Wednesday, January 2, 2013

True Tales- First New Car

"First New Car" by Paul from Dayton, submitted 2012

August 1971, after getting out of the service, I bought my first brand new car. I had my eye on a Scamp most of the summer and told my wife that if it was left when they started selling off the '71s to make room for the '72s, I was going to buy it. It was a beauty in my eyes, charcoal gray, black vinyl top, black inside with high back bucket seats, dark centered rally wheels, a 318, and a three speed stick, floor mounted. The window sticker claimed 3.55 gears and sure grip in an 8.75 housing, well someone goofed and it had 3.23s with the sure grip, still plenty of go for that little body.

It wasn't long until I saved up a few dollars and bought a dual exhaust kit for it. It was an easy change, cut the "Y" pipe just as it began to cross over under the back of the engine, clamp a cup-like plug onto the new cut, replace everything on the other side and slap on this pair of Purple Hornies I had bought. Purple Hornies were nothing but a copy of the bullet shaped Cherry Bombs painted purple, but constructed much better than the tin can Thrush mufflers available. 

The fiberglass packing burned away pretty quickly and I thought I owned a real race car. Whenever I could, I shoved it into second, let out the clutch, and let the pipes cackle and crack as I slowed down. Working four PM until midnight, I had lots of chances, even the dog knew who it was as I rounded the corner five and a half blocks from the house, tail wagging he waited at the door for me.

Next up was my set of driving lights. My grubby hands had scored a pair of military jet fighter landing lights, and I cobbled brackets to hang them from the bottom of the front bumper.  It was spring, so I went out into the county where there was a straight, level stretch of road. It's about 2AM and since I was between a couple of freshly plowed fields, I could see close to a half mile each direction. I parked in the middle of the road, grabbed my wrench and began adjusting the first light. 

Along came the helicopter cops from the next city, they shined their big spotlight on me and hovered out in front of the Scamp. The second light was still loose in the cradle, so I plugged it in and shined it right back at them, he shut off the spotlight, moved about 50 yards away and hovered watching me. As I got the second light where I wanted it, a county deputy pulled up and asked what I was doing. I told him that I had just bought the rally lights from the local import parts house and was getting them aimed. 

We talked a minute, he said I was just fine doing it out in the middle of nowhere, but wondered about me shining one on the chopper. I told him about them blinding me for no reason, I hadn't run so I wasn't up to no good, and they were out of their jurisdiction. He decided no damage done, wished me good luck and left, followed by the chopper. I had a guaranteed way to make oncoming idiots turn down their brights until some woman backed into me in a parking lot and shattered my little toys.

Then came the mandatory for the times electronic tach, strapped to the steering column with radiator hose clamps. I learned to heel and toe the brake and gas, feel the clutch just beginning to pull, bring the RPMs up, slip the clutch a little, then side step it. My polyglass tires smoked. Then I practiced stabbing the clutch with my foot only on half the pedal, smacking second gear, and moving my foot out of the way just as I touched the floor, snapping the clutch. When I got good, the car was a handful of terror to most of the 289 Mustangs, 283 and 327 Chevys around. I thought I was king of the small blocks on the streets.

I was working part time at a gas station on the weekends. We rented out U-Haul trailers and trucks, so I installed a hitch to make extra bucks by shuttling trailers around. One Sunday afternoon I had a large closed trailer hooked up and as I rolled up to a stoplight, I played my game of letting the pipes talk. I pulled up beside a Pontiac Ventura, read Nova. He had the back bumper about waist high, big, wide tires, and I am sure a Powerglide transmission. All GM was using them at one time.

He had out of state license plates and a very pretty female passenger. He proceeded to tell me that if I didn't have the trailer, he would show me just what a piece of stuff I was driving.  Stupidly I told him not to let the trailer stop him, and brought the tach up to about 3500 RPM. The light turned green and I let the tires smoke, glanced at the tach, knew I was about out of torque, banged second and lit the tires for a few more feet. 

When we shut them down for the next light, he had about a half car on me, cotton picker won. I told him that just a few blocks down and I would drop the trailer, then we could do it again. He wouldn't even look at me, stared straight ahead, but the gal was doubled over laughing. Wish I could have been around when he got home and told his buds how bad he beat "this Mopar," and she popped off with "yeah, but he was pulling a trailer."

We needed a good family car, so I traded my Scamp for a triple black '74 Fury Grand Coupe. The wife loved it and I was back to driving my standby, a good old '62 Dodge Dart 4 door hardtop my grandpa bought new.

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