After several years of mowing yards , my brother and I had saved enough dough to buy a car.
I remember scouring the classifieds with gusto and relish. I could have been holding an ancient treasure map rather than the latest edition of The Arkansas Democrat/Gazette. The choices were staggering to the teenage mind.
Volkswagen Bugs. Detroit muscle cars. Foreign jobs with funny names. Ford Escorts. Dodge Talons. Trucks atop bubble tires. Yugos. Four wheel drives. GEOs. Station wagons. Broncos. Restoration projects. Cars missing minor amenities like AC, front bumpers, paint and doors.
Testicles of Zeus! My 17-year-old chest hairs bristled at the possibilities. To leap behind your own steering wheel and point the hood in your chosen direction seemed to me life’s ultimate grail. I envisioned weekends of filling the tank with gas and the back seat with hot girls, the radio pumping Deep Purple anthems before an admiring congregation of fellow roadsters. No more emasculating school bus! No more begging to drive my Angry Mom’s dorky hatchback. I was ready to consecrate a deep and meaningful relationship between my right foot and a willing accelerator.
My brother and Angry Dad made the actual discovery. They found it buried in the classifieds, a secret gem of unknown value, and they immediately launched a personal investigation. Angry Dad was confident upon his return. My brother, somewhat hesitant.
What does it look like?
That wasn’t promising. But Angry Dad and my brother had already brokered the deal. My visions of hedonistic weekends were replaced with developing complex strategies for convincing a girl to enter a booger-colored car. I was doomed.
But it was love at first sight.
Indeed, it was green. A beautiful, matted hue of vegetable green that was used sparingly in the 120-box of Crayolas. The top was black – all business black. The hood stretched to infinity, suggesting that an engine meant for a Sherman tank lay beneath the breathless expanse of steel. Twin chrome exhaust pipes peeked from beneath the trunk: Love and Hate. Angry Dad looked at me, and I sensed that he was relieved by my reaction to the eight-cylinder bride that was chosen for me.
The unexcelled 1972 Grand Prix Model J.
The interior sported the biggest balls of any interior ever assembled. The cockpit wrapped around the driver’s bucket seat. The clock was an analog dinosaur; a Stone Age reminder that it was time to bust ass. Set in the center of the console, a circle the size of the Sun, was the speedometer, boasting a top speed of 180 bone-breaking miles per hour. And the back seat? Enough space for the cheerleading squad and a few members of the dance team for good measure.
Angry Dad arranged for the power windows and seats to be repaired – a parting gift to his sons who had just become men. And then it was ours. Turning the key was summoning Hades himself to do your bidding. The engine rumbled like the stomach of Cronus, hungry for asphalt and thirsty for gas. When I pressed the accelerator, it responded immediately, like a thoroughbred challenged. The front seats were thrones from which my brother and I captained the world.
Today, it was unceremoniously announced that Pontiac was finished, through, done, and with its demise more than 21,000 jobs. I should have seen in coming when Pontiac “re-introduced” the GTO – there was nothing GTO about it. It was a G8, an even less inspiring vehicle from Pontiac. Add that to the Avalanche, perhaps the world’s ugliest car this side of a GEO Metro, and you got a company destined for erasure.
The fact is, the 1972 Grand Prix was Pontiac’s last perfect car. Don’t give me the 1980 Trans Am. Give me the Model J. Give it to me soon. Because Pontiac ain’t around to make them any more.
Frankly, I’m not sure how people will get to Gatlinburg, Tennessee without Grand Ams.