Wednesday, December 10, 2008

General Motors, My Dad, Me, a Couple of Opels and a Few Corvairs... (Pt. 2 of 3)

After I got my license I, of course, wanted a car. My dad had told me that he would buy me my first car, but after that I was on my own.

There was no doubt that my first car was going to be made by GM. My father would not buy anything else. I also knew it would be used, because, let's face it, no one is stupid enough to buy a 16 year old kid a brand new car (Actually, I know some people who are stupid enough to do that, my dad just wasn't one of them). Other than that I had no idea what it would be.

A Firebird or Camaro would have been cool, but I kind of suspected that wasn't going to happen. A very old Pontiac LeMans with a V8 wouldn't have been bad; I could have pretended it was a GTO. Maybe an old Olds 442 convertible. There were all kinds of cars I thought had potential. My dad had other ideas, though.

My dad had decided to buy me an Opel. Not a cool Opel GT or Manta coupe, but an Opel station wagon. A red one with lots of dents.
Beggars can't be choosers, I guess.

The Opel ran well, was good on gas (important when you're only working 12 hours a week at a local record store) and it had a standard transmission. At the time I was 16 years old and living in my parents house. It didn't take me too long to figure out the advantages of having a station wagon when I went out on a date... The rear seat folded down leaving a long, flat, warm and dry surface to do whatever my date and I had the urge to do. Coooool.

Dating advantages aside, it was still a dorky station wagon. Being a dork comes naturally to me and I didn't need a car that emphasized that. After awhile it was time for the Opel to go.

My dad said he'd buy me my first car, and he did. But he also said I was on my own for anything else after that, and I was. I still had my job at the record store, but I didn't have much money. I needed something cooler than a red station wagon (that wouldn't be too tough), made by GM (my dad was not going to allow anything else to be parked in the driveway) and, most of all, cheap (that was going to be tough).

I found the perfect car. A red Chevy Corvair convertible. GM had stopped making the Corvair many years earlier in 1969 after Ralph Nader's book "Unsafe At Any Speed" made people believe that they were deathtraps. There were still plenty around though, and, because of the bad publicity, they were dirt cheap. My 1966 Monza convertible cost me a whopping $100.00. It was in immaculate condition.

My Corvair had the 110 HP engine. Like all Corvair engines, it was a "flat 6" and was mounted in the rear of the car. It had an automatic transmission, a 2 speed "Powerglide" with the shift lever located on the dash near the instrument cluster. The top was power operated and in good condition. I fell in love with this car.

Like a lot of life's "loves" something better soon came along. In this case it was a 1966 Corvair Corsa hardtop with a 140 HP engine. The 140 engine had 4 carbs and was much quicker than the 110. This car also had a 4 speed manual transmission which was a prefect pairing with the 140 engine. I saw it at a shop that specialized in repairing Corvairs. I gave the owner of the shop my convertible and $250.00 and it was mine. I was in love again.

Once again though, something better came along. Driving by the same shop one day I saw an "Aztec Bronze" (the official name of the color) 1966 Corsa convertible sitting out front. This one was really different, instead of a 4 carb 140 HP engine, it had a turbocharged 180 HP engine.

I didn't know much about turbo technology and when I took the car for a drive I was underwhelmed at first. I had no idea what "turbo lag" was and the car didn't feel any faster than my old 110 HP Corvair. Then the turbo kicked in. Holy sh*t! It was fast. It was scary fast. I bought it right away.

Driving a car with turbo lag that can be measured in days (turbo technology was still in its infancy when this car was built) takes some getting used to, but once you master it it's almost as fun as being on a date in a station wagon with a fold down rear seat. This car was what I was meant to drive.

I guess someone else felt it was what they were meant to drive too, because I only had it for a few months when it was stolen from a mall parking lot.

As it was my only car and my only means of getting around, I needed to replace it fast. I didn't have theft insurance on it, so I needed to get some money to replace it, too.

By this time I was living on my own and working semi-full time. I could get a car loan.

I did, and bought a used 1971 Opel GT...

Next (and last in this series), The Opel GT and how GMs decisions concerning the Corvair and Opel are hurting them now.

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