To be perfectly honest, I don't quite remember the arrival of the Trans-Am as being a monumental occasion in our household. As far as momentous occasions went, my birth and that time an angry crow ended up in our basement via the chimney were hard to top.
The memories of this particular time and space consist of me as a 14 year old getting caught for smoking, and my dad's friend being killed by lightning.
The Trans-Am arrived without fanfare.
In fact its appearance burdened us, seemingly with the weight of a second-cousin we were adopting because its parents died in a fire or mass-trampling at a pilgrimage. It might as well have been delivered to our door-step under cover of night by a priest who was later found dead under mysterious circumstance.
It is important to note that I will refer to the Trans-Am henceforth as 'it' because for 19 god-forsaken years 'it' has never endeared itself to me, the family, or local cops let alone lend itself to one particular gender.
As noted in previous installments, (here and here) the cars that I have had the pleasure of owning, destroying or interacting with have always taken on a life of their own, or in the very least - gotten my grandma to church on time. Yet, the account of my Father's 1979 Pontiac Trans-Am is a tale that is neither jovial nor macabre, but merely a story about a car that has been a part of my family through 3 different decades; and is as infamous in these parts as Paul Bernardo.
Ok, maybe that's pushing it, but my point was that it's notoriously ar – you know what? Nevermind.
The summer of 1995 was a summer of sun, Sublime and smoking darts. I had picked up the habit from some friends at school who would steal butts from their parents when they fell asleep, after drinking beer at 4pm on a Wednesday.
We would take the smokes and money (from the unconscious parents) and go do what any kid in those days did: Light a dumpster on fire behind an Arby's.
It was the end of August and I was 14, enjoying a particularly quiet ride home from the cottage we rented with my family. That week I had been caught smoking by my dad.
I had been eating cheesies earlier in the day and the yellow cheese had stained my fingers. My dad forever on detective setting saw this, and demanded to smell my fingers. Of course they still smelled of smoke, and I was caught orangey-yellow-fingered. To this day I maintain that I would have had to have smoked 14 packs of Marlboro Red's straight to get that kind of discoloration on my fingers; however my stubborn-assed father maintains his swollen sense of deduction prowess. Nevertheless, Cheesies or not, I received a savage beating in the form of verbal reprimanding.
We arrived home at the end of the week and there were 8 messages on our machine, which wasn't out of the ordinary as I was PRETTY popular.
The first two messages were from some Polish men asking if we would like our ducts cleaned. Apparently, word gets out pretty fast when you have dirty ducts.
The last 6 were from the wife of my dad's buddy. Those messages described in increasing morbidity, the final hours of his friend. From the 1st call saying he had been struck by lightning, to the 6th call saying he had passed away.
My sister who was 8 at the time had stood there while we listened to those horrid messages. It took her at LEAST 10 years to be able to sleep in her own room during thunder-storm after that night.
My dad's newly-deceased friend was a fine mechanic and a collector of cars – A 1980 Ferrari 308 for one, and a White, 1979 Pontiac Trans-Am with 17,000 miles on it, 6.6L 403Ci with the Olds V8 that had sat untouched on the driveway, exposed to the elements for years. The wife told my dad to take it, and he, ever the humanitarian obliged.
A week after the funeral, the second space in our two-car garage normally reserved for our bicycles and assorted car parts was occupied by 'it'. 'It' is now into its 19th year as a resident of my parent's garage.
The early days of 'its' tenure were filled with frivolity brought on by the promise of road-dominance and the anticipation of driving a car with a bird on it. In one year I would be 16, and obviously winning racing bets off ALL the seniors from Rydell High. Then my dad informed me that I would never ever drive the 6.6 litres of unbridled enthusiasm. Ever.
The Trans-Am represented the ultimate project for my dad – a chance to repair the interior and exterior, replace the T-bar roof, get a new shaker and tires and make good on his promise to take care of it.
And by god, if his clumsy, lunatic son gets his paws on that steering wheel….so help me!!
He began by stripping the paint and removing the spoiler. It sat naked as that cloudy, rainy day it rolled off the assembly line in Mordor.
But stripping the paint and removing the spoiler is as far as it ever got. For years it sat collecting squirrels, wasps and whispered insults from my mom.
It became a spectacle, a party-favour. If my parents or I were having a party, inevitably after a few beers 'Let's fire up the Trans-Am!!' would echo through the halls of the house – and no matter the time of evening or morning, this request was always dutifully fulfilled. The rumble off the duelies would rouse the raccoons out of our attic, and annoy neighbours 4 blocks over. She roared like a lion, and shook like the hand of an out-patient in withdrawal. I'm 100% certain that Joe Dirt himself would not be caught dead in this car.
My dad has always dreamed of restoring this car to its original form, but obviously money rears its head from time to time. After he helped me go to school, my two sisters were next. We saved and saved, but we couldn't do it on our own, so my parents always helped. After my last sister finished school, we thought this is it! Dad can retire and finally restore this hunk of Norwood, Ohio brawn and human triumph. But, then my mom lost her job and my dad was supporting the family. At that point he put off retiring until my mom could find a part time job, but still could not attend to the Trans-Am. It sits in the garage buried under hoses, carpets, and whatever else you can think of. At one time, it doubled as a place to hide your Christmas presents and smokes. After a few years my mom stopped asking why all of her gifts smelled like gasoline and the garage.
Last week my dad called me and said he had been online, which is impressive because I'm not sure he even knows what online means. Just kidding. I'm extremely confident that he is responsible for 90% of Duck Dynasty's web traffic. Anyhoo, he had mentioned that he had been pricing out the carcass of the Trans-Am seeing what he could get for it. 33 years of Policing rendered my father an emotional abyss, but I know this hurts him. He has had this car for 19 years and could not ever muster up the time, money or resources to restore it. It's almost like he's selling a family member. Granted, a family member that we kept in the garage and drunkenly harassed while piling heaps of household crap onto.
But a family member nonetheless.
The old man continues to work doing renovations even though he finally retired, and I've tried to deter his wild and unfounded ideas about selling it. I'm THIS close to firing up a kickstarter account to help the guy get there, or going to America and kidnapping (asking politely) Chip Foose to come to Canada and rescue 'it' from its dusty tomb. I know this car can elevate itself to a 'him' or a 'her', and break free the shackles of asexuality. I know there are stories waiting to be unleashed, heads to be turned and emission tests to be failed.
The White, 1979 Pontiac Trans-Am with an Olds V8 deserves to hit the open road and amass speeding tickets and noise by-law infractions.
Its only crime?
Becoming an unwanted orphan, the result of God's carelessness with electricity.
And it has suffered long for it.
My dad deserves to have what little hair he has left, blow through the wind like streamers on an air-conditioner. An air-conditioner that is currently sitting on the hood of the car.
Mired In The Grey is currently employed in the Creative Field. Whatever that means. Actually he knows what it means. It means he makes no money, and fights stray dogs in alleyways for food and/or money depending on the wager. Also, an avid supporter of PETA.