17 September 2007

'I can lock all my doors / It's the only way to live'

All this thinking about vehicles has started me on a nostalgic tangent.

[The Peanut Gallery can just shut up now; I know a bunch of wise-asses when I hear 'em. Perish the very thought of Talmadge getting all nostalgic on everyone. Never happens. Uh uh.]

I've had quite a few cars to call my own over the 26-1/2 years I've held a drivers' license. I didn't get my first car, however, until after I turned 18. But I did get something for my 16th birthday, lucky lucky me:

1976 AMC Pacer.
Color: Whatta Maroon.
Nicknames: Pisser; Bubble Machine; Butt-Ugly Laughingstock.

Owned: February 1981 - March 1983.
The person who designed this piece of skunk vomit should've been strapped to the gas tank of a Ford Pinto ahead of a car with malfunctioning brakes. My maternal grandparents gave me this thing for my birthday, and I had to endure a buttload of grief from other kids. You've seen what a Pacer looks like. It's so over-the-top, even for 1970s sensibilities. And I was driving a Pacer nearly 10 years before Wayne and Garth 'legitimized' it ... not to mention Goofy.

It was a source of some family tension. My Dad, years later, tipped his hand as to exactly how often he had to bite his tongue. It was his wife's parents, after all, who chose it.

Fortunately, the Pisser began falling apart well into my senior year, and Dad picked out something else for me:

1982 Mercury Capri.
Color: Silver & black.
Nicknames: Silver Bullet; Love Stains? No, That's Just Horsey Sauce; My First Car.

Owned: March 1983 - September 1987.
The Capri - not to be confused with the '90s reincarnation - was Mercury's twin to the Ford Mustang. It looked good. And, despite a few problems of its own, was a great car. The backseat folded down, implying opportunities aplenty for moral turpitude. And I bought a wonderful stereo to go in it -- a Pioneer SuperTuner III cassette deck, complete with Clarion speakers.

"The Silver Bullet" took me from 18,000 miles in March of 1982 all the way to 97,000 miles as I began my last semester in college. In September 1987, I was given a choice of cars as a semi-present for college graduation. A 1988 Mustang, but that one was at a Ford dealership a little farther away ... and for some retarded reason I wanted a trunk instead of a hatchback, which I had with the Capri and the Pisser before that.

So I went with the car closer at hand. I drove my Capri -- which by then was beginning to shake worse than our dog when we take her to the vet -- from Pine Bluff, Ark. to Arkadelphia to take the wheel of my next car:

1987 Mercury Topaz.
Color: Kyle Edwards Powder Blue.
Nicknames: The Tope; The Grand Mal Seizure; Proto-Corsica Piece of Raccoon Feces.
Owned: September 1987 - March 1991.
Well, it had a trunk. It also had an aftermarket Sony stereo installed in there. Sorry, but it was a cheapest model and the Ford people who wired the speakers were total Dee d'DEEs. Left and Right are supposed to be on each side of the car, using the fader to control "front L/R" and "back L/R." Not in this car ... both left channels were on both front speakers while the right channel was in the rear deck.

I remember getting my beloved Pioneer SuperTuner III out of the Capri, and had it installed in the Topaz. It was at a small car stereo garage off Bridge Street in Jonesboro. Bolivar followed me there, and while they went to work correcting the inbred stereo miswiring, we went to Burger King for supper. I remember we were listening to the new Yes album, Big Generator.

The Topaz is the only car in which I've had a real accident. My fault. I changed lanes on a one-way street in Pine Bluff, not noticing the '72 Ford Maverick that was coming up the left lane. I sideswiped it ... and tore off the entire front end and banged up the left-front fender too. And the damage to the '72 Sherman Tank--um, I mean Maverick? It mangled some of the decorative chrome trim, but that's about it. The body had next to no damage!!!

It earned its sub-nickname Grand Mal Seizure because the fuel injector crapped out on it, and every time I was at an intersection it would begin vibrating something fierce. Gas mileage plummeted to something like 15 on the highway. Eventually that was fixed.

Then the alternator went. And, finally, the A/C. By then, I was in Troy, Alabama, and was beginning to drink the Kool-Aid. My grandparents mercifully offered to take that clunker off my hands, and trade it in for their next car. In return, they'd give me their current car which they bought, not realizing it was a step down from their usual Buicks. In March 1991, with a mere 74,000 miles on it, I retired the Topaz and began driving my grandparents' car, which at the time had logged just 17,000 miles:

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity.
Color: Navy Blue.
Nicknames: Mr. Midnight; The Un-Pacer.
Owned: March 1991 - November 1993.
I was more than a little leery about taking on a GM car. My Dad has had nothing but trouble with the few he'd ever owned. Every one of 'em had oil leak problems .... the first thing out of Dad's mouth when he sees a GM car: "Where's the drip?"

The engine had more oomph than the plastic four-banger in The Tope. It also drove as if the highway was a continuous cloud. But I wasn't that fond of the bench seat up front, though.

Except for a radiator fan going south at 27,000 miles and the alternator no longer alternating at 81k, it was a pretty reliable car -- as far as GMs go. But after the alternator, I started having visions of this car disintegrating before my eyes (my Dad's experiences with GM were vividly clear ... my family had a '74 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon, our own "Wagonqueen Family Truckster").

So I went car shopping. The back of my mind was yelling out "Honda! ... Toyota! ... Japanese! ... Japanese!" But I ignored it. And the first car I bought on my own would prove to be a doozy.

1993 Chevrolet Corsica.
Color: Silver & Black.
Nicknames: Son of Silver Bullet; Son of a Bitch; The Car That Personifies Most Which is Evil About Detroit; Country Time.
Owned: November 1993 - November 17, 1997!
It was comfortable. Honestly, it was. The seat felt right. The (V6) engine had pickup. The whole layout seemed to be calling my name. And the color scheme ... identical to that of my old Capri. It was a combination guaranteed to make Talmadge Gleck sign on the dotted line. It was a "program car" - an Avis rental - and it had 16,500 miles when we took delivery.

And the people who drove that car when it was under Avis' ownership must've driven it hard. Either that, or else the Mexicans who built it were .25 BAC full of tequila.

It was a lemon and I could write an entire post about how often this car left me stranded. The cooling system had to be rebuilt twice. It went through two A/C replacements. Something like two radiators. Two alternators. A starter. A fuel pump. A couple of water pumps.

My son has indelible memories of this car, as we were both on the side of the road one day north of Montgomery. "Dad, why is green stuff coming out of our car?"

From 1993 through 1997, I drove a lemon while my then-"wife" drove her 1992 Geo Metro, which had very little trouble about it. Those little Briggs & Stratton three-lung engines do quite well ... until about 75,000 miles. By then, it was the Spring of 1997, and it began sprouting lemons worse than the Corshitca ... only this time, the engine died while Josiebelle was in Pensacola one weekend.

We salvaged the Metro, managed to get enough for it to buy a supersized combo for Tiger, and in May 1997 -- vowing never again to go near Detroit -- we bought our first "Japanese" car:

1997 1/2 Nissan Altima.
Color: Gold.
Nicknames: The Solid Gold Wagon; Goldie; My Friend And Companion Through The Biggest Transitions Of My Life.
Owned: May 1997 - September 2000.
Bought it brand new and it was a solid puppy. I loved it from mile one.

Less than six months later, its two owners would divorce. The decision as to who got which car turned out to be such a no-brainer. Okay, Josie, do you want a car (Corsica) with only nine more payments of $245 .... or one (Altima) with 57 more payments of $331?

I reminded her how often she bitched and moaned about having to drive an automatic because I was "too stubborn" and "too afraid" to drive a stick. I never learned how, and frankly at this point I see no need to. As Lewis Grizzard once said, "I'm secure enough to have my gears shifted for me." I said she could trade in the Corsica for a car of her own choosing ... one with a stick! The woman loved driving a standard. Every car she'd had up to the Metro had manual transmissions.

Yes, she took the Corsica. Amusingly enough, the car she got soon after (a '93 Ford Escort) and what she drives today (a '99 Escort) are both AUTOMATICS.

Back to the Altima ... it was a great car. It got me to and from Columbus, Georgia hundreds (if not thousands) of times during my courtship with Seraphim. And when we both moved to Savannah in the Summer of 2000, it was the Altima which got me there.

But by then Goldie had 81,000 miles on her, and I set out to take a chance on seeing whether I could get a new car financed with a Chapter 7 just 2.5 years in my past.

To be continued....

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "When the image breaks down, will you visit me please?" Gleck

1 comment:

Seraphim9 said...

GOOFY is the personification of coolness. You should be so lucky to have had something in common with him. ;-)