MORGANTOWN — Jagger Matheny had some time on his hands last week at his house near Morgantown.
Or, rather, he had some time on his dashboard.
“Check out the clock,” he said.
The 11-year-old knew the full significance of what he was saying. This wasn’t just any dashboard clock.
It wasn’t just any dashboard it was attached to, either.
Nope, this particular clock, and this particular dashboard, belongs to the 1979 Buick LeSabre parked in his driveway.
You know: The ‘79 LeSabre, your granddad’s luxury ride of choice.
And this particular LeSabre, parked in this particular driveway on this particular afternoon, was doing what a ‘79 LeSabre does best these days: It was looking retro-cool, just by being there.
Sky-blue paint job.
After-market wheels and tires, to make it look like granddad might want to rumble when the traffic light turns green.
A hood that stretches forever, while containing the undeniable piston-hum of a Detroit V6 underneath (all with just 67,000 original miles).
A plush interior with that glorious “Me Decade” faux-wood grain on the dash.
Fuzzy dice from the rearview and a working 8-Track tape deck, with two cartridges ready for the listening: Dean Martin, and a Dick Clark rock ‘n’ roll compilation.
We’ll come back to the tape deck. But that clock: A chrome face, quartz movement. An iconic, on-board timepiece.
LeSabre people restoring their rides covet the dashboard clock, said Jagger’s dad, Tom Matheny.
“This one still keeps time. A lot of them stop working.”
Riding along in my automobile
In case you’re wondering, this is Jagger’s car we’re writing about.
Matheny, the elder, is a car guy from way back. His son got the gene.
A couple of years ago, when the Matheny boys were looking for a car project, they happened upon this one.
They struck a deal, then another one, thereby making Jagger quite possibly the only kid in the area who owns a soon-to-be classic: one that can trace its LeSabre lineage back to the early 1950s and the brain of Harley Earl, Detroit’s iconic designer of cars.
General Motors bolted them together from 1959-2005.
“Yeah, it’s Jagger’s car, and we show it a lot,” Tom Matheny said. “We go to Elkins, Maryland, all over the area.”
“I can’t drive it yet,” Jagger said, without irony. “But I’m going to.”
“When you parallel-park it, that’s when I’ll be really impressed,” his dad said, with a twinkle.
It didn’t take long for Jagger’s mom, Kristin Kay Matheny, to get impressed by her son’s intellect.
Jagger — yes, his parents are Rolling Stones fans — has always been naturally inquisitive, she said.
As a little, little boy, he would craft fanciful cities with LEGOs, Hot Wheels cars, whatever materials were at hand.
“He’s interested in everything,” she said. “He gets along with everybody. I always say he’s an old soul.”
An old soul, his mom adds, who doesn’t miss much.
“We’ll be at the beach, and he’s amazed at how all the big hotels got there. He fascinated with construction projects and earth-moving, all of that.”
“Yeah, I want to be a builder,” her son said. Maybe an architect, contractor or construction site manager.
“I just like doing things,” said Jagger, who also cruises just fine on the basketball court and baseball diamond. “And I like to read.”
Reading, in fact, is the favorite subject of this student, who enters Mountaineer Middle School in the fall.
Get your kicks …
When he isn’t collecting trophies from car shows with the LeSabre — he and his dad are big in Car Crafters, the club in Tom Matheny’s native Mannington, Marion County, that’s been around since 1955 — he’s playing games on his iPad and doing everything else that 21st century kids do.
Even one with a retro-cool 20th century car.
“I’ll probably hold on to the LeSabre for a while,” Jagger said.
He’s a muscle car guy. Give him a mid-‘60s Camaro or Nova, jacked-up with the right tires, an engine with a throaty roar and (just enough) chrome, and every day is Christmas morning.
Tom Matheny knows that these moments, working with his kid on a granddad’s car, are — like the LeSabre’s dashboard clock — special ticks of time.
“I’m holding on to this,” he said. “I want all this to stay with Jagger.”
Speaking of that dashboard: Jagger got a sonic education after he and his dad got the car.
“I didn’t have any idea what an ‘8-Track’ was,” he said.
Dean Martin has the cool-factor and Dick Clark is Dick Clark, but Jagger might want to start hitting the yard sales and thrift shops for other tapes.
Bypass late ‘70s disco altogether and get yourself some classic Rolling Stones, son. The lads do a solid cover of “Route 66.” (You know: cruising music, and all).