As a young boy I never had much interest in cars. I remember being amazed at how easily my brother could rattle off the make, model and year of any old vehicle we passed on our many road trips. They all looked the same to me. When I got my first car, a rusty old Datsun 200SX with no brakes and no exhaust, I suddenly began noticing other Datsun 200SX’s on the road. My best friend had an AMC Gremlin. Suddenly there were two cars I could recognize. Over the years my love for cars grew, and so did my hatred for rust.
By the time I graduated from college, I had decided that I wanted to own a Z. It was the pinnacle of engineering (as far as affordable production cars were concerned), but a new 300Z was $35K, way out of my league! Then my father found a 1980 280ZX. I knew I wanted it the moment I saw it, and $950 later, I was driving home in my very own Z. It had been garage stored every winter, and didn’t have a spot of rust on it. I’m not sure why they let it go for only $950, and I was too excited to even entertain thoughts that it might be a lemon.
I had never owned anything sportier than running shoes before this, so it was an absolute thrill to drive. Sure it didn’t have a turbo, and yes, it was a little more refined and luxurious than a typical sports car – it had headlight washers – but it had a straight six, which sounded so sweet, and it beat the pants off my Datsun 200SX. Anyway, In November of that year, My trusty 200SX finally bit the dust, and with winter approaching, I had to buy another car so I could store my Z. My sister had just purchased a new car and was trying to sell her old one (83 Nissan Sentra). I bought it but had no way to get both cars back down to Chicago, so I drove the Z back home. The plan was to come back in a week to get the Sentra. Somewhere just south of Oshkosh, with a light snow falling on the road, I noticed a northbound driver lose control of her car while changing lanes. I saw her swerve and begin to head for the median ditch, which had no fence or barrier of any kind. I checked my blind spot to see if I could get into the left lane, but it was full and I was going a little slower than the rest of the cars around me. I watched anxiously as her car leaped from the median ditch. I think I could see her muffler. It was too late and possibly too slippery to speed up, so I pressed harder on the brake and tried to stay in my lane. Realizing there was nothing left to do I said “Not my car!” and braced myself. A fraction of a second later our cars collided in a very sad crunch, and the hood of my car was suddenly all I could see. My cat, flew into the windshield and then disappeared behind me. Then there was silence. As if to wake me from this nightmare, another car hit me from behind. I was stunned. People were asking if I was ok, and I said I thought so, but my car, my beautiful car was wrecked, and my cat was missing. Everyone was amazed that no one was seriously injured. We were still moving fast enough at impact that the roofs of both our cars were buckled. We waited for an ambulance to take us all to the hospital, and then we gave our statements to the police. Now here’s the ‘funny’ part. I was able to see what the other driver had put in her statement, and I am not making any of this up. This is exactly what it said. “I lost control of my car, and it went into the ditch so I hid under the dash.” Now I can imaginge people closing their eyes right before a crash, even throwing their arms up over their faces, but to actually crawl down under the dash while the car is carreening out of control is one of the oddest things I have heard. I can’t imagine myself doing that, let alone admitting it to the police afterward. I don’t think I’d have the presence of mind or the physical agility required at that moment to crawl around in a car going 55mph. I thought I was lucky to have nothing worse than a sprained wrist, but she wasn’t even in the car seat!
The towtruck driver found my cat in the back of my car, and took care of her until I was able to pick her up the next day. She was uninjured. While we were there I said my goodbyes, and had this photo taken.
My insurance agreed to my demand that I get enough money to replace the car, rather than what it was worth in Kelly’s Blue Book. And by June of the following year I had used the cash to purchase this little beauty.
And from the rear…
Which I eventually turned into this