Monday, February 4, 2013

True Tales - A Valiant Race

"A Valiant Race" Copyright 2007-2012 by: E.C. "Stan" Field by:    E.C. "Stan" Field

My buddy Jay and I loved to race cars. All kinds of cars. Big ones like Cadillacs, medium ones like Valiants and Ramblers and small ones... Like Fiat-Abarths and Volkswagens.

Due to lack of money, we did almost all our own work. The only things that ever got farmed out were transmission and machine shop tasks.

Since I had been raised on road racing in Mexico, during high school, I naturally paid a lot more attention to my suspension and handling than raw horsepower. This proved very handy one winter night.

Now my two door 1964 Plymouth Valiant was a cheery sight back in those days. It was running a 225 slant six with an automatic and anyone standing outside normally considered it a family car. Underneath, I had Monroe Load Leveler shocks all around, with coil-overs and a sway bar in the back. The tires were Firestone wide ovals and a custom exhaust that let it breath just a bit better. My previous best top end was about 95 mph, but it handled very well indeed.

It was clear and cold out that Saturday night and my buddy Jay and his 7 month-pregnant wife decided to grab dinner and a couple of drinks at his brother's house, in Calumet City, Indiana.

Now in those days, Cal City was not a family-oriented area. Strip clubs, pool halls, XXX movie houses and other fine establishments were the norm and we normally had a lot of fun there.  From what I've been told, not much has changed since then.

Coming back home, for some odd reason, I decided to take a short cut through Gary, rather than head north a couple of miles, to the interstate.

Naturally, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, I made a wrong turn and ended up on a dead end. As I turned to head back, a Ford Galaxy four door with spotlights turned a light on me. We drove past them and they spun around and started to chase us.

They were blinking their headlights and honking and when we turned a corner, I saw an arm out the window, waving a badge. I was almost ready to pull over when Jay hollered. “That's not the same color as Gary cop badges and there are no lights or siren!”

I saw an alley between two industrial buildings ahead, threw the Valiant sideways and punched it!
Well, the next few minutes saw us alley-hopping at 50 to 60 mph. There were more than a few times, when we were airborne.

I figured that once we hit the interstate, they would give up. WRONG!

Not only did they follow us up, onto I90, but they tried to run me off the road. That is when Jay's wife screamed... “They've got guns!”

I glanced in my mirror and sure enough, the passenger was waving a revolver and leaning out his window. I muttered something really obscene and glanced over at the passenger side. Both Jay and his pregnant wife had somehow folded themselves into a really tight ball under the dash.

Jay looked up at me and growled. “You just drive, damnit!”

Seemed like a rather good idea at that moment, since I had just heard two gunshots.

There was a semi tractor trailer rig heading down the ramp to I65 and it was only a one lane ramp. I glanced at my speedometer and realized that my car must have been scared too... since it had a new top speed of 97 mph!

Without thinking, I just picked a hole where the guardrail was starting to close off the lane between the semi and we slid between them with inches to spare. I know the poor semi driver was cussing me eight ways to Sunday. The Ford was stuck behind.

One would suppose that they would have given up by then, eh? No such luck. As soon as we hit I65, they passed the semi and were pulling up behind us again.

I saw we were coming up on the long, gentle exit for Liverpool Rd. and took it. About half way down the ramp, with the Ford less than a car length behind me and doing well over 80 mph, I twitched the wheel, drifted across the white lines just inches before the road split and was back up on the interstate with the semi driver leaning on his horn and on his second wind of cussing me out.

The Ford tried the same thing, but he was just a second too late. They hit the dirt berm and the last I saw, was their headlights, tracing arcs in the sky as they rolled down the embankment.

We took it REAL easy getting back to Jay's place in Portage and I crashed there for the night.

The next day, we heard that the Police had arrested the two fellows in the Ford for DUI, for carrying weapons without a permit, impersonating a police officer and discharging firearms in the city limits. They both had previous criminal records for auto theft. The Ford was totaled  My Valiant got an extra coat of wax and an early oil change that weekend.

It was another learning experience.

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