First Car – My Very Own Days of Thunder

First Car – My Very Own Days of Thunder

Car designers are just going to have to come up with an automobile that outlasts the payments.  ~Erma Bombeck

Ryan showing off his 1967 Chevelle. He loved that car!

A little while back we received the movie Days of Thunderwith Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman from Netflix. Anytime we talk about that movie, a huge smile surfaces from everyone. You see Ryan loved that flick, that and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke!  It wasn't his top favorites because the script was a piece of literary genius, nor was the cinematography revolutionary, nor was the acting exceptional. Nope, Ryan loved it because it involved racing cars. That's it!

Ryan, being one of the 75 million NASCAR fans, loved racing. In fact, he even raced his own 1967 Chevelle locally in Jennerstown and in Keystone. If my memory serves me correctly he won a few times.  I'm guessing Ryan loved racing so much because of his love of cars and working on them, mechanically speaking. That's a whole other topic, but putting it simply Ryan new how to work on vehicles, fix them and drive them.

About the same time I got my drivers license, my Uncle Tex passed away.  Being my grandpap Chester's brother, he came from an era of large automobiles, big!.  Upon his passing, Uncle Tex left behind a few cars, some where nicer than others. One happened to be a 1976 Buick Limited.  I sincerely can't remember the exact year, but mom and I knew it was in the mid 1970's.  Regardless, the car, besides being large and showing its age, was not wanted by anyone in the family.

Since I was without wheels and just passed my driving test, my cousins approached me and asked if I wanted the Buick. Incidentally, Uncle Tex's grandson, my cousin Timmy took me to get my license.  My answer...heck ya! It was black with red interior. The solid steel frame was built like a tank that could have been mistaken for a hurse. It had a bench seat in the front and the back and being an automatic, I was told was a luxurious feature at the time.  Great!  I didn't care what it looked like, or if it was a stick or automatic, I could drive either and I wanted car freedom.

tape recorder Aunt Heather Piper
Same tape player Nicole had & I used in my first car, since it didn't have a radio.

Was it slightly rusted and worn down? Yes it was, and I totally loved it!  There were only two major items that needed to be addressed.  The most important, it didn't have a radio!  Well, I couldn't certainly go cruising around without tunes!  Immediately fixing that poor situation, I took my sister's old tape player and set it on the front seat to play tapes.  Anyone who rode with me, not only was my co-pilot but they were also acting DJ.  That was still the era when we would make mixed tapes for each other, so the music selection was not at a shortage. Yes CDs were around and gaining in popularity, but tapes were still as equally as popular. The next big item was the gas gauge. It was broken, meaning the needle never moved with or without gas in the tank. To fix this dilemma was going to be costly so mom showed me how to record my mileage in a notebook she got me. Every time I filled up at the gas station, I was suppose to record the date and my mileage. Then, I could gauge how much fuel was floating around in the tank. Seems pretty simple, yet see if a teenager was going to be that detailed. Nope, not me.

There were a number of occasions that I ran out of gas. I never really fretted much over it. Back then, cell phones may have just started to show up in cars, but nothing like they are today. Once Black Beauty, that was her name, would suck the gas tank dry, I would pull over and continue on foot to the nearest house to use their phone. Luckily, every time I called, which maybe amounted to two or three times, Ryan was there and he came with a gas tank to get me going again to the nearest gas station. Ryan never seemed to mind or gave the appearance that he was put out by my requests. In fact, he would laugh at me and was always quick with his rescue missions. Although I must say, I know he gave me the typical grin with the eye roll.

Kyle riding his bike c. 2003

On a side note, I don't think Ryan had his license at some point when I called upon him, just realizing that fact now. Ryan was twenty-one months younger than me. That explains why he didn't mind coming to my aide, he wasn't technically allowed to drive yet. Well, I still appreciated him regardless.

Not being a mechanic so bear with me, for the details may be off. It started one bright sunny day. Really! It was a beautiful day and to heed my mom's warnings of my continuous efforts of running out of gas, technically her treats of me being stranded one day, I decided to pull over at a local gas station. It was off the clover leaf, between Latrobe and Youngstown. The gas station is no longer there, but the building is. After filling up, well not literally, Black Beauty had such a large gas tank, I don't think I ever really filled it up, so after ensuring I wouldn't get stranded within the next few miles I was ready to head out.

As I brought the engine to a roar, smoke started pouring out of my exhaust.

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