan tarp and lifted. A dark green fender saw the light for the first time in over thirty years. A chrome headlamp followed, and I almost fainted when the front of the car was revealed. The bulge of the supercharger on the front was the secret to it all. I knew then that I would be in debt for a while and eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner. I pulled further, and the second headlamp came into view, followed by the long bonnet and the windscreen. There was dust, a lot of dust, but what was under it was a 1929 Bentley 4 ½ Liter Blower, the legendary Blower Bentley from England. It was the supercharger that earned it that name, the ‘blower’ that had been developed way before turbo’s had come into the common lexicon.
I pulled the tarp off fully and stood back to study what had become my life’s obsession. I first saw one in a book when I was a kid. I loved it then, and carried that vision throughout my life. When ‘The Avengers’ came on the TV, John Steed drove one, and it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to stop looking at Emma Peel in her skin-tight leather. Oops, I lied there, just a bit. The Avengers was on when I was an adolescent in full overdrive, and even a Blower Bentley couldn’t distract me from fantasies involving Emma Peel.
The dark green, later known as “British Racing Green,” was the perfect color for the car. It was a huge beast that would force you to sit upright as you motored along the lanes of Surrey or the Cotswold’s. A gentleman’s car. I grabbed the door handle and twisted it around ninety degrees. There was not a bit of pitting in the chrome, and the door swung open with minimal squeaking. This was a car you climbed up into. I settled into the leather seat. Wheel on the right side, as is only proper. A spare tire just ahead of the door, nestled into an indent in the front fender and tied down with leather straps and buckles. I grabbed the wheel for a few minutes, and as I climbed down, my eyes were wet.
Angus Meriwether was waiting for me on the porch. He had a pitcher of lemonade out, and a glass for me close to my chair.
“Come up and sit,” he said. “We’ll talk.”
And talk we did. I drank lemonade with Angus, and called him Mr. Meriwether. He admired my youth and enthusiasm, and we reminisced about our good old days, mine not as old as his. He told me about his dad bringing the car back from the War To End All Wars, and I told him about my reluctant service and the friends I had made and lost. I asked how the car had come to be covered up in the corner of the garage, and he told me a long rambling tale about his wife of fifty seven years and her passing. He talked of his love for the hills, and a reluctance to move down to a town. He told me of his trip to the old doc’s house down the road a piece and his impending reunion with his one love. I got that wet feeling in my eyes again, and steered the conversation back to the car.
“Is there a price you have in mind?” I said.
“Well,” he said, “there was. I’ve kind of changed my mind since you came up, though. I’m sorry to say I can’t sell the car.”
I was struck dumb. After all this, what had I done? Was it my fault?
“But I can give it to you if you promise to love it and think of me and my wife now and again. I think I’d like that, and I suspect that she would too.”
I wept. Openly, and without care. I thanked him, and promised to drive the Blower Bentley with him in mind.
When I finally drove her down off the mountain, Angus and his wife were sitting proudly in the back seat, all dressed in their finery. And I sat upright, on the right side, because that was the proper way to do it.