james r

A Simple Story

I had just returned from Vietnam. The Army was quite happy to discharge me to attend grad school. That is, after getting me to spend a tour of duty in South East Asia, Vietnam in many ways is a beautiful country. Why we were there still baffles me. But, let's not get wraped around the axle with politics.

A younger friend had a 1968 AMX that she couldn't afford due to insurance costs. She was going to trade it in on a VW Ghia. The dealer didn't want the car and offered her $1,000 for a perfect car with well under 20 K rounds on the odometer. I told her I would gladly give her the grand the dealer offered. She called the VW dealer and he was happy not to have the car. So, I ended up with a fun, fast two seater to make my commute to grad school (at 14 miles per gallon of premium).

Well, as things typically go some years later I hooked up with a girl I first remember seeing on the school bus in junior high school. She was going to spend the weekend with a neighborhood girl. (As an aside her family farm was about a mile from where my dad was born on his family farm. Our dads went to grade school together around the time WWI was happening).

We dated and ultimately moved in together even though it was somewhat scandalous at the time. She was working as a school secretary and I was driving school bus along with the GI Bill to pay bills and tuition. It goes without saying that we didn't have much money. After living together for a while the next thing I knew we were going to get married. I went to a discount jewelry store (not a pawn shop) and bought a couple of new skinny gold bands and off we went to see a Justice of The Peace. He had just finished mowing his lawn so he brushed the grass clippings out of his hair and after a few kind and sincere words of advice we were husband and wife. A couple of long time friends witnessed the proceedings so we were legal. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention the beautiful infant daughter that was hanging around with us.

Well, we had to do something for a honey moon. Grandma kind of volunteered to babysit. We scrapped a few bucks together and headed for a drive around Lake Superior. I changed the oil, points and plugs in the AMX and we were ready. Itinerary? A couple of maps should get us where we needed to go. Plus, it would be hard to miss the big lake and Canada. We stayed where there was a vacancy. We ate where we could get what we thought would be a good meal. Seven days later we made it back home. No break downs. No problems. The AMX was our best friend. It was great spontaneous fun. Forty years later we still talk about it.

There is one thing that American Motors never advertised. The space behind the seats in the AMX were a perfect place to put a fussy infant at night. The rumble of the V8 combined with the warmth from the mufflers under the carpeted space in the back put the kid to sleep every time. We did have a little car carrier for her but nothing like we would need today.

So that's my simple story. A little money, a sense of adventure and a great car created a life long memory. By the way, I still have the AMX. It needs restoration but I could never give her up. She is part of our family. The best thousand dollars I have ever spent.

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