It took a village

A Vintage Volvo makes its way to the Island from Sweden.


On a beautiful June morning this past summer, as I drove to my morning Land Bank walk with my poodles in my newly restored antique Volvo, my life took a turn. Wham. What just happened? I knew somewhere in my mind what had happened, but having never been in a car accident as an adult, I was in disbelief. This was a joke, right? No, this was real. Damn. Within a few minutes it seemed, all these strange faces were poking their heads through the windows, saying “Are you all right?” All I could say, after making sure my dogs were safe, was “My car, my car, my car!” Days later I realized that this all reminded me of the scene in the Goldie Hawn movie “Overboard” where Goldie, having fallen off her yacht in the middle of nowhere, yells “My hair, my hair, my hair!”

Yes, we humans are known to mix up our priorities in scary times. Just like the time I was certain a small plane I was flying in from NYC to Fire Island was going down. My first, and actually only thought, was, Oh no, the new refrigerator that had just arrived for my loft was the wrong color and nobody will ever know! I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and Goldie who think these sorts of things.

Later in the afternoon, the day of the accident, I called the one person I knew would understand, would feel my loss: my new Vintage Volvo parts dealer buddy, Joe, down in Pennsylvania. Joe had helped me find parts for the car’s restoration over the previous winter. And for any of you who think a car is just a machine to cart you around, I’m here to tell you, these beautiful works of art are more than that, they are friends. They are beautiful friends, but they are forever on the threshold of turning-into-rust-buckets friends, mind you.

So, after dire warnings from vintage car experts about getting a fair shake from the insurance company, I set about collecting all my canceled checks and receipts. It was excruciating, going through 10 years of paperwork, but I did it.

Meanwhile, I was forced into driving a “regular” vehicle. How upsetting. No one waved at me, my vintage car friends on the road didn’t recognize me; I had become normal. Bummer. I was devastated, I was depressed; I had to find another Volvo P210 quick before I faded into generic car oblivion. I had a duty to all the Vineyarders who smile when they see me coming down the road with my poodle Pearl’s little head poking out the window. So I called my Volvo friend Joe again, and he called his Volvo friend Harry in Sweden, who just so happened to have put a P210 from his stable of antique Volvos on the market. Lucky me, and she was a beauty. I fell in love at first downloaded-image sight. And coincidentally, Joe was going over to Sweden to a huge Vintage Volvo show the following week, so he could check her out, drive her around. Boy, what timing!

After the wrangling necessary to get the insurance money (got it!), next up: Get her across the ocean. OMG, I forgot about that. Well, how hard can it be? Things seem so easy when you know nothing about them. Sometimes that’s a good thing, as long as you stay focused on the prize, not the obstacles.

This is where the adventure truly began for me. I had no idea — and why should I? — that there is a whole world of giant ships whose sole purpose is to move cars around the world’s oceans. So my little Volvo P210 (also called a Duett) became a passenger on the ship Glorious Leader. And the fortunate girl had two Swedish gentlemen, Harry and David, escort her to her ship, which would carry her thousands of miles across the ocean to her new home, to the brokenhearted woman and her two poodles who were embarrassed at being seen driving around the Island in a Toyota Highlander all summer.

I love Google. I searched the car carrier’s name, Glorious Leader, and voilà, a website came up that enabled me to follow my new car from Sweden all the way to her destination, Port Elizabeth N.J. From Gothenburg, Sweden, the ship made stops in Brussels, Belgium, and Southampton, England, and then sailed all the way over the North Sea to Halifax, Canada, then down the East Coast to New Jersey, where she went through Customs and Homeland Security. Meanwhile, I was making Internet friends who helped me along the way; Linda, the Swedish shipping agent, Susan, the American agent who held my virtual hand throughout the entire process, and of course my Volvo boyfriends, Joe, Harry, and David. And I can’t leave out Joe Gervais, my insurance agent, who personally went to the DMV with me when it came time to “Americanize” her. The Vineyard Haven Post Office even played a part, when the title was possibly lost in the mail from Sweden. I have to confess it was scary for me, so I drove everyone crazy, but hey, what’s a village for?

After she was poked and prodded in Port Elizabeth, a wonderful man named Hederson put her on his car-carrier truck, drove her through torrential rains in Connecticut, and brought her closer to home: the parking lot at Walmart in Falmouth. Yes, I met my new love at Walmart.

Once she was home and truly, finally, mine, I immediately set about decorating her in leopard seat covers and a matching leopard rug in the back. People who have known me and my love of this particular vintage Volvo — the rarest of the bunch — could not believe I had found yet another one. Well, me too, but I guess my close relationships with the Volvo Gods over the years had paid off. But more than that, it was due to my tenacity, pure luck, and the good hearts of my Volvo buddies from this country and across the sea.

Thank you, everybody! Varoom!