Each morning, as I drive from Indianapolis to Muncie for work, my commute involves a lot of listening to The Bob and Tom Show. One of their sponsorships is NAPA Auto Parts, and they finish the advertisement by reading stories submitted by listeners regarding their first vehicle. It is often quite comical to hear some of the horror stories involving people’s first rides. Other times, it just makes me jealous to hear the kinds of classic muscle cars that came and went before my time. One morning, as I awoke from my daydream by running across the stutter strip on the shoulder of the interstate, it occurred to me that I too, once owned a “classic muscle car” and that it indeed, was my first vehicle. That, in turn, got me to thinking about the “good ol’ days” and I began wondering why I hadn’t submitted MY story. I said, “Self, why haven’t you submitted YOUR story?” So naturally, I decided…it is time.
I began working regularly when I was 14 years old hopeful that I could earn, and save, enough money to buy my first car when the time rolled around. I had seen first-hand what I hoped to achieve, as my brother worked at a local diner and bought his first car, a 1980 Mustang Coupe. Issues came about in abundance, being so young and so completely irresponsible with my income. Before I knew it, I was 15 years old with driver’s permit in hand. Alas, I had no car and no funds to purchase one. As my 16th birthday neared, I noticed that some of my parent’s friends had a Mustang that had been sitting in their front yard wasting away. I spoke to them, and brokered a deal to buy the eyesore that was a not-so-classic 1978 Mustang II. Undeniably the biggest mistake in Mustang history, and often mistaken for a slightly modified Pinto, I was incredibly proud to be the owner of a ’70s era Ford Mustang!
This car had more rust than paint, but amazingly with a tune-up and minimal amount of work it was up and running…momentarily. After stumbling around the car and acting like I knew what I was doing, I realized that it was out of gas. So I grabbed a gas can and headed for the gas station downtown. Upon my return, I literally watched my gas gauge drain immediately after pouring fuel into the tank. Hmm…that can’t be right. Reluctant, I tucked my tail between my legs and headed for the house to ask dad for some help. We crawled under the vehicle and almost instantly, dad spotted the problem – a hole in the bottom of the gas tank. Awesome. Luckily, he had an idea for a quick and easy fix. Let the car sit for a couple of days so the tank can dry out, drill out the hole, put some silicon on a screw, and plug it up by sealing the hole. Not a bad little idea, and it worked wonderfully (for the most part). You know, once we got past the hesitance of drilling into a gas tank and possibly creating a spark around gasoline that may not be completely gone. (Obviously as I write this, you can safely conclude that there was no all-consuming fireball.)
Most stories would end there, but that is where mine begins. As you may or may not be aware of, silicon isn’t the best for sealing a gas tank, meaning that there was still a slight trickle from the bottom of my car from time to time.
Winter rolled around and I quickly realized that my tiny, rear-wheel drive car wasn’t so great at handling slippery conditions. And oh yeah, the heater didn’t work. Great. But who cares? I was 16 and had my own mode of transportation! As mentioned in a previous post, I grew up in rural southern Indiana, which translates to basketball madness – also known as “Hoosier Hysteria.” After taking my talents to
South Beach err – the bench during my freshman year, I gave up on my basketball career after that season. However, being raised in the heartland of hoops, you don’t just turn your back on basketball. As already noted my story left off in the winter months, meaning it was playoff time. Following yet another sectional championship in what had been a nice history of basketball success for my high school, my friends and I quickly noticed that it was getting late and our curfew was fast approaching. Hitting the back roads of southern Indiana is a little different from what you may imagine. Most people have the idea that Indiana is a flat wasteland in the heartland of our great nation, and most people would be spot-on with that analysis. However, southern Indiana is hardly flat.
We were making GREAT time while pushing my little four-banger to its limits. With the tachometer reaching for RPM’s around 8 grand, the exhaust screaming (and fumes probably leaking into the passenger compartment), and steering wheel shaking violently, we were coming up on the home stretch after just a couple more hills. We hit the apex of the biggest hill pushing 80 mph in one of the smallest, lightest cars ever produced on a snow and ice-covered country road in a car leaking gas. At the bottom of the hill was one of those little bridges that take people over culverts that help enormous ditches drain water. You know, the little bridges that raise up a little and are slightly higher than the road on both ends of it? There was no wreck, I can tell you and assure you of that right now. I handled our landing like a champion, but upon meeting the pavement at the bottom of the hill, the Mustang’s suspension was immediately pushed to its limit by being forced to react to the rising of the road due to the bridge. The springs couldn’t handle it and we bottomed out BIG TIME! Instantly checking my rear-view mirror, I was terrified at the sight of a spark show littering the road! In case you have forgotten, my car leaked gas. Gasoline. Fuel. Highly flammable liquid. I may or may not have peed a little. Nothing bad happened that night other than experiencing what has evolved into the story I present to you now. Oh, and a minor cardiac arrhythmia. We arrived at my house minutes later pulling into the driveway, extinguishing the lights, and killing the engine while coming to a rolling stop right in the nick of time. I loved that car and have fantasized about a reunion, but it was totalled not long after selling it. So that is my first car story…what’s yours?
Thank you, that is all.