Thursday, April 07, 2011

My Second Car

Also my mom's last car.
Since she knew that I would end up with it sooner rather than later (my brother drove pickups and rode motorcycles) I was allowed input.
Besides, we had similar tastes--I was driving a '77 Monte Carlo, she had loved her '77 Pontiac Bonneville--we both liked mid-size General Motors cars with V8s, rear-wheel drive, and automatic transmissions.

As sick as she was, the thought of spending more than a few hours on a car lot (or 5) filled her with dread. My suggestion was to point out cars she saw on the street that appealed to her, and then I would gather some (pre-internet) intel on them. Once we decided on the model we would decide on a dealer and go make the deal as fast as possible.
Several neighbors had Oldsmobile Cutlass Supremes, so we saw some variety of them.
Chevy had an SS version of the Monte Carlo at the time which was pretty NASCAR for a woman her age but she was still interested, especially since it was MY dream car.
Too bad they only came in black that year, and the whole point of the new car was to get rid of her black Dodge Mirada.
Texas sun + black car = sweat and discomfort.

So we decided on the Olds:
I had noticed (in parking lots) that some Cutlasses had vertical grills of two different styles, but that those from GUNN Oldsmobile @ 410 and Broadway had much better looking ones that were entirely 1/2" squares that looked a LOT better, so this is how we picked the dealer.

Once on the lot, a few colors were attractive to her but we both kept coming back to white. Not only is it 20 degrees cooler inside on a sunny day, but it's also more visible to other drivers at night--and I do a lot of driving at night.
We looked at one, but a quick scan of the window sticker revealed a weak powertrain.
By this time Gary had come outside the dealership and attached himself to my mom, so I went off in search of more white Cutlasses.
The third one had a 307" V8, and with a 4-barrel carburetor!
We took it for a test-drive, then were able to get my mom into Gary's air-conditioned office.
She had plenty of car buying savvy, so the trade-in negotiations took little time.
After low-balling on a financed price, she whipped out her checkbook and asked if the same price was okay if she paid in full.
She was very tired and sick, you see, so it was "Yes" or we walk, Gary.
Played him like a cello, even though he WAS a nice fellow.

The car was a real pleasure for us both as we spent too much time driving to hospitals, and was our game chariot when we finally saw our Cubs playing the Astros in a doubleheader in Houston. I kept it spotless and gassed etc for her, and even made tapes so she could enjoy her first car with a cassette deck.

When it became my car, I started by pulling off the rubber trim strips that protected the doors from parking lot dings. They ruined the clean lines of the body, and luckily were affixed with foam tape! Instant improvement in looks.
When my brother and I were getting ready for a trip to Colorado Springs to fly our first BIG rockets, I took the Olds to our mechanic in Universal City to get an oil change and otherwise check it over for the long drive.
They were also a big Goodyear Tire dealer, and showed me a damaged tire that wouldn't survive the drive.
Should have seen the look on that guy's face when I said "Okay, give me 4 of your 70-series (fat) Eagle STs, and how about putting them on a set of these American Racing® aluminum mag wheels?"
As a longhaired metalhead (who probably had a can of beer in my hand and was smoking in the waiting room--the '80s if you recall) it was nice to suddenly get the "Yes SIR!" treatment for a change.
I then took her to a brake and suspension shop and got a set of Monroe gas shocks plus some stiffer springs by TRW.
Goodbye Mushy Ride!!

Over the next few years I built a pretty killer sound system for that era, and my brother found me the computer chip that went into the Olds 442 version of my car.
The new chip meant that if you really put your ankle into the gas pedal, emissions and gas mileage programming went out the window.
Combined with my other mods, this car took-off like a rocket and could hold that speed in curves and corners.

It was a sweet "driver's" car, with that perfect combination of performance and comfort. I had installed a nice aftermarket steering wheel that was smaller and felt better in your hands, which added to the already responsive handling.

Around '95 some woman trying to "make" a yellow light nearly killed me in this car--peed blood for a week--but I still drove it in semi-wrecked condition with lots of plastic taped over the openings for another 5 years.
Eventually sold it as a parts donor after leaving it parked behind a friend's house for a few years with the windows gone.
Very sad end to a fine ride.

As much as I love my current Dodge Dakota and the Monte Carlo that was my first, this 1985 Oldsmobile was the great love of my life when it comes to cars.
My only regrets were that nobody made a decent dual-exhaust system for it when I had the money. I was all ready to make this final upgrade for the extra horsepower and external sound quality, but nobody stepped up to the plate.
Whenever I watch the show Overhaulin', THIS is the car I wish they would restore for me.


Dave said...

That is (was) one sweet ride. Great post.

Laurence Modithre said...

It does sound pretty sweet. The first car is always memorable, but the truth is any car a person owns will bring their own set of interesting memories. Old, used, or new, it's always a great experience to drive your own car.

Leisa Dreps said...

What a sweet ride and story. I’ve read a lot of stories regarding the first car as the most memorable one; your story is unique. It’s true that an ideal car is the one that provides you everything you need in terms of design, comfort, and performance. BUT, the perfect car for me is the one that gives you lasting memories and will always have a special place on your heart. :)