Oct 14, 2008

Drivin' The Bandit

It's been a long past few days. A trying past few days. Vehicularly speaking, I'm destitute.

Let's review. I own an elderly GMC Sierra truck which currently is suffering from some sort of engine malady that I can't diagnose nor fix myself, and is being further held back from repair by current economic conditions (ie: we're broke as a joke.) Black Betty, my bike is my main mode of transportation, and is very willing and able. I put a new back tire on her some four or five months past, and last week she developed a strange wobble in her front end. I realised after it grew worse that I'd picked up a nail or some other bit of FOD* on the street and gotten a puncture and a slow leak.

I can't patch it, since motorcycle tires take much more side-to-side stress than car tires, and patching a hole even on a back tire is asking for a fast ticket to Motorcycle Upside Downsville with a side trip to Broken Bonestown. So, I'm patiently waiting for another back tire (that I can't really afford) to ship so I can bring the works to the bike shop to have the two mated so I can get to work in a manner both enjoyable and efficacious.

The wife has a year old Mazda CX-7, but since we work at disparate times it's almost impossible to catch a ride with her, and while I don't mind borrowing my mom's little Nissan I hate to leave her without transport. That's where my brother comes in.

My brother the pharmacist has, at last count, two cars per family member including my niece and the two nephews, the youngest of whom is 9. He collects and restores '64 to '66 Mustangs, you see. My brother the car collector has a new Honda Ridgeline for himself. His wife drives a Chevy SUV of some generic sort or other. He owns a mint '65 hardtop with the 289 V-8 and a number of others in various stages of restoration. His wife decided she had to have a hot rod car too, but instead of waiting for a Mustang to come available she found a 1975 Trans Am, vis:

You're starting to get the picture, right? I went to him to borrow a vehicle, and since his Mustang is strangely sacrosanct here of late, I ended up in The 'Zam. The Blue Bomber. My nemesis.

Can I tell you why I'm tired of it? I'm tired of the Smokey And The Bandit jokes. I'm tired of hillbillies following me through parking lots just so they can gawk and ask barely intelligent questions. I'm really weary of people staring at me like they expect me to be wearing a black cowboy hat, black Wranglers and a black Western shirt with red piping and the obligatory pearl-covered snap buttons. I'm tired of feeling like every time I get in front of a diesel truck he expects me to race ahead to suss out the smokies for him so he and his dog can continue on to their destination with his truck-full of contraband.

Don't get me wrong, now. When I was 12 my dream car was a red 1978 Trans Am with the Screamin' Chicken on the hood and the 6.6 litre V-8 400. I didn't even care that the dashboards of those cars is covered in silver mylar: I wanted a hot car. Frank Poncharello had a gold one. Rockford had one too, also gold I believe. I wanted a Trans Am. The closest I ever got was while I was in college. I had a pristine white 1981 Camaro with a red interior that was the be-all end-all of cars (to me (at the time.)) I've always loved GM's F-body cars, and when they changed to the boxy new Camaros and Trans Ams I wept for a passing generation of long, sleek, low sports cars.

I just never thought I'd be driving one again at age 41.

The car has it's pluses and minuses, I'll freely admit. It accelerates rather like a Saturn 5 rocket--in a straight line you punch it and it begins to roar, gaining speed in a sort of continuously increasing power band until two miles later you feel like you're about to break the sound barrier. Like the Saturn 5, however, it also takes a VERY long time to slow down. The steering is sharp as razors, aided by a small steering wheel and a high-ratio steering box. This makes doughnuts in parking lots a breeze, but if you're 6' 2" tall it requires a sort of controlled fall to get into and you have to put your hand on the door sill to heave yourself back into the light of day.

I love the long body style, no doubt about it. I love the fact that the doors are five feet long and when you slam them it sounds like you're locking yourself behind a bank vault door. I love that the hood stretches out in front of you for ten feet and the cockpit feels like it ends just behind you, as though you were driving an American version of a mid 60's Jaguar E-type. I even love that the trunk is so small you can barely fit a suitcase in, and the back seats are comfortable only if you can still buckle comfortably into a carseat.

The 'Zam even has that big gaping intake smack in the middle of the hood, a defiant declaration of machismo and sheer "Go ahead and cut a huge hole in my hood so the engine can stick out" chutzpah. Sticker a giant two-toned fire-breathing chicken all over the hood and what's not to love?

Well, I can tell you. What's not to love is that it takes a Chevy Chase pratfall to sit down, the dash is MYLAR for gawd's sake, and that hulking V-8 power plant makes OPEC grin wider every time you turn the ignition on. I also really dislike the constant flow of toothless middle-aged rednecks who longed for a car like this when they were adults and their mullets were still fresh. The near constant flow of onlookers makes me feel...dirty. Did I mention that braking requires a lot of patience and a country mile? Did I mention that the engine is covered in more tubes and pipes and strange bits of wobbly plastic that serve no obvious purpose except to fail at inopportune times, thereby rendering the engine utterly dead? Did I mention that it's got a giant fire-breathing chicken on the hood?

Did I mention it's great for huge smoking doughnut burnouts?
* Foreign Objects or Debris.


meno said...

I'm having a hard time feeling sorry for you. Just indulge your inner teenager.

Gordo said...

Man, I was out driving with my brother a couple of weeks ago and saw one of these for sale. A red one. My first thought: wouldn't that be a wickedly subversive electric conversion? ;-)

Shao said...

Aw man, you know how much poontang yer gonna git!?

Rudi said...

Irrelephant said:
but if you're 6' 2" tall it requires a sort of controlled fall to get into and you have to put your hand on the door sill to heave yourself back into the light of day.

Make it into a convertible and just jump in (after, of course, you just slid across the hood from the passenger side Starsky and Hutch style.)

Does it come w/ an 8-Track loaded with Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell queued up to Paradise by the Dashboard Light?

Bob said...

@rudi - T-tops, not convertible. duh.

I always hated the faux-holigram/prism/reflector dash on trans-ams.

I'm pretty much with meno, though. kwitcherbellyachin.

Nancy Dancehall said...

gawd, now I have 'The Rockford Files' playing in my head (we were all so proud of that show back in the day).

I wanted that car in black with a gold screamin' chicken; wanted it like Sonny wanted Cher, the Captain wanted Tenille, Donnie wanted Ma...uh, no, maybe not like that one.

Irrelephant said...

meno, I have been. *s* Unfortunately I've been feeling it at the pump.

Gordo, my only fear would be that it would take monstrous tons of batteries--this joker is HEAVY.

As of right now, Shao? None. *g*

Rudi, were I free to do things to this car I'd probably start by selling it and buying an '81 Z28 Camaro. *lol* As for sliding across the hood--that honking big air-ram there makes any sort of slide end about halfway across, probably with a groin injury.

As for music options...well, it may at one time have had an 8-track (there's a honking big hole in the lower console) but for now all it's got is a dead aftermarket jobbie.

Hell, at least the AC works. *G*

Bob, you guys are turning mean! *lmao* The dash is the one major flaw, so far as I can tell. Well, and the giant chrome steel door pulls that look like they belong on the side of a four-wheel drive truck.

I'm sorry, Nancy! I had to share the pain, though. Somehow I can see you in a Trans Am, though. Head barely above the steering wheel and about 400 horses at your beck and call. Sca-ry!

Donnie and Marie, eh? Ew. Just...ew. *lol*

Nancy Dancehall said...

Sure, laugh it up Mr. Six-foot-two-eyes-of-blue. *s*

Mona Buonanotte said...

Does that thing have those rubber balls danglin' off the back end? Or is that just a Midwestern machismo thing guys do to their vehicles?

(Ooh, wait...looks like it's mostly for trucks:

Rayne said...

This is too funny! I've always looked at the drivers of those cars as throw backs to another era. People who couldn't leave high school behind or, as you so adeptly pointed out, toothless rednecks with more gas than class.
But, the next time I see one go by, I'll be a little gentler in my opinions. It might just be some poor guy in a tough situation who has had to swallow his pride and ride the screaming chicken.

Todd said...

I knew a guy in high school that got a gold one for his birthday. What a spoiled brat. Of course, he did what all the spoiled rotten bastiches who got a car from their parents did.....he wrecked it!

HaaHa! (sounding like the kid on the Simpsons)

I used to think it would be cool to have one of those too. But mostly the dream was for the accompanying Sally Field in the passenger seat!

Who didn't have a crush on her? Come on...admit it, all!

Robin said...

Hey man I too love cars a lot and you won’t believe me when I would say that I wanted a silver mustang with a golden chicken on it , anyways thanks for sharing the blog