DLZ 230

DLZ 230 was the license plate number on my Mother’s 1968 Chevy station wagon – the mom mobile of the 60’s and 70’s.  All self-respecting middle class mothers of the day drove one.  Mom’s was white, bought used, and never ran right.  The car was beat up and in constant need of repair.  That car is the reason I know how to change a tire, check the oil, and why you don’t open the radiator cap when the engine is hot.  It’s also where I learned how to change a fan belt, and replace a radiator hose – all before I had a driver’s license.

I remember the license number because of the memory aid my brother Rick came up with, “Dan Lupin’s Zoo opens at 2:30”. Dan was Rick’s best friend and a character you never forget – a kind, gentle kid who was also mischievous and a troublemaker.  Why we needed to memorize the plate number is lost to me now, but at the time it was very important.

Actually, one day it did come in handy when Mother and I left a store and couldn’t find the car. It had been stolen and I was the one who gave the police officer a full description and license number.  That was a crisis in the household, one car stolen and a mother and son stranded in the grocery store parking lot.  A friend came to drive us and our groceries home while Mother and I talked about how we were going to tell dad about this.

The story ended as well as it could – a couple of days later a police officer stopped by the house with the news that the Chevy had been found in San Francisco and was in the police impound lot.  The officer speculated that someone hot wired the car, took it for a joy ride, and when it ran out of gas just abandoned it in a red zone.  I went with mother to get the car back.  We drove up in Dad’s car with Rick, who had his driver’s license.  I recall Mother’s frustration at all the paper work she had to do at the police station, and the final insult when we were informed that she had to pay the impound and towing fees.

It was in that station wagon that Mother drove me all around the western United States.  Every state west of the Mississippi (and one or two in the east) has seen a white Chevy with a mother and son cruising the back roads looking for a campsite.  We had adventures in that car.

Eventually my parent’s marriage failed and one summer Mother decided to hit the road and take a long solo car trip.  I was 17 when she left.  She called me from Salt Lake City to tell me she was on the road.  She drove up to Canada, across the map and into New England and down the eastern seaboard and turned right at Florida – coming home two months later through the south and her favorites – the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona.

She never had enough money to maintain the car properly and I spent a lot of time learning auto mechanics by repairing that station wagon.  I even bought the Chilton’s repair manual for the car and had a nice set of tools.  By the time I was fifteen I could change the oil, gap the plugs, adjust the points, and replace a water pump.  By sixteen, I’d replaced the battery, carburetor, radiator, and alternator.

I’d also seen Yosemite, Kings Canyon, The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Carlsbad Caverns, The Great Salt Lake, Mount Rushmore, rain on the Great Plains, wind in the desert, aspen trees in the Rockies, and so much more.

The other day my brothers and I were having lunch and were reminiscing about cars we’ve had when DLZ 230 rushed back into my mind.  Such a complicated memory.  Good times seeing the world.  Bad times as relationships failed and families tore apart. 

And strange times when a 13 year-old boy popped open the hood of a White Chevy station wagon in a campground, checking the oil, and the radiator just to make sure we could get just a little further down the highway.



About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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41 Responses to DLZ 230

  1. eidswick says:

    Nice story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. CJ Hartwell says:

    Your mom sounds fascinating, and this was a captivating tale from beginning to end. (Our station wagon was a Dodge)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As the mother of sons, this was so incredibly touching to me… Thank you for sharing!

    My own sweet mother didn’t learn how to drive until she was in her mid-40’s. She never owned car until then. As a divorced mother of two daughters, she would catch the bus everyday to go to work as a nurse at a VA hospital. I remember taking the trolly to go clothes shopping with her. I guess she took the bus to the grocery store – I don’t remember. Her first car was a yellow LeMans convertible that I thought was just about the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen! Sadly she died about a year after she bought the car. Cars can evoke memories can’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. theburningheart says:

    I can’t remember a license plate even from my last car, even less the many cars my father owned through the years, mother never drove, but he would pack our family and travel all over the place, and from those trips I have many great memories, during the fifties, and sixties, you brought back those days with your nice post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Debra says:

    I hadn’t thought about it until I read this lovely piece, but my childhood travel memoirs are attached to specific vehicles that bring up memories to me, too. My grandchildren go across many states in a large air-conditioned SUV with every possible “bell and whistle’ that keeps them company. My family drove clear across the county in a 1965 VW with no air, and obviously not a lot of space! This was a delightful story to read and while you recalled your own story and stirred memories, you opened some of mine as well. Thank you, Andrew. Very nice indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember traveling across Arizona and New Mexico in 100+ degree heat without A/C. Few cars back then had it. We just used what my brother called, “460” A/C – roll down four windows and drive 60 mph.


  6. Such a beautiful piece, a real tribute to your mom, and nothing sappy or maudlin, fantastic thanks Andrew

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Copper-coloured 1975 Plymouth Fury, BNB 655. I’ve always felt lucky that my dad included me in the car-repair process when I was a kid. I can only imagine the youthful you struggling to learn it all on your own, and to hold your family together the only way you knew how. I’m glad your Mom/car experiences also include happy travel memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved fixing cars back then. I never really had trouble figuring out what to do. I had friends who work on cars and read everything I could find. Mother also knew more than she’d admit to me or the gas station mechanic. I learned so much about life and dealing with crisis wondering around with her.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Your story reminds me of something that I read recently, “Our troubles today are not obstacles on our path. They are the Path.”

    Thanks for sharing this sweet memoir and glimpse into your past.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John Harrison says:

    Great story, Andrew! Reminds me of growing up with just my Mom until she remarried (mistake), when I was 13. We only tooled around in So. Indiana and Northern KY, however, but I will never forget those trips and chats. She’s been looking down on me for 3 years now!

    As a fellow engineer (civil), I am wondering if you have retired? Fortunately, when I got PC, I was retired and could devote full time to it! Keep up the inspirational stories!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was great times. My mother passed 11 years ago, but the memories are still there. Sadly I still have to go to my day job. Retirement is getting closer, but still a couple of years away.


  10. huckfinn47 says:

    Beautifully written and remembered memoir, Andrew. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Living proof that all of life is a lesson. Nicely written, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ours was a sort of tan color and I relived those years in my mind as I read your precious story. Or maybe it’s just that is lived yours with you. Loved this story Andrew.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Ray V. says:

    Great story and it jarred some cobwebs. I learned to take apart (and put back together) engines on my mother’s blue, 1976 Pontiac T-37. NJ # SAB-675. It eventually was handed down to me. Isn’t it interesting what we remember?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is interesting what we remember. I also find it interesting that my parents had no problem with their teenager taking apart their car. Today it would be a very different story.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. An excellent account of those years when cars couldn’t be taken for granted! I’ve a stack of memories in that direction too – I’ll have to unearth them sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. jfwknifton says:

    I can remember my Dad’s registration number just as well. I think young boys were quite excited by cars in that era….there were not too many where we lived, and to have one of our own was something really special. LXJ 701, an Austin A40 Devon in Connaught Green. That was the days when ordinary cars had leather seats and walnut dashboards.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Very nice story! Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  17. pommepal says:

    Great story of your youth and a memorable car. I’m sure today’s characterless cars will never be looked back on with such stories and no way that today’s computerised cars can be tinkered with

    Liked by 1 person

  18. dorannrule says:

    I love your keen perspectives of growing up with DLZ 230 and an adventurous Mom. Seems you are still using inherent skills to find life’s upsides and to keep going “just a little further.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. lifelessons says:

    BRAVO, Andrew. Loved how you took us all through your younger life and teens in that beat-up white Chevy. I bet you drove right through my home town on the way to Mount Rushmore! A very enjoyable ride you took us along on. Judy

    Liked by 2 people

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