My mother had a tempestuous relationship with cars.

Basically, she wrecked everything she drove except one vehicle, a VW Sirocco that miraculously hung in so long the rear bumper rusted off. One day, I arrived in her driveway to find the bumper reattached utilizing about 30 feet of duct tape.

I’m not sure why she didn’t total the Champagne Edition VW, but I know she prized the black leather buckets. “Real leather!” she’d say, patting the driver’s seat like a faithful pet, already worn to a gray batting, tape across a large rip.

Mom used tape for an extravagant range of repairs.

She’d rolled an earlier version Sirocco, the white one with red and yellow racing stripes. On a perfectly straight section of dirt road she’d actually rolled it. Not a simple thing to do. She blamed the overly potent martinis she’d been proffered by her friend Jean. “I think he was trying to get me drunk.”

Not that he succeeded or anything.

Mom always walked away from her accidents with nothing more than a scratch, if that. I, on the other hand, did not fare as well. Twice she launched me into windshields, and I still have the scars.

Mom had a single driving maneuver for all emergencies — violent braking. Until that final moment of alarm she tended to motor unperturbed with confident abandon, but if things appeared irreversibly disastrous, she stomped the brake at the last second and simply held on.

Even as a boy I tried to convince her that steering a little bit might be the answer or at least help, but she had her method and stuck to it.

Once, accelerating madly onto a slick interstate, she managed a full 360 in front of a barreling semi. Luckily we careened into the snowy median instead of being mashed under the truck. Mom had an affinity for the slushy median. I remember my father stating resignedly: “Your mother has landed in the median again.” This while driving two separate cars during a move across country.

Always a small woman, in her 70s and 80s she shrank further, until even with pillows she could barely see over the steering wheel. None of this slowed her down. She was very proud of the fact that she was wasn’t a “damn slowpoke.”

After my father died, with Mom living in Vermont and myself in Maine, she visited me at least four or five times a year. I drew her endless route maps, but she still got lost. I begged her to slow down, but she still racked up the speeding violations, talking herself out of most of them.

“Please, officer, my son will be so angry if you give me a ticket.” With glee she announced every time she got off with a warning.

Her car-starting sequence still makes me shudder. Insisting on “a stick” because she refused even to try an automatic, Mom would wangle the lever fiercely to determine neutral and ignite the engine. Then, without any hesitation to allow things to warm up, she’d engage first gear, rev the engine near redline, and pop the clutch; with a series of hopping jerks, she’d be off. I had to laugh every time.

My favorite exit was the time I’d surreptitiously adhered a bumper sticker to her lipstick red Civic, her final car, Mom was in her 80s. Careening madly down the street as I waved, the sticker read: “THANK YOU FOR POT SMOKING.”

During that next week she telephoned me twice with increasing consternation: “Eric, what do these young men at the gas station mean when they say, ‘Do you want to spark one?'”

When the sticker was finally pointed out and explained to her, that next phone call was a tad dark, but eventually she forgave me. My mother had a very forgiving nature.

She never really liked the red Honda that I bought for her. She claimed it lacked “pep.” Every few months she would call me, furious, “That damn car will not start!”

“Are you pushing in the clutch?” I’d ask.

“Of course!”

“Will you try it just one more time for me?” It was always that. She was still imagining her previous VWs. After all, it took me years to convince her to stop pumping the gas pedal before starting when engines changed to fuel injection.

On my mother’s many trips across the top of New England, she always split the drive by stopping in my hometown of Gorham, N.H., a nice halfway point; I insisted she not drive the full distance. One spring, we met there for some reason. She’d arrive first and was already in the house drinking wine with my godmother.

I parked next to her Honda and glanced over. I was used to a couple extra scrapes or minor dings every time I saw her cars, but this was different. A decisive dent ran from the middle of the door back through the rear fender to the shattered taillight. It said, “body shop” — the door would barely close, gaping by an inch.

I walked inside, gave the two elderly women hugs, and sat down. “What happened to your car?” I asked Mom after a moment.

She glared at me. “I knew you’d notice that!”

Mom had her final accident at 86. I had finished my fourth novel that afternoon and was in a mood to celebrate. My girlfriend and I had just opened beers, clinked bottles, brought the icy necks to lips when the phone rang. It was the Belfast library. Mom had asked them to call because she was worried I might be angry. I set down the beer and rushed down the street. Miraculously, she only had a slight mark on her ankle, but the car was totaled.

She’d left her parking spot by the library, shot out right in front of another vehicle and been broadsided. But after a few weeks she began to blame the other woman. “She should have seen me. It was stupid of her to just drive into me like that. She has a brake after all. I don’t think she could be much of a driver, that one.”

My mother passed away last year, and her birthday is coming in a few days without her. As fate would have it, the perfect gift has recently become available. It’s called SoundRacer, and the instant I heard about it I couldn’t help but think of her.

Back in her driving days, I could have sneaked a SoundRacer into the cigarette lighter of her Civic, turned on the FM radio, and torqued the volume through four speakers. Among the chaos of audiotapes, rotten apple cores, broken thermoses, forgotten library books, gravel and tattered umbrellas, I doubt she would’ve noticed the cobra-like head of the SoundRacer with its minute digital readout.

What SoundRacer does is transform any sewing machine of a car into the audio-illusion of a hungry, bellowing race machine.

I would have stood there quietly as Mom ignited her engine. Instead of the usual screechy whine, a loping grumble of big block V-8 testosterone would’ve thundered through the car.

I can imagine her face, her expression, her startled eyes. I would have answered calmly: “You wanted more pep, so I worked on your engine a little, but be very careful. Happy birthday!”

“Oh, Eric!” she would’ve said, uncertain what I was up to but playing along, always the good sport.

And Mom, thinking she was driving a monster truck, her small white head barely visible, could’ve charged down the street one more time.

Eric Green is a Belfast artist and a freelance writer.