To All the Cars I’ve Loved Before: Part 2

Yes, it has been some little while. Much has been happening in our family life that just left me feeling unable to exercise the muse of writing. I have determined that the best cure for this malaise is to pick up the keyboard and just go for it. Before we get back to the cars I should add a small disclaimer here. I am one of the early Beta testers for the new Windows 10 O/S. So I want to do as much as possible using that system. They tell me it could have bugs and possibly display some “temperament”. So far it hasn’t showed me any problems and actually works better than the Windows 7 that was originally installed on this particular system. I still have the Surface Pro and love it but I promised to give this a thorough wringing out over the next several months.

Okay, so where were we? Let’s see we had just returned to the US, while the rest of the family stayed in family lodging at Travis AFB my father and I had to drive up to Portland, OR to pick up the new car. It was the first new car my father had ever purchased that I could remember. He had ordered it through the special Exchange program and the car could basically be ordered custom. He opted for an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue
1972 Cutlass Supreme in Viking Blue

with some odd options: as usual he wanted the biggest engine so he got the 455ci Police interceptor motor with the TH400 automatic, no A/C (more on this further on) and an 8-track player. When we arrived at the dealership and picked up the car the dealer included a sample tape that had an odd mix of music from classical to western. It was a great selection and the sound system, for the time, was excellent. We had a very enjoyable drive back to Travis and picked up the family then drove to our final destination, the place my dad intended to retire to . . . Phoenix, AZ aka the Valley of the Sun. We arrived in early April and the car was great, he even drag raced a Corvette and taught it that there is more to speed than a name! I had to get a learner’s permit and start driving training all over, AZDOT didn’t recognize a DL issued to a 14 year-old! It was my father that put me up to it, but if they could have read Tagalog it was actually for a motorcycle as that is what I drove in the P.I. When summer came we got our eyes opened, it was HOT. I’m talking Satan going back to H3LL to get away from the Arizona heat. People were shocked that my dad owned a car without A/C. Dealers wouldn’t even consider a trade for it. I got my license that summer and my dad was determined to keep the car until paid for. So he decided I would get a car of my own as I was going into my senior year at school and he thought it appropriate.

1967 Buick LeSabre
1967 Buick LeSabre

This was my dad’s idea of a cool set of wheels. It was smooth and reliable, the A/C didn’t work! but it was cheap. He paid the guy $265 dollars and even got a rifle (.30-.30 Winchester) thrown in as the student was returning to the USSR and they didn’t allow private ownership of weapons like that. About the only thing I really remember about the car was that it had this dial that you could turn on the Speedometer and when you approached the speed indicated it would buzz at you, loudly if you went over so I generally kept it set to 120 MPH! That made it more interesting when you heard the buzz. Now I am going to be totally honest, I wasn’t enthralled with this automobile and I had a job working in the school kitchen where my dad was working by this time. My dad told me I could trade the car in on anything I wanted as long as he didn’t need to cosign a loan (in other words I had to pay cash) and so I saved like mad and kept my eyes open. So, toward the end of summer, I am driving home from work and sitting on the corner of 75th Avenue and Camelback Road I saw the following:

1959 Peerless GT
1959 Peerless GT

I called the number on the windshield and the owner arrived to allow me a test drive. He didn’t let me drive it at first, he started the car and proceeded to scare the living shyte out of me by zipping around neighborhood streets in an area under construction. the car was so quick it was getting up to 60 or 70 MPH and then drifting around corners with enough G-force to make your neck hurt. I was unaware that the owner had modified the car and that the 289ci Ford V-8 was not factory. Basically the guy had built a homegrown version of the AC Cobra but since this car was so much lighter it was hugely faster. There were a lot of interesting things about the car: two gas tanks of 8 gallons each right under each door (real safe huh?), the windows didn’t crank up and down – rather there is a lever in each door that would slam the window from fully open to fully shut and the reverse with a simple tug. It had a rear seat so it could be qualified into its class for road races – this rear seat was made out of paper thin fiberglass and you could lift it up and see the welded steel frame the car was constructed of. It also featured knockoff hubs for quick tire changes and a mechanical windshield wiper that you had to step on to activate. He wanted $1200 for it, I offered him the Buick and $650 and ended up driving the car home. It was huge fun to drive for all of a week, then my father “borrowed” it and drove it to work one day. Upon his return I was informed that the “death trap” had to go! NOW!! So I called my friend Kenny and asked him for help. Kenny was a master mechanic and I was apprenticed to him while I was learning how to work on cars, we also had been participating in local racing events as pit crew and/or driving when the opportunity presented.

This was a busy summer but the car Kenny and I chose ended up being one of the best investments I had made to this time and it deserves an entry of its own so allow me to pause here and you can look forward to Part 3 soon.

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