31 July 2012

A Horny Woman in a Baptist Church Choir


Johnny Walters drove my '68 Dodge Charger into the back of an Army deuce and half legally parked on Butner Road. Walters was stoned to the bejesus and, like any trusting and brain dead Private First Class, I gave him my car to make a lunch run to the McDonalds just off post.

Looking for a replacement, I found a Porsche 356C for $5,000. A great deal and God knows the bullet I dodged. Thankfully, the Ft Bragg Credit Union refused to fiance anything older than 8years. I got a tip from a buddy in Public Affairs that a civilian he worked with was selling a 1977 Fiat X1/9. That's the bullet that didn't miss.



The credit union happily financed the car with as many months as I had left in the Army. Major improvements to the car's performance were attended to immediately. Cocoa mats, an X1/9 reflective strip across the top of the windshield and a Fiat gear shift knob. I found a crazy Italian mechanic who had worked at Ferrari in Italy. He and I became very close.

I put a Pioneer Super Tuner Cassette in the dash and since there wasn't anyplace big enough to mount 6"x9" Jensen tri-axles, I just stuffed 'em behind the seats. Ultravox, Fleetwood Mac, Kool and the Gang, Boston, The Bee Gees, Rod Stewart and KC & The Sunshine Band cassettes were all slotted in the fake red velvet interior of a fake leather brief case stuck in the spare tire well behind the passenger seat.



It wasn't what you'd call a popular car with the ladies. Certainly not in Fayettville where Camaros and Trans Ams ruled the day. Still, it did get noticed but almost never in a good way. Less than five minutes from Ft Bragg and you'd easily travel back in time to 1860. I was scared shitless on more than one occasion. And I was white.

My biggest concern was the car breaking down. Which it did. A lot. Each time I picked it up from the shop, I'd swear I was gonna put a For Sale on it. And each time I drove from the shop, I fell in love with it all over again. It wasn't fast but it handled like a horny woman in a Baptist Church choir. Confident, firm footed, loud and tight.


I went back to college after the Army. I'm not sure if it was the crazy Italian mechanic or my living on the G.I. Bill, but it soon became too much to keep up with. No one wanted to work on a mid-engine car and if they did... a pound of flesh was a bargain.

The tape deck was stolen. Anti freeze leaked over the cocoa mats. I learned Italian from the fuse box. Finally, there were signs of a coastal Florida cancer. Rust. It was everywhere. But it made it, just, through college. I sold it for $500 to a Cuban mechanic and spent $99 on a one way ticket to Newark on People's Express.


Sure it broke. And some folks thought I was a hair dresser for owning one. But, you know what? I wish I'd gone to hair dressing school. You know how much you can make in NYC cutting women's hair?

10 comments:

NCJack said...

I had a Fayetteville orthodontist, and a curious Dad, so we hit some car lots near Bragg, and Lord! the Fiats, Peugots, Alvises, Morrises, and other wierd late '50s/early -60s Eurocars that had come home with returning GIs were to drool over as a kid. Even the lot owners advised against actually buying any of them for actual use.

JMGIII said...

FWIW, the X1/9 became a lot more feasible a proposition as an everyday car when Bertone took over production in 1981ish.

And an Alfa V-6 will drop straight in without much work beyond moving some suspension pickup points.

randall said...

You could probably pull more puss as a straight hairdresser in NYC than you ever could dream of as a GI in a fiat.

Anonymous said...

Wow, People's Express brings back nightmares of my parents cheapo FL vacations. The PE terminal in Newark was close cousin to the Port Authority@42nd Street. People using trash bags or cardboard boxes as suitcases etc. At least you knew you were getting what you paid for with PE. You get the same service from regular carriers these days.

18milesperhour.com said...

I certainly hope you're joking when you refer to avoiding a 356 as "dodging a bullet." That bullet hit me long ago and the car is still running as reliably as a Honda and a thousand times as charming.

tintin said...

18mph- my concern, now and not then, is $5k was the going price for a basket case. As a PFC, I was in no position to maintain that beautiful car much less restore it, which is probably what it needed. Looking at prices of 356 A,B & Cs today, I can only wish I took a chance but I fear I woulda been way off the reservation in a financial sense.

Anonymous said...

"Less than five minutes from Ft Bragg and you'd easily travel back in time to 1860. I was scared shitless on more than one occasion. And I was white."

Did you really just say this? Rush Limbaugh didn't put you up to it? Easy with the racism- you don't have to be "trad" about everything...

tintin said...

Anon- to clarify, I was scared of white people who lived five miles and a hundred years from Ft Bragg.

Jim said...

but John...Your Fiat was that ugly ass GREEN!

tintin said...

Jim- I think you called it puke-green. Great to hear from you. It's been a long time.