Buying cars and living with ’em…trying to get that 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 Convertible feeling again.

I just read an article from a new Atlanta firm’s blog  (Automotive Ventures) about the results from a recent survey of 1,000 of our fellow U.S. citizens that said instead of haggling over sex for a month, twenty percent said they’d rather give up intimate relations for thirty days than do the back-and-forth song-and-dance routine i.e. “haggle” of buying a car.  The report also stated that 83% of those surveyed preferred not to haggle….83%!!

“You gotta go through him!” We had an episode at an Atlanta Volvo dealer where we had tried to buy a burgundy 740 off the showroom floor in the early nineties.  Our salesman, Jim, as part of his breaking down the barriers banter decided to tell me how his dear old granddad, Horste, had lived to be 95 years of age by surviving off of mostly potatoes with the side effect of having hellacious gas that no amount of a Maalox and Tums cocktail could cure.  I wondered what Jim talked about with people he was really comfortable with. I had to get out of his office. Why did he keep a box of Alpine Mist air fresheners (XXXXXL) next to his desk?  Maybe he wanted to make sure every car smelled like the Chattahoochee National Forest after a summer rain and before the marijuana farmers had sprayed for bugs but I think ole Jim wore one as a necklace-of-last-defense since he was trying to outlive granddad and the other dealership employees addressed him as “Spud” while suspiciously avoiding his personal space by remaining at least a good 740’s length away.

Anyway, negotiations reached a stall over the pride of Sweden and as we were leaving to visit Hennessy Lexus, Jim pointed to a mustached man who was sitting on what appeared to be a small wooden throne (Dinklage?) overlooking the showroom and threatened, “You’ll have to go through him if you’re goin’ to get a better deal!”  This fellow was the owner and he looked as hard at me as Wyatt Earp did when he threw Billy Bob Thornton on his ear in Tombstone.  I said thanks to Jim as he got it in a dig at Lexus as being a “gussied-up Toyota” which in the case of the ES250 was pretty much true.

Me whispering to wife: “uh, don’t say that, he can hear you.  Every car out here is bugged.  Don’t make eye contact!  Look Tom Selleck with no shirt, a full bottle of Coppertone, and a twinkle in his eye!”

“A Small-Town Boy Living in a Lexus World” This visit to Hennessy would mark the second time we’d visited them to look at a ride. The first time we couldn’t reach an agreement on price on a used ES250 however our salesman, Ted, was professional and negotiations were not contentious.  We were just too far apart to make it work…like $2,500 or so. This time, we ended up buying a Jade Green Metallic ES250…the gussied up Toyota that did have an impressively heavy hood and a safety feature that was supposed to do something crazy with the engine in the event of a front-end crash: push it down to keep it from coming in the cabin.  That did sound safe to me.  Who wants an hot engine riding shotgun?

At the time our salesman, Fast Eddie, mentioned this feature, it sounded like something a responsible adult (I was faking it) would want for his hot blond wife but it was probably just hype…and the recognition that my blood sugar was low and I would sign anything if my wife wanted it and if the purchase would lead to more conjugal relations. She did want the car….and which she had verbalized loudly enough so Fast Eddie could hear while we did a walk-around. (Me whispering to wife: “uh, don’t say that, he can hear you.  Every car out here is bugged.  Don’t make eye contact!  Look Tom Selleck with no shirt, a full bottle of Coppertone, and a twinkle in his eye!”)  Eddie and my service writer, Tony, are still there….good people.

“If you’ll buy the Explorer right now, I’ll…” The worst we were ever treated was in the month leading up to buying the Lexus from Fast Eddie.  We went to see our local Ford dealer in Stone Mountain.  We wanted to sniff around an Explorer up close but the only problem was our salesman…and the fact that he was an idiot.  This guy would only unlock the doors to the SUV if we agreed to purchase it before we even were allowed in the rare air of it’s leather-clad cabin.

After determining that he was serious, we got back in our red 300ZX (we were slumming with black cloth) and left the lot. After word got back to the dealership owner through a friend who knew him, we were offered the opportunity to be picked up and driven back to the dealership where we could test drive whichever Explorer we wanted for the weekend.  Thanks, but no.  That couldn’t have been the first time that had happened to potential buyers there. Seriously, agree to a deal and then you can sit in it? Gotta see this with from Jay Leno’s Garage about a 1966 Dodge Coronet with a 426 c.i. Hemi engine (one of 732 built with the 426 Hemi that year):

Cars: the Teenage Years 1. a brown 1973 Toyota Celica with a stick shift that was my Mama’s car.  It had a little oil leak (didn’t every car…at least all of ours did) and Dad wanted to sell it for something else. These had a nice look and are still popular.

2. a red Vega with oversize tires and fan-blade type flat silver rims pimpin’ to make me forget how slow 43 horsepower could move but not quit forget that Neil Young was right and rust doesn’t sleep…it’s also faster to sixty mph than the Vega.

3. a dark brown 73 Mustang with headers and no muffler.  My high school girlfriend, Amy, was so ashamed she curled up in the fetal position in the front seat to avoid recognition toolin’ around town.  .

4.  a Honda Accord hatchback with a stick-shift and black interior…very reliable but somehow my brother managed to pull the front bumper off just taking a jaunt to Wally Mart.

5. My car when I left college – an 86 Chevy Camaro 6 cylinder…candy apple red with oversize tires and shiny chrome rims to make up for the lack of horsepower.  Another underwhelming Chevy needing more umph.  Sad to say, this becomes a recurring life theme.

“Preach on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

My bi-vocational preacher Dad also sold cars during the week.  He did this for ten years in Statesboro, Georgia.  He started selling Toyotas and eventually sold Fords, Chryslers, and Chevys too before he decided to get into a profession that people respected more than car salesman. Dad got a license to sell life insurance, of course.  Nevertheless, he was a car nut and would entertain us by reading the want ads and providing color commentary on what people were asking for their rides.

Our always grinning dentist bought a red Porsche 911 after a few years of filling every tooth of the Cap’n Crunch-only-on-Saturdays eating fools known as the Conley Boys (me and my brother.)  My Mama is an awesome cook and made a big Southern breakfast of grits and gravy and country ham and sausage and pancakes about every day except Saturdays but at some point I think my Dad was suspicious that our Happy, Happy Dentist was putting fillings on top of fillings.

Fluoride-treated water hadn’t made it to the great state of South Georgia yet so I couldn’t use that excuse when we would walk practically nekkid into Wal-Mart wearing only obscene-when-sweat-soaked, white basketball shorts, a sticky coating of dust, 95% humidity-laden sweat, and Honey Bun crumbs laced with Georgia’s own Coca-Cola, and that Red Porsche 911-Buying Killer Smile to pick up more Quaker State for the Murray red riding 36 inch lawn mowers that couldn’t handle cutting all that arse-high bahaigrass that for some reason always seemed to be waiting for us as our reward for being the low bidders. (I don’t remember anybody ever accusing me of being smart…or outbidding us either…which explains way too much.)

Dad reminded us of how he had paid for the rear end of that 911 every time we drove by our Happy Family Dentist’s office. Hey, I liked our dentist.  Dr. N2O (Nitrous Oxide) didn’t mind cranking that Feelin’ Groovy gas up to 14 and I wasn’t paying the bill.  Plus, he deserved a Porsche if he had to deal with looking at people who had to settle for eating Count Chocolat in their Honey Comb Hideouts on Saturdays since we’d already bought out all of the Capn’s best Crunch from southern icons Piggly Wiggly and Winn Dixie. Being a small town, when somebody listed an unusual car, we might know the owner.

There was one Ferrari 308 in town that a doctor owned and I’m quite sure that women must have followed him around like Magnum P.I. in his best tight shorts (the only ones he owned) on an off day in Honolulu throwing hundred dollar bills around and handing out those blue Tiffany boxes to whomever was sufficiently tired of trying to hook up with that other Ultimate TV Kool Kop, McGarrett aka Jack Lord.  There was a Rolls Royce that some rich guy in the neighborhood next to ours owned.  I think he was a doctor too…or maybe he sprayed bugs for weed farmers in the Chattahoochee National Forest.  I don’t know.

Georgia Southern Homecoming Parade 1987…my ’66 Dodge Coronet with Chi Omega Pledges dressed as eaglets. The brakes were smoking by the end.

I drive a Dodge Coronet 440 Convertible!” My favorite car-buying episodes was one of my first.  No, not the one where Dad brought home a bombed-out light brown and Bondoed Ford painter’s van that he wanted to clean up and make my first ride.  Yeah, baby, a sixteen year-old with a rolling bedroom!  Mama listed that illegitimacy-in-waiting wreck in the newspaper herself!  Mama Tried, Merle, Mama Tried!  Everybody knew most of the cool cars around town cars but who owned a 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 Convertible listed in the American section?  Dad beat me to the phone after reading that it had a 318 c.i. engine.  (I was too dumb to drive a 440 cubic inch motor on an open road…or my Papa’s fully stocked cow pasture.)

I was in college and could only picture scantily clad (these words always seem to go together, don’t they?) GSU Co-Eds (Blondes, Brunettes, Redheads, Lt. Ilia Khambatta….fighting over snuggling up next to me, making sultry pouty-mouthed faces at the losers walking around campus, and generally auditioning to be a ZZ Top Video Vixen Alternate or a Hot Girl in Love with Loverboy’s Mike Reno. (Tawny Kitaen, who writhed across Jaguars in Whitesnake’s NC-17 videos and later stabbed Chuck Finley’s size 14’s with her stiletto heel while he was driving, was much too classy, I thought, although I did admire how limber she was/is?)

My testosterone was spiking and I was in full-blown hyperventilation mode when we met the owner, a Former Las Vegas Con Man who had after “finding the Lord” according to the article in the local paper (Lord Calvert, maybe?), now traveled doing tent revivals and similar events for “love offerings” (i.e: “guilt tips”). I was lost dreaming in a haze of smoke from the manifold-splattering oil that was sneaking around the perpetually leaking gasket on the red ’75 Vega or was that the smell of hard-earned, income-tax-free lawn mowing money from the new Goodyears (NOT recaps this time, thank you very much) that my brother was burning off as he simultaneously pressed the brakes and gas pedal of my ’73 Mustang while grinning at me from the road in front of the house?  That’s alright, I thought.  Sand in his Mustang’s gas tank should fix that smile. Dad bought the Dodge for $1,750.

The Man From Vegas prayed over it loud and proud (and long) for it to be a decent car while I suspect his silent pleas to the Lord were to give his former incarcerated self clean sailing to get out of town before the Dodge started falling apart.  Within a week, the electric motor for the top went out and I never replaced it.

I left the top down when it was anywhere approaching sunny or into the fifties and would even park it in the Georgia Southern student section and go to class.  Nobody ever bothered my 100 watt Kenwood speakers that were laying in the back floor so I could rock out while I was cruising listening to The Outfield, U2, The Alarm, and AC/DC.  I was trusting and any would-be thieves probably figured there was nothing worth stealing in an old ride like that.  And, who would be dumb enough not to lock their car? Uh, guilty, I guess.

When Dad decided that we (re: he) would paint the car it’s original yellow instead of the flat tan that it was, the painter called in disbelief with the news that someone had used house paint on the car.  This was apparently a laughably bad idea no matter what kind of deal one got at Sherwin Williams and was much harder and more expensive to remove than auto paint.  Anyway, he got it prettied up and I never had as much fun in a car.

Thanks for reading,