(welcome our newest Sunday COAL series writer) I never paid much attention to cars before. Sure I had toy cars and trucks, but never really paid attention to the full life version. I was about 8 or so, this car came home with my dad after work one day. And it started a love affair with cars and music.
He was working at a Latin night club in Culver City California, managing and serving drinks when necessary. I do remember being made a fuss over by the ladies that worked there, also how there was a great Burrito spot next door, which I’m sure contributed to me being a chonky kid.
Apparently his boss could not pay him one week and just gave the car to him. OK, I guess.
I would sometimes go with him in the day time hours to get the night club ready. I spent a lot of time just walking around the club looking and being fascinated by all the electronics, the instruments on stage, the drink equipment, etc.
We would run errands to the local Smart&Final on Venice Blvd. I was always happy to come along and watch him work the pedals. I remember the rear lift supports did not work right and he would always use a broken mop/broom stick to keep it up when unloading. To this day I believe my Pops likes cars but not a car guy like his son. I do remember it came with the 5.0 liter “Tuned Port Injection” engine as I would stare at the script on the engine trying to figure out what that meant. I did not know much about power, Honda with 4 cylinders now come with the same 190 HP rating this car had, I was just a kid happy to ride.
Coming from a large Latino family I would spent time with my other Aunts and Uncles. My uncle James I could tell you knew that was a sports car by the way he drove it. I would also get to listen to different types of music, this was the early 90s, I would listen to everything from Los Temerarios (Spanish music) to Depeche mode.
I dug the music, so one day I stole a tape from my Aunt and her friend’s apartment. I did not know about what artist sang/sung what. Apparently I had stolen The 2 Live Crews, Nasty as they Want to Be album. I would sit in the car in the driveway on weekends and listen to that tape constantly. I had no idea what they were singing about, but I would sing along to songs like “Me so horny”, “dirty nursery rhymes”, again not knowing what they were talking about. I enjoyed the Bass and Treble, I would test all the stereo buttons, adjust equalizer settings, stare and wonder at the Interior. If I remember correctly the brake pedal had “Disk Brake” printed on the padding, again I would try to figure out what that meant; the shiny disks behind the wheels just in case you did not know.
My Father started having random seizures at this time that would randomly show up, sometimes while driving. I did not know what was going on when that happened, I just remember being scared. One day as he was backing out of the driveway, my sister and I waited for him to back out (our fence was in the way and couldn’t open one door). The seizure kicked in, he accelerated backwards, across the street over the curb and crashed in to the neighbors house. I remember it hit just below the mailbox slot. A combination of the curb and irrigation pipes slowed the car down enough that the damage was minimal, broken right tail light lens.
My Father wasn’t the best person in terms of his drinking, and that was the beginning of the end for this car. It was New Years, we had spent time with Moms friend celebrating in San Bernardino. My pops was convinced he could drive home. I remember him swerving on the freeway, mom was trying to convince him to pull over, he didn’t, CHP convinced him though. We were pulled over, my pops was arrested. We were dropped off by CHP at my moms friends house. My pops had his license pulled. He got the car back, but could not drive due to DUI. He thought he was slick and managed to get it impounded 2 more times for driving under a suspended license.
Because of the seizures my pops could no longer reliably work. He got part time jobs, but he just could not keep up with bills.
My uncles were never really good at diagnosing car issues when they appeared. So when the car started having a misfire, they threw a fuel pump at it when it was likely and injection issue. Lack of money for a proper diagnosis and repair ultimately meant the car had to go. it was sold off for $2000 that went into bills and diagnosing what my dad was suffering from. It would be many years before we had another car. But that Gray Pontiac Trans Am had lit a fire within my soul. The next vehicle would add fuel.