image courtesy automobileandamericanlife.blogspot.com
I’ve had a couple of dream jobs. Nah – take that back. I’ve had quite a few dream jobs, one of which was being the guy who decides how many stars and diamonds a restaurant, tourist attraction, resort, hotel, motel or campground would get in an annual travel directory. My territory was Colorado and Utah. I had to dine, ski, raft, balloon and horseback ride. It was hard work, especially the helicopter skiing.
I wore out cars. So, I got a new one every year. The company bought a fleet of GM X-cars and it became time to trade in the Citation assigned to me the year before. It was so undependable, we had to lease another car, while it was in the shop. After the X-car fiasco, I was allowed to once again, choose my ride. The car needed to get outstanding gas mileage. It had to represent the company with flair and elan. It had to be an American brand. And – it had to be within budget. I asked for the Motor Trend Car of the Year – the AMC/Renault Alliance.
To sell the Board on it, I got it stripped, yet customized, for the job. Radio reception while driving in Colorado was poor once you left the Front Range – so no radio. I wanted the System Sentry feature. Manual transmissions with four cylinder engines were better in the mountains than automatic, and gave better gas mileage. Finally, I made a deal. No air conditioning in exchange for the largest sun roof available. When the new car arrived, I was the happy guy with a boner. It was new! It had the hugest honking sun roof between Las Vegas and Kansas City! It wasn’t the Citation!
The Alliance was simple formal-looking two door sedan. In keeping with the more upscale appearance, it also had dual headlights and color coded Federal bumpers. It didn’t look cheap. Not only was Motor Trend impressed with the Alliance, so were much of the auto critics of that day. Over a half million Alliances were sold in the US before Chrysler terminated the Renault deal when they bought AMC during the 1980s. Chrysler didn’t want it competing with their own products.
The interior was light gray velour cloth, better than what was offered in the GM J cars. The interior was roomy for four adults. The seats were amazing. Renaults used pedestal bucket seats, which meant that they had a center rail, leaving both sides of the seats wide open. These seats not only reclined, they also tilted upon the pedestal and were very comfortable. I discovered that I could take a boom box that had detachable speakers and place each speaker perfectly under the seats while leaving the cassette and radio unit in the center console to operate. I could play all my favorite punk rock. The dashboard was legit. Unlike the joke dashboard I stared at in the Citation, the Alliance presented a thoroughly modern dashboard with full instrumentation. The System Sentry display appeared at the top left of the dash next to the A pillar. When shutting the car off, the System Sentry display would flash green for a second or two, then display a green light next to the six fluids it checked automatically, or if a level was low, a red light. It was good to know when I was getting low on a fluid and have the garage tend to it.
The customized tinted sunroof was huge, but also heavy. Skeptics said it could leak, but they were wrong. It took up a lot of trunk space when removed. I usually drove the Alliance without the roof so I could enjoy the Colorado sun and mountain scenery. It was nice to be able to see up while driving along canyons and within the forests. It made the car seem even larger. I never regretted not having air conditioning. On long trips across Colorado I usually didn’t dress up and with the sunroof open, I could just wear shorts and work on my tan. It was awesome!
The five speed coupled with the 1.4 liter engine worked well together. The engine delivered excellent gas mileage as well – about 40 mpg. The ride was amazing. I raced through the Rockies and the Uintas, over the High Plains and the San Juans without feeling that the steering or ride was too soft to hug the roads on sharp curves. It rode better than anything in its class. Mountain driving can be hard on cars. Climbing steep mountains, hills and dropping down Floyd Hill on I-70 can wear out a car’s engine, brakes and transmission. Having a trouble-free dependable ride for a year on this job was unusual. The car didn’t fail. I picked up one scratch on the front bumper in Golden Colorado, and needed to replace one of the sun roof braces I snapped off in Canon City. I was actually sad to see it go when it was time to move on.
I replaced the Alliance with a Cougar. The Board made a fleet deal with Mercury and it was either the Cougar or a Lynx. Once again, I chose wisely. I needed to be across state to review a Victorian bed and breakfast in Durango where there would be a limo to take me a heliport to fly into Purgatory for some skiing, so I had to get going or I couldn’t be in Aspen the week after. Hard work, but someone had to do it!