To Fly

By Joan Leotta

To Fly

Domenico Modugno sold me my first car. Although a Northern Virginia Chrysler Plymouth salesman pocketed the commission, all the work of convincing me to buy the car was done by Modugno’s award winning song, Volare. The rolling lyrics of this ballad about love, achieving one’s dreams, and the simple freedom of dreaming one’s way into the sky, were stamped on my psyche.

I was twenty-seven when I bought my first car. Although the “sporty” car I looked at in the showroom was really nothing much more than a re-named “Duster,” the brand’s name of Volare caught my imagination.

I had no idea what to look for in a car. My dad tried to give me some advice. I duly wrote it all down. The Volare that had caught my attention seemed to fit all my needs. My father and other male relatives were in Pittsburgh, so in order to avoid the real or imaginary dreaded “She’s a girl so ignore her” syndrome of car shopping, I asked a male friend to drive me to the nearest Chrysler Plymouth dealership. A friend drove me to the dealership.

After telling the salesman I was interested in a Volare, he walked us to the back of the lot. There he showed me a blue, two door model of the car inspired by the song. A soon as I saw it, the words Nel blu dipinto di blu (in the blue sky, painted blue) wafted into my brain. What a beautiful machine! The salesman asked us to walk back up to the showroom while he extracted the car from its back row space and brought it up for me to test drive.

Distracted by the car’s beauty, I didn’t notice how long it took the salesman to meet us back at the main showroom with the vehicle. By the end of the evening I had signed the papers, and the car was mine. I named it, “Victor.”

Victor was all I had dreamed and more. However, there was a problem with the starter that caused me to have to warm it up for a full ten minutes before putting it into gear after turning the key. That was why it had taken the salesman so long to bring it up to me from the back lot.

Those gas guzzling, idling warm ups were not very green and definitely not fun. Gasoline was cheaper back then, but my blue baby’s fill-ups managed to burn a hole in my budget. I headed back out to the dealership at least once a month for several months, often the first person in line at the dealership’s repair bay. After a couple of hours, they would say the car was fixed. Of course, as soon as I got the car home, Victor would declare defeat and refuse to start without ten minutes of engine warming. Victor’s good nature was only paint shop deep.

My job offered me a two-month assignment in Dallas, Texas. I accepted with alacrity and opted to make the trip as a three day drive instead of taking a plane. The mountains of Virginia seemed to irritate Victor, and we almost didn’t get him going after our stop at Luray Caverns.

Victor somewhat redeemed himself with his strong headlights on the second day of the trip along a deserted country road in Arkansas, in fog so thick that even with his lights I had to peer out of an open passenger door to see the edge of the road and not veer off into a ditch.

His starting problems continued, so I took Victor to a Plymouth Dealer in Dallas.

Lo and behold, after one visit the car worked perfectly. They explained what was wrong with the start up sequence – car stuff blah blah blah. All I knew was that now Victor was truly able to fly! I turned the key, and we bolted out of our parking space onto the highways of Dallas. We explored Ft. Worth, made a ten hour pilgrimage to New Orleans, explored suburbs and small towns and generally enjoyed the open road in Texas.

When my assignment was almost over I sent a postcard to a guy I knew back in DC, a guy who had laughed when I told him I had bought a Volare – he laughed really hard when I named the car. A few months after my return to DC, in the fall of 1977, I married Joe, the laughing guy.

Our wedding album boasts a photo of Joe holding open the door of Victor Volare so we could zoom off on our honeymoon. Not long after the wedding, Joe and I sold Victor Volare in favor of a station wagon; something big enough for children.

In the intervening years, I’ve become much more practical about cars. All post-Volare cars have remained nameless. I suppose I don’t want to get too attached. I no longer buy a car based on beauty. The first question I ask is the acceleration rate. I want to know if the transmission is reliable and what the service package is at the dealership. If the car is parked in the back of the lot, I walk back and start it up myself.

However, no matter how hard-headed I seem to have become about cars, no matter how often I spout the truism that a car is nothing more than transportation from point A to point B, there are days when I point my vehicle north or south on Route 17 and gasp for joy. I look into the wide expanse of blue across my windshield, a sky so big that the road seems to disappear into it and sing, Blu dipinto di blu. Often, I even start to hum, la musica dolce of that song as I escape happily piu in alto, (higher) than the sun, My everyday self disappears lassu (up there) and my dreams take over. Volare!

About this writer

  • Joan LeottaJoan Leotta of Calabash, North Carolina, has been playing with words since childhood. She is a journalist, playwright, short story writer and author of several mysteries and romances as well as a poet. She also performs folklore and one-woman shows on historic figures.

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4 Responses to “To Fly”

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. My first car was “Hilary,” named after Edmund who conquered Mt. Everest. This car needed inspiration to climb Pittsburgh hills.
    Thanks for stirring the memories!

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    It was fun to read your story about Victor Volare. I was recently with a group of high school friends and we laughed about naming our first wheels.

  3. Rose Ann says:

    I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head! Enjoyed your essay!

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