Men never forget their first car. In fact, most of us remember our first car being much better than it actually was. The first car I owned was a 1972 Grand Prix, Model J. My brother (we’ll call him “Kandi”) and I pooled our money together in our 17th year and bought it. It was a dull green with a black top. The interior was green, too, and it featured bucket seats and a wrap-around cockpit that was a testimony to its speed, which was considerable. An enormous chrome grill on its font end promised to eat any Toyota that merged in its path.
The Prix had one bitch’in dashboard. One of my favorite aspects of the dashboard was the giant, round speedometer. The very top of the speedometer (the center-speed, if you will) registered 100 MPH. Not the 55 MPH you see in cars today. One hundred motherfucking miles per hour. What audacity! When you depressed the accelerator of the 1972 Grand Prix, you could see the gas gauge slowly drop to E. The biggest challenge for me and Kandi was scraping up enough cash every week to keep fuel in the 30-gallon tank.
Few in my social circle appreciated the poetry of the 1972 Grand Prix. It was mocked for its outdated design, poor gasoline consumption, and less than trendy color scheme. There were some who took to calling it The Pickle. But those Dodge Talon-driving Philistines had never experienced the singular joy that comes with peeling out in the loose gravel of a Baptist church parking lot –– completely shirtless –– jamming to an 8-Track of Creedence Clearwater Revival. That’s the best kind of fun in Southern Arkansas, my man.
The 1972 Grand Prix boasted a colossal 400 engine beneath its massive hood. In idle, it didn’t purr like a pussy cat; it chug-chug-chugged with a dark baritone full of menace. Indestructible chrome bumpers on its front and back ends proved it meant business. There was enough space in the trunk for five dead bodies, and possibly room for three more in the gaps between the engine and chassis. The back seat was a vinyl love-sofa you will never find in a Havertys.
1972 Pontiac Grand Prix
The Original Anger Mobile
The 1972 Grand Prix had one weakness, and that was a rather light rear end. Many a time, Kandi and I found our badass selves fishtailing onto the expressway or shimming through a tight turn. When you’re 17, that’s kinda fun. Except one day, after school, I was racing the Grand Prix home to catch Game 5 of the 1991 American League Divisional Series when, on the last turn of the highway, I lost control and fishtailed us right into a ditch. The force of the crash slightly bent the 1972 Grand Prix in half. Kandi and I were not hurt. Which was too bad, as I could have used the sympathy.
I had killed the 72 Grand Prix. Khandi was nonplussed. I sill owe him a Grand Prix. The following years would see in my possession a parade of lesser vehicles, none of which ever matched the 72 Grand Prix for charisma, muscle, and charm.
1970 Oldsmobile Delta 88
The two best things about this car was 1) it ran like a Mercedes when it rained really hard, and 2) it came with a grocery sack full of free 8-Track cartridges.
1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
If you ever wanted to test your manhood, just sit on the black, vinyl upholstery in the dead of summer wearing nothing but cutoff jeans. You will scream.
1967 Chevrolet Impala
I can’t tell you how many black dudes approached me at gas stations to tell me they had a cousin who used to own a car just like this. Someting else you won’t find in the owner’s manual: When the car stalled, the brakes ceased to function. It stalled a lot.
1980 Ford Thunderbird
My version was a two-tone red on tan. Somebody called it The Big Valentine. When a guy shouted at me from across a parking lot, “What’s the word, Thunderbird!” I knew it was time to sell.
1993 Pontiac Grand Prix
I was yearning for some of the old magic, but 1993 ain’t 1972. Can you believe I passed on a 1992 Altima for this? This was my first car that didn’t feature an 8-Track player.
1983 Nissan 280Z
This was my Angry Dad’s mid-life crisis car, but he gave it to me for a ridiculous discount when I really needed some wheels. When you drive one of these babies, you always Feel Like Make’in Love.
2002 Honda Accord
Yawn. The mileage is good. And it’s got a CD player in it. Plus you could drop it out of the Space Shuttle and still drive it to work. Yawn.