My third car was the first I bought from a non-family member. Somehow I got very lucky and managed to win a few thousand bucks from the Illinois lottery. I used some to buy me an expensive stereo (dad did not like that idea), spent a few hundred on beer for the year at school but put the rest towards a car. I went and bought a 1977 Grand Prix. It was two-tone blue, had a huge V8 engine and t-tops. The car looked cool and was pretty fast. However this was my first experience with buying a lemon.
Two weeks after I bought it I noticed that the steering was very wonky. Just didn’t seem as sharp as it should be. I checked the power steering fluid and that was about the extent of my knowledge. So I drove it home one weekend where a family friend would look at it for me. I pull into his driveway on a Saturday morning with coffee and donuts and after some small talk he gets under the car to look at things. He reached out and grabs a tie rod and it just comes off in his hand! If that came off while I was driving I would not have been able to steer! Holy crap I got lucky. He ended up changing both of them and some bushings, eating away the last of my lottery money in the process. But at least my car was safe to drive.
Or so I thought. 6 months later the trans went out and required a complete rebuild. I took it to a place by my school where they did the job to what I am remembering was a $600 or $700 bill. It came with a 6 month warranty. Can you guess what happened 2 weeks after that expired? Yeah, went out again. Turns out that the place I took it to had a reputation for not only being crappy but ripping off college students. So with some generous help from mom and dad we got the car fixed again, somewhere else this time. Had to have brakes done, the drivers side power widow needed a new motor and replaced a fuel pump. Then my car was involved in an accident that was going to be too much to repair so I got a totaled vehicle. Thankfully. That ‘accident’ is what I am going to tell you about here.
So it is summer time. My buddy Kevin and I are cruising around Chicago with the t-tops off, music blaring. He is 21, I am still 20, but we got some beer and were drinking at various places we visited. Not a lot but we were out having fun. At one point we found ourselves on Lower Wacker Drive. This was the 80’s before any of the rebuilds but it wasn’t as bum-infested as it is now. There were also many places where it was a tight squeeze, including many curved ramps going up from the drive. So here we are at one of the stoplights down there when a car pulls up on my left. We heard the music thumping well before the car got there. I look out of the corner of my eye and I see what appears to be a stereotypical lowrider pumping out Hispanic music at a very high volume. I’m not going to look so I just look ahead and wait for the light. I hear a string of Spanish come from the car, obviously directed towards us. I look to my right at my buddy Kevin (who was half Hispanic and knew Spanish) and his eyes are WIDE open. After a few seconds he just says under his breath ‘floor it’. I just look at him for a moment because the light was still red and I wasn’t 100% sure that’s what he said when he yelled “floor it now!” I glance to my left and I see 2 or 3 people getting out of the lowrider looking every bit as TV Mexican-gang as you could imagine. I floor it and go thru the red light, leaving a trail of smoke behind as I left rubber at the intersection. I look back in the mirror and the guys jumped back in the car and were following me! Oh crap. I slow down but blow thru the next red light and so did they. We were doing well over the speed limit when I decided that I needed to get topside as fast as possible so I took the first up ramp I saw. Well, those little yellow signs that say 20 MPH are there for a reason. As I screamed up that winding ramp, the whole driver’s side of my car is scraping the cement walls. I lost my mirror somewhere there but would rather lose that than my life. We make it up top and traffic is very light so I just floor it, make a turn, then another in the hopes that if they are still following us we would lose them. We probably lost them at the up ramp as I would bet they slowed down since we didn’t see them the rest of the way home. When I asked him what they said he said that they thought HE was someone named “Jesus” and wanted to know why he ratted on them. Not the first time Kevin and I get mistaken for others. Kevin had his car at my house so I dropped him there and left my car parked on the street. Parents were asleep when I got home so I figured I would wait until the morning to address my very damaged car. it was NOT going to be a good morning.
I wake up about 7 AM to a very loud crash outside. I look out my window, which faced the street, and I can see my car now half way up the grass! And the car parked just the other side of my driveway was in the same condition, only it still had an old Buick attached to it! My father and I run outside, along with half the neighborhood it seems and it appeared that some drunk guy hit my car while parked on the street, and after pushing it into my lawn kept going until it hit the next car where is stopped running. The whole drives side of my car was totaled! I am just standing there, not sure whether to cry or laugh. Now I don’t have to explain the condition of my car to anyone. However it was so badly damaged that it was totaled. I only got a few thousand for my car and put that towards school since parents let me use one of their cars for my senior year.