Friday, April 9, 2010

Remembering Trauma Car

I am not a car person. Never have been. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than Trauma Car--a pumpkin-orange 1978 Ford Fiesta with a brown scorpion decal across the top and on the hood. That's right--a scorpion, positioned to sting anyone who dared sit in the drivers seat.

I should have known better. My friends never let me forget I traded a 1974 Cutlass Supreme for Trauma Car. Why? Better fuel efficiency.

The dealer added A/C at my request when I bought the car. Months later I finally had an occasion to open the hood. Just below the windshield where you couldn't miss it was a large sign: Not Equipped to Handle Air Conditioning. Ooops.

My beautiful, two-door, red Cutlass had a V-8 engine, bench seats and an 8-track player with speakers in the back. Nice. Trauma car boasted 4-cylinders and a factory AM/FM radio with one tinny speaker. It quit picking anything up after the antenna broke at the base in a car wash a few weeks after I got it. Damn.

Trauma Car was designed for a battery with side terminals. Someone installed a battery with terminals on the top. It wasn't me, I swear. Drive over a bump fast enough for the battery to bounce and the posts would come in contact with the hood, shorting out the entire electrical system. Sounds obvious, but it was years before a wise mechanic figured out the cause of the problem.

Consequently, Trauma Car just died in traffic all the time. To make matters worse, once the engine had warmed up enough to trip the cooling fan, it wouldn't restart with the key until it cooled off enough to avoid tripping the fan. Depending on the weather, this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

Fortunately, Trauma Car had a stick shift. Stick your foot out the door, get the car rolling, pop the clutch and you were on your way. Great, until opening the car door became a challenge. When the inside handles broke off, I rolled down the window and used the outside handles. Then they broke off, too, along with the handles to roll down the windows. Finally the only way in and out of the car was through the hatchback. Convenient.

My roommate, Linda, and I took my mother and my godmother out for drinks one evening. Several hours and too many cocktails later, we were on our way home when I hit a bump and Trauma Car died. Linda had a cast up to her knee and was unable to pop the clutch. The matrons, snickering and giggling in the back seat, were too trashed to get out to help. Linda finally hobbled out to push so I could pop the clutch.

One hot summer afternoon I was driving through the campus of the University of Kentucky. As I turned left from Euclid Avenue onto Rose Street, the battery arced out yet again smack dab in the middle of the intersection in 5:00 traffic. Honking started immediately.

As I prepared to lunge over the seat to the hatchback, a group of shirtless, sweaty University of Kentucky football players came running by. I hollered as loud as I could through the little tilt-out vent window. "Excuse me! Could you boys give me a push?" They did. I popped the clutch and drove off, yelling "Thank you!" through the little vent window hoping they could hear me.

I could write a book about my adventures in Trauma Car. Just thinking about them makes me laugh. More than a few are not fit for public consumption. Perhaps when I have nothing to lose in the telling, I'll write about them, too. But until then, I will remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

No comments:

Follow CrotchetyMan on Twitter