Thursday, February 03, 2011

Every so often, I receive an email constructed as a letter. Something that took someone time - minutes, if not hours, occasionally days and sometimes, though rarely, years of thought. These aren't just "hey haven't seen you in a while" emails, but they are of a more unique "I know you will love reading this as much as I loved writing this" breed of email. It's almost as if the letter went masquerading as its more modern counterpart. Sometimes these electronic notes are so beautifully crafted that it seems to, in a wonderful way, defeat email's purpose of speed, ease and efficiency.

Don't get me wrong, emails can certainly be heartfelt too, but the artistry of writing letters, physically feeling your favorite pen slide across a carefully selected texture of paper and the sincerity that tiny bit of effort reflects is far and away my favorite form of communication, save being face-to-face. However, when you are simply answering your niece's question about Italian cars, sometimes your passion for the subject turns your initially simple response into a fine piece of writing...

that later ends up on your niece's friend's blog because it was a charming, unintentional example of the letter dressed in email's clothing.

Please enjoy the email to me from Jen Bilec in bold, followed by the subject at hand in italics: an email from Uncle Ray.

I wanted to forward this piece of writing to you because it's stellar. And it's from my uncle. I had asked him about Italian cars, specifically the Alfa Romeo Giulia Supers that were made in the 60's and 70's.

This was his response:


Since you seem to be about to be overcome by the red mist, I will share my thoughts on Italian cars with you. I became interested in Italian cars while in the Navy. I came home from a Med cruise intent on buying a Datsun 240 Z. The dealer had none but was willing to sell me the next arrival at over sticker. Joan and I drove home. On the way home we pass a Fiat dealer. I know Fiats from my med cruise. The car is a white 124 coupe. Bucket seats, five speed, twin overheard cams, four wheel disc brakes, wood rimmed steering wheel and a juicy tomato on the rear window shelf. We were smitten. The car was a blast to drive. Tight and responsive. It was not trouble free, however. It chewed up mufflers at the rate of 2 a year. The rubber gas filler hose wore out regularly. In cold weather the emergency brake would freeze. The vent windows broke off their hinges. Oil and filter changes were easy and tune ups, cheap. We bought the car in July 1970 and brought it home to PA in June 1976. Salted PA roads chewed it to pieces. The Italians used cheap Russian steel in their cars which had a higher iron content than anyone else’s steel. The cars floor boards rusted in about an hour. In order not to fall through them while driving we sold the car. Aunt Joan cried as they towed it away. I found a 1972 124 Spyder (convertible, 2 seater) in 1976. I bought it and had a ball driving it. A broken rear shock mount and some sub par radiator hoses were the down side. It too rusted so we sold it to a boyfriend of Aunt Gingers who promptly crashed it a week after he bought it. Just as well. Look in Hemmings motor news and you will not see many Fiats from the seventies. They all turned to iron oxide dust and blew away. Cars from different countries have different personalities. German cars are coolly efficient. English cars make you have that stiff upper lip brought on by leaky roofs, and leaky engines. Japanese cars are for boy racers, lots of decals and pizzazz. But Italian cars have soul, joie de vie (did I spell that right?) They make wonderful sounds. A lot of them are sculptur. They are never boring. That said, Alfas are in that breed. Don’t buy one thinking it is reliable transportation. That’s what Toyotas are for. An Alfa will always put a smile on your face, as long as it is running. Also, before buying any vintage car fill your bookshelves before you fill the garage. After you’ve read up on the make and model go to a couple car shows. The owners will love to talk to you. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, ie. Rust! These cars are toys not transportation. On another note, look for the 2011 Fiat 500 to be on sale at your local Chrysler dealer this summer. Maybe it’ll come with a warranty.


Uncle Ray

On a separate note, Jen Bilec is an amazing human and fabulous friend for sending me this email. She just thought I'd appreciate it. And that. Is cool.

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