Scott H 1968 Chevrolet El Camino Custom 2dr Pickup

First car - I had one once, but a wheel fell off

I bought my first car a few weeks before heading off to first year university. I remember working hard all summer long to save for both experiences, but the joy of anticipation was solidly in the transportation versus education camp. My choice in haulage was a cross between an iconic muscle car and a pick-up truck; it was a 1968 El Camino, complete with 327 cubic inch V8 and 4 barrel carburetor, and it came with wide ‘mag’ rims and over-sized rubber.

It was only a few short months after I had bought my version of the ultimate ride that I just about annihilated both my pride ride and me, not to mention a potential half dozen elementary school children. You see, once the fall classroom routine was established, I commenced commuting each weekend back to the homestead, for reunions with high school chums, and more importantly to get my laundry taken care of by every student’s favourite domestic manager. And so it was one Friday afternoon I was running my preferred route, heading home down back country roads. I was about mid-way there when I detected a worrisome shudder coming from the back end of my prized Chevy. I pulled to the side of the narrow road, and gave a cursory look; seemed I had a wobbly left rear wheel. Upon closer inspection, I noticed I had just three remaining lug nuts on that corner, all of them loose. So I pulled the standard equipped repair kit from its storage well, and this is where things started to head further south. It was then I learned factory jacks come with a lug wrench designed for standard issue stock rims and lug nuts; when I went to tighten the nuts on my aftermarket rims I discovered there was a distinct mismatch, and I was only able to snug the three remaining ones, rather than properly tighten them to some semblance of factory specification. Feeling set to go, I headed off without a thought to future consequences. As I barreled down this rural back road, I came upon a long sweeping right hand corner. To my left was a rural elementary school, its outdoor play-fields filled with frolicking children on their mid-afternoon recess break. As I entered the corner, trying to make up for lost time, I was pushing 60 miles per hour. As I careened hard through the right hand turn, the force loaded up the left rear wheel, and it was at the apex of the corner that the remaining lug nuts succumbed and their respective studs sheered themselves clean off the hub, releasing the wheel to the awaiting landscape. I can’t properly describe the sequence of sensations I experienced; first there was the jolt as the rear end dropped, then there was this gut-wrenching screech as metal met dry pavement. Then, as I skidded and fishtailed down the highway, after what seemed a surreal delay, I watched in dismay as my unleashed and rolling rear wheel passed me by on the left. A combination of unrestricted revolving and bouncing momentum, cut loose from its host, it seemingly accelerated down the paved passage that lay ahead. And then, to my utter horror, as I came to a grinding and skidding halt to rest on the side of the road, I watched as the errant rubber and rim combo careened towards the outfield of the school’s baseball field, the children oblivious to the impending disaster. Most people assume ditches are designed to channel water; it was then that I came to the realization they can perform a much more important life saving function. For I watched as my wheel combo was first swallowed up by the protective trough that ran between the road and the playing field, and then, its momentum absorbed and redirected, it was expelled so that it came to rest between the road and field, its destructive energy all but spent. As I sheepishly collected my errant rolling stock, I was thrilled to notice the whole episode had gone completely undetected by the pre-collegiate crowd.

As far as my first car, well, I had one once, but then a wheel fell off...

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