Walking the ‘Wasteland’ with Mad Max

Other than my family and my faith, my greatest love is for cars.

I’ve had various models of Chevrolets; Fords; Dodges; Mercurys;  Plymouths;  Chryslers and Buicks.  On the foreign side of the coin, I’ve had innumerable Vokswagens; Porsches; Renaults; Nissans; Toyotas; Mitsubishis;  Audis and Subarus.  Ever the lover of the esoteric, I’ve also had Ramblers; International Harvesters and Eagles.

I’m a car nut.

The only ‘sports heroes’ in my FaceBook profile are Richard Petty; Dale Earnhardt; Juan Miguel Fangio and Steve McQueen.  My den at home contains a collection of 1:18th scale die-cast car models and a library of antique automotive magazines.  (not magazines about ‘antique cars’s, but actual antique car magazines from the ’40’s through the ’70’s).  The wallpaper of both my desktop computer and my smart-phone are pictures of  cars.  I spent fourteen years in the automotive sales and sales management trade, and have basically driven everything but Rolls-Royces and Bentleys.  I’ve always had some type of old, odd or off-the -wall collector car to drive and tinker with……. until marrying my wife.  Priorities change when buying a home and when family structures and dynamics push ‘hobbies’ to a back-burner, or even off of the stove-top altogether.

Now, my passion has been relegated to basic transportation:  A 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier:     

I try to make the best of it by reminding myself of its attributes:  It’s inexpensive to own; operate; insure and maintain.  As there are kazillions of them on the road, parts are plentiful, and therefore…cheap.  It’s also reasonably well equipped, having power locks, windows and mirrors; air-conditioning; cruise-control; tilt-steering and a CD player.  I get 30 MPG on every tank of combined highway and city driving.  But…it is still an “appliance”.  The fact that it is easy on the wallet does not compensate for its blandness as a conveyance or a social statement.

That I have dutifully sacrificed the gusto and brio of automotive motoring pleasure for domestic tranquility and economic prudence is perhaps commendable, but insult has recently been added to this ‘injury’………………………..

This, kind reader,  is a 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28….The last of the “second generation” “F” bodies, a design so classic that it was produced basically unchanged from 1970 to 1981.  The same chassis and sub-frame was the basis for the Pontiac Firebird of  Smokey and the Bandit fame.  It has a “warmed over” 350 cubic-inch V-8 (the Corvette engine of that model year); headers; a modified torque converter for spectacular ‘burn-outs’; a locking differential (again, for “burn-outs”); a racing shifter; heavy-duty springs, shocks and stabilizer bars; Corvette side exhaust pipes; and a demeanor on the road which causes kids to flatten their noses against the inside of minivan windows and point.  The rumble of its idle and the roar of its throttle evoke the spirit of the days when hot-rods were hot-rods and men were men.

Did I say “injury”?  Indeed, I did…..for you see, this beast has been recently obtained by, and titled to……my wife.  Yep.  375 horsepower answers with a twist of her delicate wrist on the ignition key, and a tap of her pedicured toe on the gas pedal slingshots her to whatever craft-show; shoe sale or ice-cream stand she desires.  And she calls it…..Bumble-Bee.  The key is on her key-ring.   The fuzzy dice that dangle from the rear-view mirror are pink.  The insurance card produced for numerous skeptical officers of the law bears her, hyphenated, name.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love her and I’m glad she likes her “Bumble-Bee”.  It’s such a masculine ride, though.  Definitely not a show-car, it still exudes machismo.  This car has no air-conditioning; no heater; no power mirrors; no reclining seats ; no catalytic converter; no air-bag; no power locks; no cruise-control and no cup-holders.  The previous owner exercised a healthy ‘artistic license’  in some of  the body parts…….the front and rear spoilers are gone, and the front and rear facias (and the dashboard) have been modified with ‘diamond plate’ metal  sheeting most commonly found on pickup truck beds and running boards.  No “trailer-queen”, this beast.

And sometimes,I even get to drive it.  If it needs gas (13 MPG); or if the racing slicks need air; and if I have been a good boy,   I am permitted to drive it the distance necessary to complete those tasks.  She limits me to just these tasks, I guess, because of some minor issues in my past…..

Ah, but how I relish these infrequent trips to the air-pump.  For then, if but for a moment, I can shed her image of me…

And step into my image of me behind the wheel of this yellow terror:         

And “BumbleBee” becomes “Police Interceptor”; and the local service station becomes the only oasis in “The Wasteland” where vital gasoline; water; and …even air …can be obtained only via my heroic efforts and superhuman driving skills..

.. and then, obtained, returned to the home-base.

Home….where the beast is parked; the gauges checked; and one last “blip” of the throttle scares the cats and rattles the windows……

And the world is safe until the next time air is needed or gas is running out.

(Sigh)……I’m lucky I have a great imagination, and can ‘sublimate’ weeks of  being relegated to my Cavalier into twenty minutes, twice a month, of sheer octane-boosted, adrenaline-spiked, tire-burning mayhem.  It’s worth it, though.  It IS her car……and sometimes she likes mayhem, too!