Ever fallen in love with a car?

It was 1967. Muscle cars had just burst on the scene.

I turned 14 years old that year and, as a “country kid” (meaning we lived in the country about eight miles from school), I could and did get a school permit that allowed me to drive to school.

Was I excited? Of course I was.

But there was a problem.

My sister, three years older and a senior in high school, had a car, so she drove us to school that year.

What did she drive, you ask? Well, it was a 1964 Rambler Classic. For those of you old enough to remember ’64 Ramblers, generally, the only place you saw them was at church on Sunday. If you can imagine the exact opposite of a muscle car, it was a ’64 Rambler Classic. Sister loved it, but little brother not so much.

Fast-forward one year and sis went off to college, leaving her powder-blue Rambler at home to be my school car.

Hey, it was better than walking, but I had to try and make it cool — which was impossible, but still I had to try.

First thing was to flip the rear shackles upside down, which raised the back end a bit higher than the front. Next was to put the hottest wide tires of the mid-60s — a redwall, not a whitewall — tire on all fours. The last thing was to put on the newest hot rod Thrush muffler, which actually did make the powder-blue shoebox sound a bit angry.

How did all that work out?

Not so well.

It sounded angry, but looked about as angry as a senior citizen who had a peanut stuck under his dentures.

That could mean only one thing: a visit with Dad, which turned out better than I thought it would. It was a typical good news/bad news conversation. He was open-minded to getting a different car, but was closed-minded enough to say he would pay only half what it cost.

I agreed.

My summer job was at R&R Super Service, pumping gas, changing oil, tires, brakes, etc. The $1.50 an hour was actually a raise from the previous summer, which was only $1 an hour. My hours were 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week.

By the end of the summer I had banked $650.

Let the used car shopping begin!

First up was a 1967 Plymouth GTX, with a 440 Super Commando engine with 375 horsepower.

My sister’s boyfriend and I took it out for a test ride, did 110 mph in the quarter-mile.

End of test drive for me.

That was the one, but I had to make sure I didn’t tell Dad how fast it was. Unfortunately, the jealous sister’s boyfriend did.

End of the Plymouth GTX.

Next up was a 1968 Pontiac LeMans, alpine blue paint, 350 cubic inches, bucket seats, but an automatic transmission instead of four-on-the-floor. It had the same body style and nearly the same performance of a GTO. Was it fast? Yup, it was. Was it cool? Cool enough? Was there enough room to put in an eight-track stereo? Of course.

So that was it.

Fork over my $650 to Dad and still had enough time to put in the stereo and new speakers and, yes, a Thrush muffler before school started after Labor Day.

So why this trip down memory lane?

I stumbled on the TV broadcast of the Mecum Car auctions the other day. It was a muscle car auction. Seems 1966 to 1972 restored muscle cars have become hot collector items, many of them selling over $100,000.

My LeMans would probably bring about $40,000, but, to me, back in the day, it was worth everything to me.

Heck, the memories alone have no price tag. The drive-in movie date nights with my girlfriend, Josie, who became my wife for 46 years, steamed up a few windows of that old LeMans, if you know what I mean.

And all the trips it made from home to college, and then there were the tin cans tied to the rear bumper as we drove off on our honeymoon.

It’s funny how a person can fall in love with a car. I have had so many since then, liked all of them, but nothing close to that first one. I wouldn’t have had any other car.

OK, that’s a lie. My best friend at the time, who stood up with me at our wedding, had a 1968 yellow Pontiac Firebird — and, yes, it had four-on-the-floor!

Did you ever fall in love with a car? Share your story with me at gregawtry@awtry.com.

Greg Awtry is the former publisher of the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald and Nebraska’s York News-Times. He is now retired and living in Hubbard Lake. Greg can be contacted at gregawtry@awtry.com.

 

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