This is a file photo. Mine looked pretty much like this one, but I didn't have Cragars, and mine had a black top.
1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass S Coupe—From 1968 to 1972, General Motors produced what was arguably one of their best cars ever, the venerable mid-sized “A” Body line.
Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile all had their versions of the A Body. They were all basically the same car underneath the skin, with trim, sheet metal, and power-trains being the only major differences.
They were roomy, powerful, attractive, and comfortable cars.
GM musta sold eleventy billion of them.
The extended Zoomie clan owned many of these fine vehicles back in the day…at least five of them. Hell…even my grandmother had one, and it ran like a scalded cat!
My uncle, (Dad’s brother), purchased his 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass S new. He drove the wheels off this car, probably putting 100,000 miles on it before retiring it to a remote corner of his somewhat swampy property.
He rarely threw anything away. Neither did my dad.
I have been told I am the same way, so at least I get it honestly.
With the looming departure of The Banana Mobile, Dad and I figured we could resurrect Unk’s Cutlass and make a decent ride out of it for me. The engine, a small-block Rocket 350, was rather worn out, but we thought we could liven it up by rebuilding the top half…freshen up the heads, new lifters, pushrods, clean up the carburetor and intake….
I emphasize the word we because I am being funny and clever and ironic and facetious.
There wasn’t no we to it, really.
Dad did pretty much all the work, in the driveway, while I would pop in from time to time, in between parties or work, to see how things were going.
You know…when I look back on it now and think about it, I was kinda an asshole of a son.
Dad probably should have punched me in the mouth a time or two.
Anyhoo…Dad got the Cutlass motor running good, and I bought some nice new Goodyear Polyglass radial tires for the car.
Next, it was up to me to take this sled to the muffler shop to get an exhaust put on it. So, I headed to Ralphie’s Muffler Shop, and had them put on a dual exhaust system…with glass-packs, of course.
Ralphie’s was a filthy place Dad recommended highly. Ralphie’s was owned and operated by a local guy, and we liked to do business with local guys and not the big chain corporate behemoths like Midas.
At Ralphie’s, you could get custom exhaust work done at a fair price. By custom work, I mean crooked and mismatched tail pipes, multiple exhaust leaks, and rattling sounds that would develop at certain RPMs and drive you fucking nuts!
My solution? Turn up the stereo so I couldn’t hear the rattling…and I had a stereo too!
You can bet your sweet fine ass on that!
The Cutlass was Saturn Gold with a black vinyl top and a nearly pristine black interior. The Saturn Gold paint was severely oxidized from sitting outside, uncovered, at my uncle’s palatial estate for so long. The unsightly paint job was troubling to me, as I liked to have my vehicles look as good as possible with it costing me as little as possible to do so.
Dad had the solution. He handed me a gallon of 3M rubbing compound, which he borrowed from his buddies at the salvage yard, and an armful of clean rags, and said, “Get to work.”
I didn’t have anything fancy-schmancy like an electric dual-action random orbital polisher thingy.
But, what I did have was some elbow grease and time. It took me all day to buff out the Cutlass, but, when I was finished, it glistened almost like new. I was very proud of my accomplishment.
As I stood back and admired my handiwork, Dad strolled up and said, “She looks pretty good. You’re the only guy I know who can wax rust and make it shine!”
Dad was a real card.
One of my first roadies driving this car was with my old buddy Scott again. This time, we decided it would be cool to go to Lynchburg, Tennessee, and visit the Jack Daniels’ distillery.
Hell…why not? We purchased and consumed enough of their product.
We should have been shareholders, or something.
I don’t remember too much about this trip. Nobody got arrested, killed, sick, or in a wreck.
It must have been a god-awful boring experience.
One night, I meet up with an old high school chum, Todd, and we go to a popular local watering hole and pick-up joint, the Razz-A-Ma-Tazz. To keep things efficient and tidy, we referred to this place as simply The Razz. I was in rare form that evening…drinking beer, mixed drinks, and even a glass or two of wine when a particular lady seemed to take a liking to me.
I think I danced with her too.
That gets 'em every time!
She was seductive, enthusiastic, willing, and had a pulse…traits I appreciate in a woman.
She was also flying solo that evening, which meant my buddy Todd was a third wheel and had to make himself scarce. She tells me that I need to come over to her place, because it is getting late and she is ready to leave. Since I was driving, I had to take Todd back to his crib before I could further explore my budding relationship with my newfound love interest.
I get her address, and I promise I will come-a-calling shortly…as soon as I can dump off my longtime friend back at his house.
With that done, I quickly point the Cutlass in the direction of my princess’s apartment, confident that a stimulating night of deep conversation and uproarious laughter will ensue.
During all this, I hadn’t really noticed how tired I was feeling.
I guess it was the adrenaline, or something.
Unfortunately, about that time, local law enforcement noticed my quickness, and they lit me up. As I pulled the Cutlass over to a stop, I curbed it pretty good. It wasn’t long before the cops also noted my tiredness, and they had me doing stupid human tricks at the side of the road.
One of the cops, I’ll call him Jay, was a former high school acquaintance. Jay was a few years ahead of me in school, but we weren’t pals or anything. We simply knew each other. It didn’t matter, and I didn’t try to get out of anything. I was sooooooo busted.
I knew it and admitted it.
I was ultra cool with Jay and the other officers who arrived on scene to assist, so they didn’t put the handcuffs on very tight.
My car was hooked to a wrecker and towed to the impound lot.
I was going to jail.
My new love would be so disappointed.
Now…when I was but a wee lad, my old man had always told me, “Your mom and me have raised you right. You know the difference between right and wrong. If you mess up and get yourself arrested, don’t call me to bail your ass out of jail.”
As I sat in the County Graybar Hotel, I remembered his words.
After jail personnel took my information, they asked me if I wanted to call anyone.
Other than a couple of speeding tickets, I had a clean record up to this point, so I figured I’d get OR’d (released on my own recognizance)…eventually.
It was time to take my lumps.
I took my father at his word, and sat behind bars until the next afternoon, when I was told I was free to go.
Somewhat surprised at my seemingly early release, and thinking I’d probably take a taxi or walk back home to face the music, I sheepishly shuffled out of the jail and down the stairs into the lobby of the City/County Building.
…and there stood my dad.
I had never felt like a bigger fuck-up in all my life.
I was embarrassed and ashamed, and I didn’t say a word to him. I could see the disappointment in his eyes, but the first thing he said to me was, “Why didn’t you call us?”
I was floored, and nearly speechless, but I replied, “Because you said not to call you if I ever got arrested. How did you find out I was here?”
He said, “The people at the jail called us. They said you refused to make a phone call.”
Ain’t life grand?
I would pay dearly for my wrong mistake, in many ways, for a long time.
I would have a restricted driver’s license. I could drive to and from work only.
I would lose my civilian dump truck driving job.
I would not be able to get a military drivers license, or allowed to operate military vehicles…something I really wanted to do.
I would pay much higher insurance rates.
I would pay fines and attorney fees.
…but it was a valuable lesson learned.
I will discuss this revolting period of my life with you people no more.
And now, back to the Cutlass….
After a couple of shitty, dead-end jobs, I started working for my brother-in-law at his movie film and microfilm-processing lab. It was interesting work. I enjoyed it, and my boss was as cool as they come.
One day, I was leaving work at the lab in the Cutlass on a busy 4-lane road. I had just turned on the stereo and was jamming to Heart’s Barracuda.
You're lying so low in the weeds
I bet you're gonna ambush me
You'd have me down, down, down, down on my knees
Now wouldn't you, barracuda?
I was in the left lane going about 40 mph. Ahead of me in my lane, I noticed that an old black raggedy-assed pickup truck was moving slowly. The truck had a large load of junk in the bed, and I couldn’t see what was in front of him, so I signaled and moved over to the right lane. As I was overtaking the truck, he started to move over to the right, directly in front of me…no signals…nothing. I was really gonna have to slam on the brakes to miss him, so I check my six real quick, and swerve back over to the left lane to miss him.
Silly silly fool! sang Ann and Nancy Wilson…
There, right in front of me, sits a Camaro, stopped and waiting to turn left.
I was outta room.
I was outta time.
“This is probably gonna fucking hurt!” I thought to myself as I stomped on the brake pedal as hard as I could.
The Cutlass had good brakes and tires, but there would be no miraculous save.
Screeching rubber, crunching metal, breaking glass…and I was stone cold sober.
You gonna burn burn burn burn it to the wick
Ooooooohhhh, barra barracuda!
In the Camaro were a father and two children. I got out of my car and stumbled over to the Camaro and asked them if they were OK. The kids were hysterical but uninjured. The dad was unhurt also.
I had a little knot on my forehead due to my grape striking the windshield. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt at the time of the crash.
Another lesson learned…
I asked the man driving the Camaro I had just creamed if he saw the black truck that cut me off. He said he didn’t.
Then, I looked back at my Cutlass. It was heartbreakingly fucked up. The left fender was mangled. The left headlights destroyed. The grille shattered. The hood crumpled. The left front wheel was oddly askew and not in line with the right front…meaning a boogered up tie rod, center link, and God knows what else…
The car would never be the same. It was done.
Dive down deep down, deeper than You…
I think that you got the blues too
I patched up the Cutlass and I drove it for a few more months. I couldn’t afford to fix it right, and I couldn’t bear to look at it all torn up. I sold it to my friendly local salvage yard for next to nothing. Dad told me a month or so later that they flattened it in the crusher.
Fuck! That hurts…and those Goodyear tires were like brand new too.
Every time I hear Barracuda, I think of that Olds Cutlass and the wreck.
However, my relationship with the 1968-1972 GM “A” body would continue a decade later, although in a somewhat piecemeal fashion.
In the meantime, I needed to go used car shopping.