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Ambrosia

by geezer in Paris Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 03:11:52 PM EST

Long talk with Len convinced me to post a real bit of memoir. In part as an antidote to the flavor of the times, and as balance for some of the dark diaries I have done here before.


                                Ambrosia

    It was an incredibly beautiful car, and incredibly dangerous.
Low and broad, with a rounded feline shape and little useless ornament for the time, it was functional yet lovely. Suspension so stiff that you felt every wrinkle in the Ohio roads. Quick steering- if you coughed, you could take out a stop sign. And when you slid behind the wheel, you wore the car. True love for me, but of course my dad hated it.
I remember the three of us standing in the snow at the back of the dealer's lot, shuffling our feet to keep warm as the red and black Corvette was unloaded from the carrier. The dealer insisted on delivering it to Tom's door. It took him three hours to drive thirty blocks, he put over a hundred miles on the car, and arrived with a wall to wall grin. As soon as it arrived we took our own rides, and the day was filled with joy. The new car scent, the sound and feel, the power- it was an intoxicating mix. Then  it went straight into the garage where we taped brown paper over the coachwork, removed the hood, and tore it down to a pile of metal.
We had a plan.

The standard high-end Corvette 283 cubic inch V-8 had two Rochester 4-barrel carbs from the factory, and could benefit from Arkus Duntov's lovely high- overlap camshaft with solid lifters, a combination that made her grumble and gargle at idle, but just come alive at about 3,500 RPM. We bored it .090, took .040 off the heads, found some fly-cut pistons and a forged crank. With a beautiful port and polish job, good headers and a full balance job, it all added a thousand RPM and around another 100 hp on top of stock.  To get that power on the road we changed to a Borg-Warner T-10 close ratio gearbox with Hurst shifter and 3.90 Positraction road hauler rear end with traction bars.  
A bit heavy, with suspension outdated even then, the Corvette was still perfectly suited to Midwest highway combat, which was really what it was made for. Those were the days when traffic as we know it today happened on a few urban freeways, at rush hour. If you picked your time and location, the excellent Ohio roads were a relatively safe playground. We worked late, and two months later we drove the modified version the first time, and we knew the cat had become a real beast. Driving it was utterly addicting for all three of us. It is a miracle that we all survived the habit.

The original owner, Tom, had the savings to buy a brand new 1959 corvette, but not enough income to keep it. When the payments overwhelmed him and his dad refused to bail him out, he sold it to Richard, who met a similar fate and joined the Navy. I inherited the whole project, and it was still only 1961. Since I was fresh out of high school, young and dumb, I held two jobs to pay for the thing. I got up at 4 AM to go to the first one.

Start her up to warm the oil, dash back in the house for a bowl of cereal and then out the door and onto the icy seats, with the blended scent of warming leather and engine oil. The finest perfume on earth.
Lurching down Fishinger road, too slow for the cam, the engine begins to smooth out at the bridge. I swing north onto the Scioto River road. There's no traffic on the river road in the early morning, and, engine now warm, I do my wake-up routine. Foot in the fan, tires smoke; no more than two seconds in low, gear up at 6500, feather it, gear up again  and still the rear end breaks loose for a second in third as the tires heat, but I do not let up, I just drift with it. I feel the grin creeping over my face, and nine seconds later, I'm sweeping around the first river bend at over one hundred miles per hour. With lots left in third and fourth gear still to go, I am  pressed back in my seat, submerged in the car's feral music. The howl of the gearbox next to my knee, the high-end song of that lovely V-8, the animal aliveness of kinetic ecstasy echoes in my soul.
Then and now.

Freeway Texaco, and the graveyard shift. It's the dead of winter, and I work in the snow alone on the ramp till 9:30 a.m., then change in the restroom and rush off to my 10 a.m. calculus class at Ohio State University. My lovely redhead Anna meets me at Mendenhall Lab for a kiss, and brings coffee. Sitting next to the radiator in the ancient auditorium amid three hundred or so other undergraduate math students, it's a desperate, losing battle to stay awake. An hour later we trudge across the oval, me to my drafting class and she to her physics. At 4:30 I'm off to study, so tired I fall asleep instead.

Up at 4AM for work. On the icy winter ramp, in the stark gloom of the night lights I struggle to remain alert for the snaky, whiny sound of tires sliding on the packed snow; a sound that warns of the deadly danger of another highway hypnosis case sliding across the ramp toward the pumps.
Third quarter of the year at Ohio State, and I get the letter. Pick up the grades or you're out. I push myself harder, cut back the racing to one weekend a month. Still, I win a chance to go to the NHRA drag races at Indiannapolis, and we work on the car till we drop. Anna is a tower of strength, but she's growing fed up. "I'm a car widow, and we're not even married!" A tenth of a second off the winning time in our class, we lose at Indy.
I go to school over the summer to bring up my grades. ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) eats more time, I hate my classes, I finally flunk out. And sweet, brave Anna finds a safer companion to hang out with. Still the morning ritual, my refuge, revives me, embraces me, blesses my soul with a glimpse of real life. life at warp speed.

Twisted tight, 6800 in fourth, the speedo long buried past any reading, the car snake dances. Past her aerodynamic design limits, she becomes  light in the rear. Life or death is a light touch, anticipation of the change in crosswind from a space between the trees, or the wake of the odd innocent driver, goggling as the red flash flickers by.
Past Hayn Run Road and almost at the zoo, I lift -gently- and let the engine drag her down. Ten curving miles in just over six minutes.
Never, never lift hard at real speed in the old Corvette body. The rear will just drift away, and you join the statistics.
Past the zoo, backing slowly down with the headers cooling past dull red, the whole car smells of burnt metal, brakes and hot rubber, with just a whiff of leather.
 

Ambrosia.
 

Display:
The first Corvette I saw belonged to the college age son of the Field Supervisor for Phillips Petroleum, who lived just outside of Shidler, Ok. It had an improved version of the Chevy 6. This was 1964 and he was off to be a Big Man On Campus at OU. I never got to drive it but am told that that version had its own virtues.

We had a 1957 Studebaker V8 wagon when I started driving and it had posi-traction, which was a Studebaker innovation, IIRCC. I did take it on some stock car speed trial on OK 18, the paved highway up to Kansas and got it up towards 110, where it floated rather disconcertingly. Fortunately this was a straight and relatively flat stretch of road.

The posi-traction rear end was very useful in winter ice storms when paved roads would be covered with an inch of ice. We didn't usually need chains. I did spin the vehicle a couple of times on ice while learning how to drive under such circumstances. Fortunately I never dented the vehicle, though I did take out a wood fence post once. I called the rancher and offered to repair it but he took care of it. Simpler place and simpler times.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 03:50:27 PM EST
My dad owned a Nash Ambassador Super- an anachronistic beast that sounds a lot like your Studebaker.
It was a horrible car, and yet a technically innovative one. Big V-8 with an overdrive transmission that would operate in any gear, so you actually had six forward speeds. Short wheelbase, so it was prone to bob and dive, but it went like hell with the standard 1/4.11 rear end ratio.
I totalled it on a parked car one winter throwing snowballs at the local cops.
We would lob them up and over from the opposite side, and the delay made it hard to tell just where they came from. But if you forgot to steer while laughing, bad shit could happen.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 12:44:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But if you forgot to steer while laughing, bad shit could happen.

Why do I suspect that some bad shit happened to you on this occasion?


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 12:06:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I totaled it.
Dad was incredibly tolerant, as was the owner of the parked car we hit (and totaled)- perhaps because he could see I was scared absolutely shitless.
Dad loved that car so much that he made them fix it, even though he had to pay the difference out of pocket.
It was never right after that- it crept crabwise down the highway from a poorly straightened frame, I think.
Adding insult to injury, my mom and I renamed the thing "The Crustacean", and she eventually refused to drive it.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 12:12:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You totalled two of your family's cars!?

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 04:29:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I was just repeating the previous point- ARG seemed to have missed it.
Actually, that was the last time I ever scratched a car, except in competition, where the odd flanger is pretty much de rigeur.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 06:37:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I was thinking that you might have wrecked your car AND been identified by the police as the vandal throwing snowballs at them.  :-)

But small town police were more tolerant of adolescent hi-jinks in those days, as I can attest. I strongly suspect that I "got away" with much of what I did more because the village elders thought things might have turned out worse had I been caught. At least I didn't turn into a career criminal.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 12:34:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I think you are exactly right. When I hit the parked car, they just laughed and drove away. Perhaps they saw a certain rough justice-a bit of balance- in my humiliation.
Boy, it still makes my skin crawl to remember that day. The laugh it deserves has been a long time coming.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 10:42:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I cringe at the thought of many things I did from age 12 to 20.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:18:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I cringe at the thought of many things I did, period.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should have said I especially cringe...

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 08:04:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mistyped '64 for '54 on that Corvette, obviously.  :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 03:51:53 PM EST
Yeh. First corvette, I believe. Nice car.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 12:44:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, the '55 Corvette had the V8.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 02:26:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fun diary geezer. It reminds me of my mispent youth with my Chesapeake bay built motor boat; no speed but lots of drugs. Amazing that I didn't kill myself and my family The main difference is that I was in my early 40's.  ;)

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 04:03:23 PM EST
Thanks, len. You put me up to it.
And I think you get it.
It was an incredible addiction, far surpassing any drug I've ever tried since. I've never shaken it.
I've never tried.
Kinetic Ecstasy.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 12:49:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice things, misspent youths.
Will be interesting to see who tunes in. And out.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 12:53:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it was growing up in LA, home of stop-and-go commuting.  Maybe it was the fact that driving was something that was a duty, something that needed to happen to get things accomplished, long before I ever had a chance to experience driving for its own sake.  Maybe it's the fact that I've never owned a car that had even faint traces of sportiness in it.   Maybe it's the fact that I was just born like this, and no kind of background would have changed it.  But I've always hated driving, and I especially hate driving fast.  It feels like I'm going to get caught ever second - caught by the police, caught by a mistake, caught by a stupid driver.    

The best sort of driving is the sort that's short and unnoticed, the kind that is so routine and familiar and boring that it's easy to tune out, run on auto-pilot as one idles at one stop-light after another, and listen to music, daydream, or talk with the passengers.

I'd rather walk, any day.

by Zwackus on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 03:35:03 AM EST
Me too.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 01:30:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Here in Paris the mass transit is so good that driving's really silly for most people-- or a statement of a perceived elite status.
"I don't need to cruise across town in a metal can stuffed with unwashed bodies" was the way a friend of mine described it.
He could easily have been raised in my home town of Upper Arlington, Ohio. The land of self-made assholes.

What was the great line from some movie or other?

The bad guy stands in the dirt, vanquished by the hero, who's riding out of town.

"You son or a bitch!" he shrieks, apoplectic with rage.
Our hero rocks in his saddle, adjusting his seat, as all riders do, and answers, "In my case, an accident of birth. But as you've said, ---you're a self-made man."

That said, I no longer enjoy driving much. For me, there's a mounting body of evidence that the Gods that once favored me with nine lives now have it in for me when I have anything whatever to do with cars. Still, I'm gonna get a French license and drive, because there are still too many things I need to do outside Paris. An act of denial of fear for me.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 02:07:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I grew up in LA too, before moving to northern CA. In both places a car was what most teenagers wanted the moment they turned 16 and got their driver's license. At least that was the case with me. I loved to drive back then. And I was somewhat car crazy. It started with a Karmann Ghia that my parents bought me for my 16th birthday. The next was a bronze colored Corvette which got lost in the desert. Then came a 65 Mustang, then a 67 Impala (both red, both absolute magnets for tickets), then a very reliable VW bug which if you parked on a hill you could push a little, jump into and put the stick shift into second gear and start right off. Very handy when the clutch went out. Then came my only new car, a Ford Pinto (thankfully, no rear-end accidents), and then an old station wagon I paid $25 for (and lasted about two weeks), then a green Audi, and then two extremely reliable Mercedes, each of which I drove approximately 10 years (the best!) But now, I'm with you . . .

I'd rather walk, any day.

by sgr2 on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 04:09:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Got to keep it finely-tuned, or you don't have enough juice for the solenoid to engage the starter. In university days, the search for a downhill parking space was the primary cause of lateness for lectures.

Also, the headlights are very vulnerable on a classic Beetle. I rarely had both working at the same time, I consumed a lot of second-hand lenses.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 08:41:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I first arrived in LA, without a car, I was loaned a "psychedelicized" Deu Chevot without a starter. It would start by rolling forward or backward and was not too much of a problem in W. LA & Westwood when UCLA was not in session. It was a better problem to have than the brakes on my 'Gypsy Waggon' built on the back of a '39 Dodge 3/4 ton flatbed truck. Had to give it about three good pumps before the brakes would grab. It needed a complete rebuild of the brakes, master cylinder and wheel cylinders, but mostly just remained parked behind the studio where I was building my first console in Hollywood.

Fortunately, I also had a '67 Toyota Corona. It had a 1900cc four cylinder. A young mechanic told me it was "hot" and that I could probably take class if I entered it in the stock car races. I read that it had been modeled on the BMW 2000 for performance. I preferred bending it around the curves on Mulholland Highway, zipping up and down the canyon roads between the Basin and the Valley and driving the Pacific Coast Highway, etc. Good, reliable car.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 08:21:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I only truly loved my first car - a Citroën Big 15. The next was an Ami van that I used as a camera van on documentaries around UK/Europe. Sort of lovable, with squishy suspension, but more of a workhorse than a lover. All cars since then have been impersonal - probably because in my eyes they were characterless.

I no longer have a car - my last lease ended last year, but I have access to a Land Rover (very handy in the current Finnish weather) and a white Fiat 500 which is cyut and has a bluetooth system that recognizes your mobile when you get in, so you can voicedial and speak handsfree.

The great thing about the hour long bus ride from Porvoo to Helsinki is the time to read and prepare for meetings. And you meet more people. Last Friday I met the Finnish Elvis at the Kamppi bus terminal.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 04:34:24 AM EST
Yeah. This was a memoir from another life, another world.
I've discovered, since I escaped from the world of me, that I like mass transit of all kinds. It's some human contact, it's a glimpse past the curtains across the lives of others, and it's a declaration of support for the common needs of all people.
The act of using it, and the act of paying for it. Nice thing.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 01:40:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a friend who had a Citroën Maserati. It was a cool car to look at and a cool car to drive. But general maintenance and/or repairs cost a fortune, and it seemed as though it was always in need of one or the other.  
by sgr2 on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 04:20:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. my Big 15 mistress was definitely 'high maintenance'.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 06:19:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've had a couple of those.
A friend of mine from the old days of daring-do in the islands called it "Thinking with your little head."

Ah, but what lovely thoughts.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 10:48:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea, the way you describe that is like how riding a bike feels. The nightly battles on Stratford Broadway, stop for the lights on Bishops road, a porche stops next to you. He's revving cos he's a broker and always in a hurry.

The lights change and you have him cold, up to 40 mph 500 cc of 20 year old moteybike crushes german pork and He. Hates. Us. So he trashes the accelerator and passes me in triumph at 65 just as we top the shallow slope on the old railway bridge. And that's where we both see the police speed trap in the bus stop.

Except I'm still doing 40 cos I know the game and he's 25 over the limit.

Was it so wrong to laugh out loud ?

But never do it to a Ferrari. Tried it once and all I saw was a red blur like he just blipped the warp drive and then he was 100 yds ahead of me. Like I wasn't there, like I'd never been there. Doff the cap, say "yes, sir"

Or playing against a Honda Fireblade in the tight traffic down Manor Park where you have to get wiggy with the incoming traffic to make headway. Finally broke free off the lights into Ilford high road and was gonna grind the pegs on the sharp right through the lights when they changed and I left a 30 yd rubber streak on the road. The fireblade came up alongside and we both laughed for the joy of it.

But the best fun I ever had was in my old ford Sierra. going north to Fort William from Crianlarrich. roll through Bridge of Orchy at 30 mph (it's the limit and you never know) but then, after the restriction, it's straight for a mile on a slight rise, I wanna be doing 100 as we roll into the slight right hand turn, over the crest and downhill for a mile wrapping the needle onto the endstop and hoping that 130 really means it before rolling up the steep hill on the other side of the valley to the tight left hander.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 10:00:04 AM EST
You know Helen,I wrote this a long time ago for a different purpose, but have always loved the piece- it opens a door into a time that deeply changed who I became.
It's not about the Corvette at all, really, but about an addiction.
An addiction that has enticed me to sacrifice huge parts of my life, to risk my life literally hundreds of times.
The Paris moto people understand, because they do the same each day.

But it's a much more complex story than just an addiction to speed.
It begins with the raison d'etre for every roller coaster, and progresses through the joy of flight, and encompasses, creates, a huge body of literature and art.

I call it kinetic Ecstasy.

To be sufficiently in touch with the world around you so that you can trust your life to your reflexes.
To be immersed in the joyous world described by Newton and others, but illuminated, in that moment, only by you.

But the best fun I ever had was in my old ford Sierra. going north to Fort William from Crianlarrich. roll through Bridge of Orchy at 30 mph (it's the limit and you never know) but then, after the restriction, it's straight for a mile on a slight rise, I wanna be doing 100 as we roll into the slight right hand turn, over the crest and downhill for a mile wrapping the needle onto the endstop and hoping that 130 really means it before rolling up the steep hill on the other side of the valley to the tight left hander.

Yup. You got it.

 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 02:02:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a chunk of road in Mid Wales From the village of Stags Head heading North towards Llanilar, lots of little short straights, sweeping curves, a couple of maniacal bends and some  long straits that were enough to make you scream with pleasure. (and a 'Short cut' that was a mile longer with grass down the middle to race trucks through the fiddly bit)

No matter the car (or the back of a bike)it is a road of utter temptation, especially in the early spring when the light is flickering through the fresh leaves as the trees are overhead.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 09:11:28 PM EST
Of course my first car The cursed mini would have killed me if I'd have taken it down there.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 09:12:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why cursed? I've always liked the Mini.
Drove a Sprite in H production for two years, then, much later, a Mini. Far better car, all looks aside. With the right tires and the allowable mods, it would go like hell, and handle well. Except for the occasional tendency to swap ends.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 12:25:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I do like original minis, great to drive but that one was cursed.

Got hit twice, by the same driver in the same truck, on the same junction of the M1, six hours apart, then a few days later with the aid of a drunk it lost a door then having replaced that it I had two tyres burst on the motorway. having replaced them I ended up being driven into by a woman driving a fiat panda who managed to do more damage than the truck had.

And thats not counting the night I spent being chased by an oil tanker, only escaping when I dived down an alleyway where I knew the local kids had ripped the bollard out that would stop cars going down a local alleyway. but was sure it was too small for a truck to go down.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 06:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good god, that should be a movie.
Or at the very least, it would make a great humorous story.

Yeah, there are cursed cars.
The crustacean was one of them.

I owned another wonderful car that has a good story attached to it, but I've yet to write it. It was built to be a Porsche eater, but was stolen before it ever went into combat.
Stolen by a shipping firm and redirected to Valencia, Spain, and ended up in the showroom of a BMW dealership in Alicante.
Remember the story, "The Pirates of Alicante"?
Ivonne and I stole it back.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 06:50:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
apart from the tanker that all happened inside three weeks. And 2 of the weeks were spent with the car parked as I was on holiday :) The drunk who destroyed the door was a passenger inside the car who let the handbrake off on top of a hill while I and another passenger were out having a pee in the hedge. I chased the car, opened the door, and he put the handbrake on as id caught up as i was trying to leap inside. cars stop much faster than people and I went straight through the doors window. ended up balanced hanging by my waist, rocking.  bent both hinges and the frame of the door.

That stolen car story sounds equally a story that should be in film

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 07:01:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The customs agent who illegally released it was called Madam Concha-Bueso, and she had two of the hardest case ladies I've ever seen working for her- her daughters. One could easily imagine them with a row of little jars on the mantle with souvenirs from their ex-male companions in them. HARD women.

The gopher who picked up the car and took it to Alicante was a little transplanted Dutchman, who got royally screwed in the deal. They all operated out of a bar called "La Officina" in Alicante. When these crooks (who made it their living to ship stolen cars to Russia at the time) found out we were not going to go away, they refused to pay him. So it sat- on a turnstile in the Alicante BMW dealership. He tried to ransom the car back to us- $500 to jump-start it, %2000 for storage charges, etc. etc till it was a lot more than the car was worth.
We got him to deliver the car to us just to prove they had it, and stole it back. I dream about Danny De Vito playing his part.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:02:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No - that last experience is from a movie. You dreamt it ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 08:29:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Its how I always Explain the story

"You know the film Duel? well it happened to me and I have witnesses"

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 08:56:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a mild version of this in Australia, where a trucker decided it would be fun to force my hire car off the road.

Luckily a hire car has much less momentum than a truck, so it's easy to plan a sneak move to a grass verge before said trucker works out said plan.

I seem to remember being quite low key about it, although car and self+other could easily have been pushed off a cliff into the ocean.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 09:32:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are also 2 sides to every story. In my experience, tanker drivers require considerable provocation before chasing saloons.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 12:21:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps it relates to whether the saloon has wheels or beer taps.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the young folk had mostly English cars, ten or twenty years old. This is New Zealand, 1970s, before the Japanese invasion.

Think : Ford Anglia. Hillman Hunter. Morris bloody Minor.

The car you (more or less) owned generally said a lot about your personality. A beefy friend had a Bedford van, his tiny cute girlfriend had a Riley Elf. A hippie girlfriend had a Peugeot 304 (beware the brass diff!) My brother and sister ran a pair of Morris Eights for a while (swapping parts as required to get past the MOT test). I learned to drive in my sister's Fiat 500, which taught me to push a car ruthlessly to its utter limit. Also I learned to double-declutch... invaluable skill which I ... come to think of it... have never had occasion to use since (except in my brother's Citroen Traction).

My own first car was a Beetle. Yes, a classic Vee-Dub : nominally exactly my age, 1960, but it had been pieced together at some point, and I identified specific parts ranging from about 1956 to 64, in my own explorations/repairs. Because if you couldn't take your car apart and put it back together, on a shoestring budget, you couldn't afford to have a car. Not for my generation.

Not what you'd call a thrill machine, from the strict performance viewpoint. I'd say I topped out at about 65mph, at a precise point on the Piha Road, crossing the bridge at the bottom of the hill. There was an unfortunate tendency to bottom out the suspension,  crrrunch, because we were often 6 or 7 in the poor little thing... the Need for Speed was not so much for thrills, as to get a good head of steam for the next hill. Get to the top without too much ignominy.

Then came the pure pleasure part. About five miles of unsealed road, graded gravel, winding through the splendid native forest to the West Coast surf beaches. The joy of the perfect four-wheel drift while the girls in the back tried not to scream. And the boys roared at me to push her harder.

But I never pushed her too hard. I believe I only ever did one full 360°. I think I've always known how to push a car to the limit, but no further. I've never wanted to own a powerful car.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 07:44:44 AM EST
Perhaps that's not such a bad thing.
As for the cost of ownership, the 'vette essentially broke two of the three who owned it.
But I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding going round here. This was the American Midwest, heart of the American Autocult at it's peak, and very soon to become the Rustbelt. As a result, general knowledge about hot rodding was at a very high level.
In my group, if you couldn't talk usefully about cam overlap or specify valve clearance on a flycut piston, you were a piker.
What we did was art.
We took something beautiful from the factory and made it better than the factory had ever dreamed of. Visually, and in terms of performance.
NO ONE OF US gave a shit about owning a powerful car for status reasons---except perhaps for a bit of the pussy-bait factor.

The Paris suicide squad- the moto people- are in it for love also, for their own bizarre art too.
Their art is to buy a flambouyant mechanical cannon, and fire themselves down between the lanes of traffic, then lift the front wheel as they emerge into a clear space and disappear at double or triple the speed limit, only to do it again at the next bouchon. I do not share their addiction--not any more. I am too much of a coward to do that, and I've met too many of them at Valenton, but I finally understand.
It's this:

They should be dead.
They are not.
Therefore, they are really, really good.

True.
 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 08:35:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I always hated gasoline, and spent my life fighting against it. But i love the edge of the envelope.

Learned to race in winter, where the snow banks forgave most of the mistakes i put the held-together-with-baling-wire Hillman through. Real mistakes needed some help, but never a tow truck, just strong arms.

Learning to react in micro-seconds to ice patches, otherwise controlling drift, became somewhat useful.

Driving a Ferrari F1 down the pit lane at Watkins Glen was another experience entirely. (Even if the condition was not to take it out of 1st gear.) As pit lanes go, it was fairly straight, so i never got the...

Still hate gasoline, still love the edge of the envelope. Pissed that i hit gravel with the Sunbeam rounding a bend on two wheels, glad that the tree wasn't near so damaged as the dark blue Tiger. That people from Castalia Foundation came to help me out (and worked at the garage where they welded some suspension shit enough to get me home) turned out to be more than fortuitous.

A lifelong understanding of the Tim Leary tribe could be considered a side effect of Speed Ambrosia.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 03:39:03 PM EST
PS. Also learned to turn the lights off before a curve to know my line.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 03:40:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that something taught at the Castaneda School of Driving?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 06:27:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was hoping you would show up.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"But i love the edge of the envelope."

Yes.
A lifelong understanding of the Tim Leary tribe could be considered a side effect of Speed Ambrosia.

That too.

It is beyond irony that after all that, after all the trips across the pond in little airplanes, and all the years in the islands, it was in a damned gas station where my number finally came up.
Sheesh.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My Honda Insight was sitting in the body shop recently, right next to a new Corvette. Funny how two oppositely-optimized cars have so much in common...

by asdf on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 05:57:32 PM EST
Whoa.
You have a nicely decorated garage.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it was not a '55 corvette, but I must say I had some fun in the desert (and iron ore mines) of Mauritania with this one:



"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet

by Melanchthon on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 07:51:46 PM EST
Wonderful. Just wonderful.
My greatest love in the world of wheels was not the really hard-iron go-fasters we built. Even the Eclipse GSX with the Garrett turbo. It was a Ford Econoline Van converted crudely to a camper. It carried us for over 100,000 miles of adventure or mundane going to work.
Utterly faithful servant, and a magic carpet.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:17:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and desert and magic carpets, I had a lot of fun driving (and maintaining) these ones, too:



"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet

by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 08:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've still got my '66 with the rat motor.  Kept it through poverty and divorce and I loved that car.  I wish there were no social costs to that type of car.  There is little I've done in my life that made me grin as much as mashing on the gas pedal of the 427 and banging through the gears.

Great writing.  I remember getting up on those cold midwestern mornings to slide to work.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 12:05:01 PM EST
From Hunter Thompson

"But with the throttle screwed on, there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right... and that's when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are the wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it... howling through a turn to the right, then to the left, and down the long hill to Pacifica... letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge... The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others- the living- are those who pushed their luck as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it's In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions."

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 12:20:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hope to keep these memories close to the heart myself.
Yeah, the social costs are real. Huge, in fact. But I preserve here a glimpse into an ecstatic world that's gone forever. I hope my son or daughters will glimpse it through my memoirs.
And thanks for mentioning the writing. Yours is the only comment to do so.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Jan 22nd, 2011 at 08:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gosh guys, takes me back and forwards -- well, I guess since it's sunny I'll take the Helix down Lucas Valley road to the coast tomorrow. Honest to god, I get as much fun carving and flipping through the s-curves as I ever did in the last 55 years ...

I guess I qualify - When I was fourteen, and enough of an electronics whiz to run the Chrondek timer for the local drags, I finagled a run down the course with the first local Blue Flame Six Corvette, with the little lobster eyeball taillights. Golden Hawk Studebaker & MGTF friend in high school, terrifying Triumph Thunderbird bike run to California from Florida leaving college, side job fixing fellow IBM customer engineers' cars: Citroen Maserati, a gull-wing Mercedes, an XK-150, a Mako Corvette or two, Mustangs ( a blight, but fun to fly through SF intersections a la Bullitt) a .

Ran through a series of BMW cycles for the Sunday Morning Ride for eight years, ran a thousand miles one night in a Chevelle with a blower assisted 396, and so on. Biggest engine? 13000 series Caterpillar diesel, Funkiest? Atlas Imperial 3 cylinder diesel, 300 hp at 300 rpm with a four foot diameter flywheel, direct reversing airstart. Torquey, you think? Swung about a six foot fourblade prop. There are fun things to be done with all these toys. Best speed 145 mph on a tuned up Vincent Black Lightning. Never again. Saw God on that run.

Now I get my thrills on the s-curve flip-overs in Marin and Contra Costa counties. That moment of weightlessness must be what the podling shrieks about on the swings. We're just brachiating primates at heart. You don't need big iron. The best handling was the MiniCooper S, scariest the 250cc gokart. Most fun in a straight line, the Matchless Typhoon 600 single flying through the Central Valley in the spring, on the way to Yosemite.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 10:28:45 PM EST
"It's more fun to go fast in a slow car than slow in a fast car."
by asdf on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 11:43:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you still riding that 250cc scooter?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 20th, 2011 at 02:18:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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