I am not really a “car guy”.
Sure, I would trade a kidney or two for a 1965 Corvette Stingray.
But I’m not insanely passionate about cars like some guys.
For a long, long time, my criteria for a car has been:
a) Does it cost less than $10,000?
b) Will it never ever break?
Which explains why I have bought nothing but boringly vanilla Japanese cars for decades.
Still, there have been a few special cars over the past half century, including a huge one, a fast one, and a topless one.
When we moved back to Houston in 1989, with our 1-year-old son, the GM Finance needed to learn to drive.
I wanted a car suitable for my precious baby boy and his mother, who had failed her driving test 11 times in Singapore.
This is the car I wanted but, sadly, it was not available.
So I bought my best buddy’s grandma’s Olds 88 for a song.
It was 20-something years old, in mint condition, and slightly larger than an aircraft carrier.
The car inspired me with such confidence that I made the worst error of judgement in my entire life.
I decided to teach my Chinese wife how to drive myself.
You have no idea.
I could go on and on about the unbelievable pain of this ordeal, but I will simply recount one telling incident.
The GM Finance was preparing to “merge” onto the highway in Houston, pedal to the metal and without looking, so I shouted at her.
Sure, I may have saved both of our lives by preventing a terrible crash, but a man does not shout at his missus without paying a very high price.
The GM Finance stopped the Olds. Right on the highway. And would not budge.
“You shouted at me,” she said, arms folded across her chest, staring straight ahead, madder than a hornet.
My life flashed before my eyes, as I waited for an 18-wheeler to run right over the top of us.
I knew what I had to do, so I did it:
“Dear, I am soooooooo sorry. I was wrong. It was totally my fault. I should never have raised my voice. Please forgive me. And may I say that you look truly lovely today, stunning really. And I don’t think I have ever loved you more. Now, if you don’t mind, could you please drive the car?”
Somehow, we both survived and the GM Finance got her Texas license after two tries.
That Olds 88 was incredible.
My buddy, the one who sold me the Olds, liked fast cars.
So he got him one.
A 383-magnum Challenger, white with a black stripe.
Even considering the statute of limitations, it would be foolish to go into details about the number of times we broke the sound barrier, ran out of gas, appropriated necessary gasoline, did unspeakable things to jacked up Mustangs, or played cat and mouse with members of the law enforcement community.
But we have to mention the time we went to the Cinema East theater to watch Vanishing Point.
We went into the theater as total teenage macho studs who’d driven up in a supercharged Challenger, like in the movie.
And after watching the movie — which featured two solid hours of raw speed, chase scenes and some outstanding full frontal nudity — we exited the theater as testosterone gushing titans who should under no circumstances have been allowed to get behind the wheel.
But get behind the wheel, we did.
And we were off, baby.
I honestly don’t know how many times we flew from Norman to Oklahoma City and back.
Or how many times we topped 150mph.
But I do recall that at one point we did a beautiful, sideways power slide right up a highway off ramp.
As in going the wrong way at a very high rate of speed.
Come to find out, the front left tire only had 12 pounds of air in it.
But since we didn’t hit anything, and air was free, we were soon on the road again.
Topless in Vegas
I worked a lot of different jobs to make it through university.
Put up fence. Painted houses. Sold sporting goods. Mowed yards.
You know, the usual things.
But in Arlington, Texas, I also got to drive Cadillacs because my brother-in-law ran the Caddy dealership.
When they needed a car that was not in stock, I’d drive or fly to another dealership and pick up the car they wanted.
Most of the time, the drives were long, luxurious and uneventful.
But there was that time I got to drive a drop-top, pink Cadillac. (The car was a pimpier pink than this photo).
Someone had stolen the car from my brother-in-law’s dealership. The car thief made it all the way to Payson City, Utah, before getting arrested.
My job was to drive a four-speed black Corvette to Utah, and bring back the El Dorado.
And I got paid for this.
Now, being 21 years old, having $300 in expense money in my vest pocket, and piloting a drop-top Eldo, it only made sense to take an alternate route back to Texas, via Las Vegas.
I will never forget driving through Vegas, with the top down, inhaling the desert breeze, looking at the enormous flashing signs, staring at the leggy blondes in miniskirts, and wondering what mischief a young man might get up to.
You would not expect to find God’s fingerprints on a pink El Dorado convertible in Las Vegas.
But rest assured, they were there. They had to be.
Because all I did was make a little money on the slots, lose a little money on the roulette wheel, and then hit the sheets, alone.
The next day I drove back to Texas with the Caddy’s top up, top down, top up, top down.
As you do.
When you are 21, and being paid to drive a pink Eldorado convertible.