Step in the “Way Back Machine” and step out in 1970 … During the summer of 1970 - I was 14 - my Dad unexpectedly tossed me the keys to a silver 69 Grand Prix with a full gas tank and he put a twenty dollar bill in my hand. His instructions were “Have fun!” I took him seriously. My parents and four of my siblings and I had just arrived at the Lakeway Resort on Lake Travis for a weekend of waterskiing.
Dad borrowed the GP from his office manager, Estelle. She was 20 years his senior. Dad always drove second hand cars and Estelle always had a new car. You need to understand Estelle: she was an East Texas velvet hammer - she smoked cigarettes on a long black filter, sported bejeweled pointy glasses, had high hair and wore Jungle Gardenia perfume. But her car had the odor of perfume and cigarettes - not so good for the most noses.
Well, Dad and I love to drive, so he threw me the keys to one of the nicest American cars available. In my eyes, the Lakeway Resort road net was a road race track in the Texas Hill Country with just a few homes to block visibility, a gas station, a diner and a sheriff every now and then. I spent most of the day driving really fast, burned about 20 gallons of fuel, ate lunch, filled the tank back up, and I think I gave Dad a little change from the twenty. I kept the car out of the ditches and did not hit any deer. Every now and then, I would see my dad in a car he borrowed keeping a watchful eye on me. That day I was hooked on the great looking Grand Prix with its fighter pilot cockpit.
Dad bought the car about a year later, and I got it from him in 1977. Like many, I thoughtlessly sold that really cool ride a few years later.
Fast forward to 1997 – I bought a Grand Prix over Labor Day weekend in 1997 a few weeks before the birth of my second son. Why? Simple, I wanted a fun fast car. As a husband and father, I had earlier given up sport bikes and still wanted a neat toy.
My brother Paul and I flew from Houston to Syracuse, NY to buy the car because I could not find what I wanted any closer to Houston – I wanted and got an HO motor, electric windows, automatic transmission and air conditioning. We took about 10 days and 2500 miles to drive it home – while it is about 1600 miles from there to here, we added another thousand miles, just because. We went to Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Canada, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and other places. It was glorious! My wife tolerated this great trip with bad timing.
Fast forward again to July 2014: on a recent Saturday, my youngest son and I had another glorious drive, albeit brief, in the Pontiac. We drove about 50 miles out of town to watch another son – I have four – compete in a swim meet. We let her stretch her legs on the freeway. She likes to run with fast contemporary cars! Their drivers are often surprised that the old girl keeps a good pace on the straights and in the curves. Read on to see why.
She’s got an HO Racing suspension kit – shorter higher rate springs, 1 3/8 inch front and rear sway bars, Bilstein shocks, boxed lower rear control arms; a PST polyurethane front end kit; headers into 2 1/2” mandrel bent tubes with x-pipe; Petronix ignition; aluminum intake manifold; Edelbrock carburetor and cam; aluminum high performance water pump; and a custom built radiator. These days she wears BMW Artic Silver paint, there are no badges except for the arrowhead on the hood and the PMD center caps. See for yourself - a picture is attached.
Each of these drives is a window to other moments that cover a large part of my life – of family and friends, the spontaneous, the unexpected, good times and bad! So, knowing this, I make it a point, as I sit in the cockpit and feel the motor's music, to reflect on the past and the future, to make each drive a window in time to timeless memories, both past and future!