Tin Lizzy by
(319 Stories)

Prompted By My First Car

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My dad lost his Chrysler dealership, due to bad business deals and the UAW going on strike, leaving him with no inventory, in 1967. My mother’s 1967 Plymouth Valiant was the last car to come from that dealership. I student taught my senior year at Brandeis and needed a car, so I bought it from her in 1973 for $1. Dan, my boyfriend…soon to be fiance, came to Huntington Woods, MI and helped me drive the car back to Waltham, MA for the beginning of the Brandeis school year.

I dubbed it “Tin Lizzy”. It didn’t have much mileage on it, as my mother NEVER drove on a highway. In fact, she barely drove. It was in good condition; bench seats, lap belts only in those days, but I knew nothing about maintaining cars. I was happy to have my own set of wheels and freedom. I student taught in Arlington, many miles from campus, during the gas crisis of 1973 when gas was rationed, and on one foggy morning, couldn’t figure out why traffic was so slow. I finally realized I was in a gas line! I learned to navigate the streets of Boston and Cambridge, which are challenging.

After graduating in 1974, we married and found an apartment in Waltham. After two years we moved to Acton, some 20 miles away. At this point the car was showing wear and tear. Besides automatic steering and shifting, nothing else was automatic and by this point, things were falling apart. The knob controlling the heater had fallen off and been lost, so I went a winter without heat (it never occurred to me that it could be replaced). I didn’t have the car serviced regularly, so the gasket began to go and I leaked oil like crazy. My gas station attendant knew to “check the gas and fill up the oil”. Lizzy met her maker when, in an absent-minded fog, I rear-ended someone on my way home from work in 1977. She wasn’t worth much and was declared a total wreck. I had stitches in my lip, as I flew forward and hit my face on the steering wheel. Dan’s grandfather died two days later, so we bade farewell to two members of family in the same week.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: '67 Valiant, gasket, leaking oil
Characterizations: been there, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Betsy, I love that we are Valiant sisters! Our stories have many similarities. And we both bade farewell to our Valiants in 1977. Your mention of the gas crisis of 1973 reminds me that I dealt with those gas lines by parking my Valiant for two weeks and taking the bus, after which I had to dig it out from under the mountain of snow that had accumulated.

  2. Susan says:

    Seriously Betsy, you didn’t replace the heater knob? In a Massachusetts winter no less? We need to have a talk..signed, girl raised in the boondocks.?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      As I commented, I knew nothing about maintaining a car, and at that point, didn’t know a knob could be replaced, or where there was a Chrysler dealership. That was later remedied, but it took a while.

  3. Constance says:

    Love it. For future reference, Bets, no need to know where the dealership is. Things like knobs come from the wrecking yard. lol

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