Thursday, September 22, 2011

three-forty-eight four speed

She was aquamarine blue with a white top and a white vinyl interior. 348 four barrel four-speed in a full size Pontiac. Not just any full size Pontiac. A 1964 Bonneville convertible.

For those too young to remember, the 348 was the little brother of the mighty 409, the Chevy big-block before the 396-427-454 big blocks. When I say little brother, I don't mean that it was smaller. Same block casting as the 409. The only difference was the 409's had a little more throw in the crank.

That was the first convertible I owned, and I think I was about near the end of my teen years when I got her. That's a bit confusing, because my teen years went well into my forties. But to me and my crew she was quite the novelty.  Kind of a patio on wheels.

A high speed patio. Top down baking hot summer day and you're storming down a country road with four in the front seat and five in the back and empties flying out and nine mullets blowing in the wind and the speedometer well into the three figures. Hard to beat that as a teenage memory.

Mostly my memories were low speed memories. After all, at two tons and only a 348, you weren't going to be setting any land speed records. I figure she was a high fourteen car in the quarter, at best.  Keep your foot in it long enough and you'd bury the 120 speedo, but "long enough" meant at least four or five miles of relatively straight road. There's always a lot more short roads than there are long ones.

And did we have some glorious moments on the short roads!

One of the great things about the mobile patio was that when somebody had to take a leak, you didn't have to stop the car. You'd just send them to do their business off the back. So you'd be doing a slow cruise down the main street of some little hick town, and there'd be two or three of the brothers standing on the trunk, zippers down, peckers out, leaving a piss-trail all the way down the main street.

We learned to refine that performance, if such a thing is even conceivable. Have a guy on the hood as a hood ornament while you're putting down the urine trail. One of the guys who frequented the mobile patio was a locally famous cliff diver from the Elora Quarry. Famous for doing a swan dive from the highest point of the quarry. Coincidentally, the water was shallowest just below the highest cliffs, so a swan dive from 60 feet into seven or eight feet of water without a life-altering injury was quite a feat. This guy would do it a dozen times on any random summer afternoon.

So we pull onto the main drag of Fergus one sunny afternoon. Cliff Boy, built like a Greek God, is doing a Greek God pose on the hood of the car. Couple of guys are standing on the trunk watering the main street. Stereo is blasting Razmanazz by Nazareth. Nobody, but nobody in the history of coolness, was ever this cool.

Hit the only stop-light in Fergus. "We're gonna razamanazz all night" blasting the downtown.

Oops. We're stopped at the red light, there's a Town of Fergus police cruiser to our right. He's got the green, why isn't he moving?

I guess from their perspective this was a little too good to be true. Nine long-hairs in a 64 Bonneville convertible, strolling around on the car like it's an outdoor patio. Not even trying to hide the beer bottles. Playing their shit proto-metal way too loud. ON THE MAIN STREET OF OUR TOWN!

Well, I was behind the wheel, and I have to admit I might have panicked a bit. The cops waited out their green, and I had a sense they were going to come after us. I did the only reasonable thing I could do under the circumstances. As the light changed I stuck my foot in it, wound the 348 to 5,500, dumped the clutch and we were off in a cloud of tire-smoke and the downtown ablaze with the sounds of squealling tires and Nazareth.

Immediately Cliff Boy loses his balance, flys over the windshield, and lands in the middle of the back seat. The two guys who happened to be standing on the trunk with their zippers down landed in the middle of the intersection. That's what saved us! I'm power-shifting through the gears as we head west towards Elora, the cops put on their siren and lights, move ahead five feet, and have to hit the brakes because there's two guys writhing around in pain in the middle of the intersection.

I didn't get off the gas for a whole two minutes. During that time we jettisoned enough baggies and bottles to keep the average trailer park partying for six months. Never went back to check on the guys who had landed in the intersection. I knew they'd be in good hands.

Handed off the Bonneville to a cousin in Ohio shortly thereafter. Didn't want to attract too much attention. But that was one helluva sweet ride.

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