Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Flameless Bird

The LTD served me through the end of high school, and into college. It was the summer after my sophomore year and I was driving by the local ice cream stand when I realized that the slight squishiness in the accelerator that had been creeping up on me suddenly was getting much worse. Stepping on the gas was actually cutting power initially. The fuel pump had gone. The fuel pump was unfortunately located above the gas tank. The repair promised to exceed the value of the car by a significant margin and my parents weren't up for that. The old gray whale was finally beached.

I had no real money at the time. I had just embarked on a summer job selling knives. I had manged a few small sales and one big one. My commission rate had just been bumped up. It looked like I might possibly start making money soon, but without a car I'd be out of a job. My parents decided to support my new job and fund a replacement vehicle. I wanted a sportier car, preferably a V8, but the price range left only 5+ year 90k+ Mustangs, and F bodies in play, and those were not so easy to find at dealerships. My parents strongly preferred dealerships. I found a Capri with a V8 (the Mercury version of a Mustang). The big problem was I didn't know how to drive a stick. I basically had to rely on my dad to test drive it for me to see if it was in good working order. We did that, but the sales tactics at the Boch Used Car dealership on Route 1 where I found it were a deal breaker. They used high pressure to the max, and really stupid tactics like holding my dad's credit card hostage during the negotiations. After 30 minutes of that, I wouldn't have let my dad buy the car for me. I was that pissed at the salesman. Any hope of getting the Capri was caput.

Then my mom got involved. It became clear that a V8 was not acceptable. I wasn't paying, so it was kinda hard to complain much. It wasn't a birthday or graduation gift, it was a car to keep me employed. I came dangerously close to having a white K car station wagon. I really wanted a sportier car than the LTD, so a compromise was struck when we found a white 1989 Firebird. At least it had some style, and a lower center of gravity. It wasn't a V8, nor was it the turbo V6, nor was it a manual transmission, and it didn't have the big decal on the front. It was essentially hollow with respect to performance but it did look a little like a negative of KITT from Nightrider.

It was a piece of pretty, white fluff. It did attract attention which was fun the first few times it happened. But I soon discovered that after praise such as "Cool car" or "Nice ride" came the standard inquisition from people who knew anything about cars:

Them:"What year?"
Them:"Nice, is it the 3.8 Turbo 6?"
Them:"Ah well the 5.0 liter V8 is good too"
Me:"actually it's a v6"
Them:".... mmm .... well the 2.8 is a good reliable engine. You do have the 5 speed don't you?"

Usually the person didn't know what to say after that and neither did I, so the conversation generally ended there. Half the time they asked about the V8 before the turbo, not that it mattered in the end.

Next... Fond memories of my lame fire duck.

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