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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Now don't get me wrong from yesterday's post. I loved my first car: a 1978 Pontiac Ventura.

I bought it with 145,000 miles on it, which today is nothing but back in 1984 that was something. They were highway miles, I was told. Turns out all miles are the same.

Yet it was mine and came with a couple of amenities I had never seen in my parents' cars, like a cruise control and -- this is more significant -- an AM/FM cassette deck.

My dad helped me buy the car so I could get back and forth to work at McDonald's on the other side of town. That was Chippewa Falls, meaning my commute would go from a 15-minute bike ride to a five-minute drive. 

Within a couple of months, my dad died of a massive heart attack. I even used the car to drive from McDonald's to the schools of my brothers to pick them up at the behest of the hospital chaplain.

Wandering around the world in shock for the next couple of years, the only constants were my job at McDonald's, my car and copious amounts of Leinenkugel's beer. "Copious" is the wrong word. I drank a Gitche Gummi amount of beer.

I didn't trick out the car as I am either an ascetic or just plain lazy. Then some bastard stole the radio, which ended my career as a car-singing diva. I piled on the miles and broke down on occasion. And I went on dates, a big step for someone who only recently had considered the monastery. (That's another post entirely.)

Here I will write something controversial: Whoever invented the bucket seat killed more budding romances than any Baptist preacher.

The bench seat was beautiful for getting to know someone in a closer sense. Sure, on occasion you'd have to turn the car on and heat it up again, sometimes interrupting well-laid plans. But I think the bench seat is attributable to more marriages than anything else.

Speaking of cold, one day during a minus-40 degree cold spell, I sat down in the car at 4:45 a.m. -- I worked breakfast shifts -- and the left rear coil snapped in the cold. Suddenly, I was sitting about 6 inches lower than normal.

But the car still moved even though every meagre pothole would rattle my kidneys.

Sure enough during the next deadly cold snap, the other rear coil snapped -- and I looked like I was driving around town in a permanent lower rider.

The upside? I once had to work a McDonald's shift where we received 24 inches of snow. And because the entire rear weight of the car was ride on the axle, I made home -- up on the West Hill -- safely.

That car went on to have two more owners, the last of whom took a buzz saw to the roof because he always wanted a convertible. Cool idea, until he realized he delivered pizza in the ice and snow of Northern Wisconsin. No matter how tightly he jury-rigged the blue tarpaulin, it collapsed on him.

Please share your first car story in the comments section.

Peace and great car stories on to you my brothers and sisters.

4 comments:

  1. 1971 Opal station wagon. Four speed. Forest green, it was. Purchased in 1975, for $1,200, when I got out of school. Payment was $72/month, for two years. A chunk, as my first pay rate was $2.65/hour.

    My first job was a trainee surveyor, travelling back and forth across the country. And that car was better to me than I ever deserved; a relentlessly faithful machine. I even tried shoving another car up an icy hill in West Virginia. Smashed out the headlights and the grill, but both cars made it.

    I was chugging up another icy hill, in third gear, not wanting to go faster, not daring to go slower, as the roads were treacherous. That’s when I saw a tall shaggy figure in the gathering gloom, making long strides down the road, coming right at me. The creature politely moved into the opposite lane as I passed. I kept on chugging up the hill. I was very happy to see the lights of Petersburg in the distance as I dropped down out of the mountains.

    There was vast room in the engine compartment. I could reach everything. I had a fear gauge, a timing light, spark plug sockets, two sets of metric wrenches…. That was the last car I ever worked on. Tech got clean away from me.

    The car held together for one last trip to the dealership, where I traded it in in 1978. I think the guy gave me $100 for it.

    A man never forgets his first.

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  2. My first car was a '66 88-Oldsmobile, handed-down from my dad. I was extremely proud of this quasi-boat. I drove it to college naked...sans cell-phone in the mid-1970's, and it never left me stranded despite being 12-13 years old.

    Around this time the paint job started failing and the cloth seats were dry-rotted into ribbons. I found a dealer at a flea market with dozens of old-stock touch-up paint in some variation of green...that I mixed together. Luckily, the finished product didn't come out looking like camouflage. Nobody told me you don't spray paint in a garage without adequate ventilation, so I'm lucky I don't have some kind of neurologic issue or leukemia at my age. I also replaced the seats with ones located in a junk yard, from some Olds that was 10-years newer. I loved my "new" seats in pond-scum green.

    I was able to do some repairs myself as the car was high off the ground and roomy in the engine compartment. Though, I lopped-off my Dad's mailbox by revving the car at the carburetor in neutral.

    I continued driving this now aged relic into the early 1980's for a reporter/photographer job. Despite being nearly 16-years old, it was amazingly reliable. I was too broke to get a newer car on $10,500 /year so stuck with this beast, even though my mechanic was imploring me to find something he didn't have to use a gallon of liquid wrench on everytime a fix was needed.

    Age-related issues started to appear with time, like a gas leak around the filler pipe, rusted-through brake lines, wheel bolts shearing off, and windows leaking, one right over the steering wheel. I could easily have worn diapers OUTSIDE of my slacks to absorb the wetness.

    I finally scraped together $400 in 1983 to buy a very rusted 1975 AMC Pacer (ugh). I sold the OLD OLD Olds to a poverty-stricken buyer for $100. To my shock, I saw the nearly 20-year-old car a few years later, still on the road.

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  3. I had a friend who made a convertible out of an old BMW. Sold it to IU students.

    My first car, a 55 Chevy, cost $175 [in 1966] and needed a ring job. I gave it to my brother when I went into the Army [later in 66].

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