It was the hot summer of 1977. I was 15 years old and dreaming of hot rods, motorcycles, and girls… probably in that order, too.
I was in between 10th and 11th grades that summer. I was sporting a cool set of “Elvis” sideburns and had a tape box filled with the latest and greatest Rock and Roll 8-track tapes. All I needed was some wheels. No. Not a bicycle. I needed some big boy wheels… a car, a motorcycle… something with a motor. I dreamed about a ’57 Chevy or a cool Harley-Davidson raked out chopper, like Cap’n America’s bike in the movie Easy Rider.
That was also the summer that my mom and dad let me know that I was going to be getting my very first (official) car in September, once I passed my operator’s license test. I only had a restricted license up till then. My mother was in a hurry for me to get my license and car because, as she said then, “I’m tired of carting your ass around.” Mom was a plain-spoken country girl from Avon Park, Florida. She usually told you like it was; no BS from momma.
I say “official” because my first “unofficial” car was actually a 1963 Pontiac Catalina Safari station wagon real similar to THIS tank. It was originally our family car, but my dad sold it to his and mom’s business a few years earlier. It was recently retired and sitting in my yard. I adopted it. I started working on it and tinkering with it till one day when my father asked me what I was doing. He and I had a bit of a round and round over that car. He was for selling it. I was for keeping it. He won the debate. That was the end of my hot rod station wagon dreams.
So anyway, September rolled on by. I passed my operator’s license exam. And within a couple days, was driving my first “official” car, a hand-me-down (from mom) 1969 Plymouth Valiant. It was just like the one pictured here, but mine was monkey puke green. OK, it wasn’t no cool hot rod. It had a six cylinder; not a speed demon. However, I actually wish I had that car nowadays. That 225CI slant six Mopar engine was one of the best plants to ever come out of Detroit. It got 35mpg on a bad day. I installed some coax speakers in the back deck and a hand-me-down 8-track tape player and off I went… a 16 year old with the world in the palm of his hand.
I didn’t drive that ol’ girl for that long. I was into a real hot rod shortly thereafter. The Valiant was given to my uncle Aaron, my mother’s brother. He drove it for about a month till some idiot turned left in front of him one day. The ol’ girl was totaled. Uncle Aaron was alright, though… just car-less again. A sad ending for such a great little car. Oh well, that’s the way it goes sometimes.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!
Till next time, folks…
~Elvis, er… I mean Eric
Note: This article first appeared on my Nocturnal Slacker/Lockergnome blog (now defunct).