Any day that includes a father-son cruise in a classic, drop-top Pontiac is the best day of your life. I’ve always thought of the car hobby as a cool, low-key way for a father and his kid to spend time together. Even though my Liberian-immigrant father wasn’t much of a gearhead or car enthusiast, his ride was undeniably cool: a yellow, 1971 Plymouth Duster with a black vinyl interior, black tape stripes, three on the tree, and those cartoon dust-cloud decals on the front fenders and trunk. (Sadly, I’ve yet been unable to find pictures.) Dr. Dennis’ Duster had a clean, quiet, no-nonsense, masculine quality about it that was perfectly matched to my image of my father. I wonder how the kid in the back seat of this grand Grand Ville perceives this car as an extension of his pop.
And what a beauty this Poncho is, with those dual exhausts and wide whitewall tires. Frustratingly, my Encyclopedia of American Cars is in off-site storage, but internet research will confirm that of the four lower-tier GM makes, Pontiac sold the least full-size B-Body convertibles for model year 1973. I like the style of this Grand Ville at least as much as that of a same-year Chevrolet Caprice Classic, Oldsmobile Delta 88, or Buick Centurion. (I’d probably grab the Buick first as I am from Flint, and the Pontiac second.)
Going anywhere with Dad, whether to the hardware store or to his office at the university, would feel like we were on a mission. Going places with Mom could also be fun, but seemed somewhat pedestrian by comparison. Mom would take us kids to the grocery store, shoe shopping, to the library…fun stuff sometimes, but hardly the adventures of a Hardy Boys novel. But a trip somewhere with Dad usually felt more important. I can still see his serious face with hands at ten-and-four on the wheel, looking purposefully at the road ahead, with the occasional over-the-shoulder blind-spot check.
Unlike Dad’s daily-driven Duster, which was just a cool, older car by the early 1980’s, I’m sure this Grand Ville doesn’t come out of the garage that often, judging by its stellar condition. The idea is the same, though. Both cars enabled some quality time shared between fathers and their sons. Hopefully, the kid in the back seat will one day remember days like this particular Saturday, his dad, and this wonderful Pontiac with the same fondness with which I recall my own, late father and his yellow Duster.
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, September 21, 2013.