When we were done, my friend Jim Duke joked that he hoped his dad would hurry up and have a midlife crisis - so he could build him a hot rod, too. My buddy Terry Cohn said I had the coolest dad in town. Terry has always been wise beyond his years.
That GTO had other benefits, too. The first time I asked Jane out on a date she said she’d go because she heard I had a cool car. When I picked her up she said “This is it?” She was disappointed that it wasn’t much to look at. But after I laid waste to a few Corvettes and Trans Ams she changed her mind.
Those nights in Houston were legendary. Like the time I buried the speedometer at 140 on Interstate 45 on the way to Galveston. Or the time I beat James Armand’s 1970 Camaro in a race up Falcon Pass. That night, I took everyone’s money on the Clear Lake High School soccer team. Those were the days.
But my reign as the king of Falcon Pass would end in less than a year. Billy Peters had a cool dad, too. He bought him a 1967 Camaro with a 427 engine. Billy had all the extras put on that engine, too. And he topped it off with something I didn’t have; namely, a 4.11 posi-traction rear axle.
People always said that car would be the death of me. But, ironically, it saved my life – along with my buddy Wes Armour - in the summer of 1984. A fellow tried to end an argument using a 12-gauge shotgun in the parking lot of Burger King. We left the guy standing, literally, in a cloud of tire smoke. His Jeep wasn’t going to catch up with that GTO.
A few years later, cancer – under the vinyl top, in the trunk, and behind the wheel wells – would claim that old GTO. We would take the Holly and the Edelbrock and bolt it on top of the 400 engine in our mint condition 1973 Grand Am.
But things were never the same. In 1971, Congress would put a halt to the golden era of great muscle cars in America. Emissions requirements would flood the market with low compression, two-barrel, single exhaust versions of the old cars we used to love. They were merely shadows of their former selves.
Now President Obama is determining the compensation of GM employees. He’s getting rid of board members at GM and replacing them with those of his choosing. He’s preparing to impose new fuel economy requirements. He’s even using the IRS to make people buy cars they really don’t want.
Congress started steering the auto industry in the wrong direction many years ago. This new president is merely pushing down the accelerator and keeping steady hold upon the wheel. Meanwhile, our memories of the glory days, like so many youthful dreams, are fading in the rear view mirror.