Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Requiem For General Motors

Silver City, New Mexico

I'm old enough to have owned and loved dozens of cars and motorcycles. I never minded the government regulating firearms, but they have completely ruined the American automobile and that does bother me. It used to be that you could commune with your car and tune it to run properly. Now you lift the hood and see incomprehensible spaghetti. The search for gas mileage, safety and emissions control has killed the muscle car. Now your car nags you like a nanny if you fail to buckle your seat belt.

GM entered bankruptcy yesterday. For too many years accountants, rather than poets or artists, have been in charge of product design at GM. There was a day in 1968 when you could buy a Pontiac GTO convertible with 370 horsepower and a three speed Hurst floor shift for $3,000. Those days are gone, like GM, forever. My first car was a 1950 ford sedan, with a straight-six flathead engine that I bought for $50. It took a Saturday bagging groceries to accumulate the money to buy it.

My second car was a 1955 Ford Fairlaine with a 273 cubic inch overhead cam V-8. I painted it white, had 120 louvers punched in the hood, installed 12 inch drag slicks, new naugahyde seat covers and had local racing legend, Don Garlits, chop the front coils to produce a sexy "rake". I replaced the spark plugs and points myself and installed clear neoprene spark plug wires. I still love this car, but I ran it off a bridge and ended up 12 feet underwater at 3 AM.

n 1966, after Officers Training School, I bought a green Triumph TR4-A. It was a cool little car with a four banger that would do 80 on the interstate at 4,000 RPM. One night I went drinking with a Navigator School buddy. I thought I was too drunk to drive so I gave him the keys. As we approached a curve in California, I called out a warning but he turned the convertible over on both of us. We folded into a very small area and worried about a gas fire. Eventually the soft voices of Mexican farm workers approached and released us from our prison.

Mrs Phred and I bought this 62 Cadillac in 1966.

I loved the 1972 Chrysler station wagon that we bought just before the 1974 gas crisis. It qualifies to be called a "boat" It had two air-conditioners and a number of other amenities.


Possibly my all time favorite was a 1968 Pontiac GTO convertible. I bought it in 1976 for $175 from a biology professor who was moving. After replacing the points and plugs it actually developed 370 rated horspower and burned no oil. The exhilaration of dropping the 3-speed Hurst transmission down to second gear at night and passing like an F-16 on a two-lane road with the top down cannot be conveyed. I'm really bummed that GM is axing Pontiac.

I had fun with this 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan. Big Engine, total living room couch comfort. Many options. There was a time when everyone aspired to a Cadillac and no one had heard of Mercedes, BMWs or Jap rice-burners like Acura.

Then there was Mrs. Phred's 1977 MGB. This thing burned out starters, wiring harnesses, alternators and other electronics like popcorn. We sold it to a friend after the repair bills exceeded the purchase price. Still, it was fun to drive when we could get it to run. Our friend still owns this one.


The last car that I really loved was a 1985 Ford Mustang convertible. It had a very capable 5 liter V-8 with a five-speed and was capable of 146 MPH in forth gear. Top end dropped to 135 in 5th due to torque issues. You really didn't want to punch this one in third gear on a wet highway.


In 1988 we bought an Oldsmobile Toranado Trofeo. It was maybe our best car ever. Sleek, heavy. powerful with a dashboard full of computer gadgets to comuute mileage, range. temperature. We cruised one night from Atlanta to Tampa during a total eclipse of the moon.

The last car that we liked a little was a 96 Chrysler Sebring convertible.It had nice styling. We paid $22,000 cash. This year Chrysler is giving them away for $12,000.



We drive a 3 year old Toyota Corolla now. It's reliable and gets 40 MPG...I wish it were a Pontiac GTO...

1 comment:

  1. Well Fhred, mebbe its time to buy a truck!

    ReplyDelete