To All the Cars I loved Before (Part 3b)


It is 1973.

I was supposed to graduate from High School. Didn’t because I was a “military brat” and the AF HS only awarded 1/4 credit per year of Physical Education while the State of Arizona awarded a full half credit. While I had all the required courses done I was not permitted to walk with my class because I was 1/2 credit short! I enrolled in a single class for the 1973/74 school year (Typing). Despite this boondoggle I had qualified for an academic scholarship to a very exclusive private military school. New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI). They were willing to defer my enrollment for a year and so I decided to actually work as a mechanic with a friend. So I took a job as an apprentice mechanic with a friend a few years ahead in school that was now managing an Arco station. This was, of course, when they called them service stations and we pumped the gas and did every sort of mechanical work up to and inclusive of a total engine overhaul. I made quite a bit of money in very short order and my father agreed to co-sign me for a 1971 Corvette like the one in the picture. So I worked that summer, still owned the 442 and added this.

I’m going to need to break the timeline here and move ahead to the summer of 1974. I had graduated from HS in November of 1973. Kept working at the shop, learning to drive on race tracks (Outlaw, Claimer and Late Model). That summer, while working at the shop another friend from school asked to borrow my Corvette to go on a date. This turned out to be a huge mistake. I loaned him the car and told him he needed to have it back by six when I got off work.

“No problem” he responded.

I gave him the key and went back to work. At six that evening he pulled in. I got in the driver’s seat and drove him home.

“Any problems” I asked? He seemed unusually quiet.

“Nope” he said and fell back into silence.

I didn’t think too much about it, the car was running well and there were no marks indicating he had been in an accident. He didn’t even seem like he had been drinking. I dropped him off at his home and started towards mine. The sun was almost down as I turned down the road to our driveway. I noticed a police car that had been sitting on the curb pull out behind me but thought nothing of it. I turned into the drive and as I started out of the car I heard a voice behind me yell, “Hands up!” and simultaneously with that the entire driveway was surrounded with what seemed, at the time, the entire City Of Phoenix Police Department. They had me kneeling on the ground and in cuffs before I even had an inkling of what was going on. I had been clocked going 147 MPH on Route 87! I realized immediately what had happened. What else could I do? I was going to lose my license, get a huge fine and that scholarship would simply evaporate. So I turned in my friend, the one that I had loaned the car to. The police confirmed that I had been working at the shop at the time of the offense, explained how stupid it was to lend your car to someone not a declared driver on my insurance and went off to arrest my friend.

Yeah, I’m a rotten friend if you screw with my life. So be it. But this car isn’t finished with me yet. The little red Corvette was my first car to carry the burden of a bad luck hex. I also realized that in the three years it took me to pay it off I would have paid for it twice in what it cost to insure. I still liked driving it and had made some significant investments in the engine and suspension so knew I needed to hold it a bit longer to get its resale value to match what I owed. I worked it out on paper and knew I would need to hold onto the car until around January 1975! It turned out to be one of the most expensive decisions outside getting married and having children I was to ever make. We’ll address that in Part 3c.


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