Shortly after getting my license, dad phoned while away on a business trip.
Dad – “How do you feel about landau roofs?”
Me – “…”
Dad – “and a velvet interior?”
Me – “What are we talking about here?”
We were talking about a cream-puff 1984 Delta 88 Oldsmobile land barge that looked as if it had been locked in a cryogenics lab for a decade.
“Gorgeous” may not have been the right adjective, but – o – how brightly my pure love for it burned. You could fit five people in the backseat alone and several more in the trunk. When waxed up, it looked fresh off the show-room floor and drove like all of its ponies were strung out on speed. In addition to a smooth ocean-liner-esque ride and a bangin’ stereo, it also had fancy little visors around all four windows to protect delicate eyes from the sun, an antennae that went up and down when the radio was turned on and took up one and a half parking spaces. It lasted for 27 days of heavenly bliss.
In my defense, no 16 year-old child of dad should have been given the opportunity to upset lawfulness and order by getting behind the wheel of a monstrous V8 slung low in the front with no weight whatsoever in the back. That was just poor planning. A vigorous punch to the accelerator made the olds spin at a stand-still like a Looney Tunes cartoon character building up steam for a powerful dash and it went around corners sideways. This problem was resolved by a installing a 50lb bag of concrete dust into the trunk after which the granny olds and I were able to embarrass many a compatriot’s mustang/camaro/wannabe.
What I was unable to do for quite some time was replenish the gas supplies as the extensive cream puff exterior was not marred by an unsightly gas nozzle dealy-bob that I was able to find. My first trip to the gas station was spent perusing the owner’s manual for a map to the gas tank. An elderly man at a nearby pump finally asked me why I was making laps around the car & took pity on me. To access the gas tank, you had to pull back on the rear license plate.
would have figured that out. And so it happened that the olds had a full tank of gas when I wrapped it around a tree, ripping the 8 foot long hood all the way up to the windscreen and leaving me with a perfect bruise in the shape of a seatbelt across my abdomen for several weeks. (Frowny face. The olds was a good car. A friend later found the hood ornament in the woods and returned it. I still have it.)
After the Olds debacle, I was sure that I would never love another car again, but mom encouraged me to come along to a car auction with her one Saturday, just to get the lay of the land. The last words I remember dad saying to us as he stood in the doorway of the garage full of fear and trembling were “you’d better not come back with a car”.
Technically, we didn’t because you had to get the title before you could drive it off the lot and that took several days. We bought this beaut for a cool $2500 and couldn’t believe that no one else had even waggled a paddle to indicate an intention of possibly bidding against us.
Here’s why: we were morons and they were professionals.
This car’s transmission, while physically present, was totally dysfunctional. After bidding, we were allowed to drive it around the zero-grade parking lot & after a pregnant pause, mom shouted over the car’s screaming jet-engine “well, you won’t be getting any speeding tickets in this.” It was incapable of reaching speeds greater than 45 mph and only achieved that after quite a lot of time spent holding the accelerator pedal flat against the floorboards. Other kids in school raced out to beat me to the parking lot so that they wouldn’t be stuck behind me on Robious Rd, climbing up that mountain just beyond James River High School at 3 miles an hour.
In addition to the transmission issue, the a/c was broken, the tape player didn’t work, you could turn the car off and on without the key (handy for me until others learned of this trick), the brakes were about shot, and someone had used duct tape to fix a rather serious problem over the right rear wheel and then spray-painted over their handi-work. I had to tell anyone seated back there to LEEEEAN when we went around corners or the chassis would rub against the wheel resulting in a spectacular blow-out. This car lasted through the heat of summer and through much of the following Fall until one Thanksgiving morning when dad sent me off to the grocery store for some brown sugar. I’d parked the car in the grocery store’s vestibule, which was forbidden, as I was just running in real super quick. When I came out, the car wouldn’t start.
Note: when a car won’t start, accept it and move on. Do not continue to try or the car will blow up.
The car blew up.
Regrettably, it was repaired and lasted for several more weeks. This car we sold to some foreigners for $100. This car, I hated.
More to come.