It was a like maneuvering an aircraft carrier. Especially when compared to what preceded it.
The 1973 Pontiac LeMans entered my life immediately on the heels of a two-seater ’71 MGB ragtop. Parting with the MG was sweet sorrow. I loved that car but it was falling apart and when I effected (affected?) my own repairs, the result was a dropped driveshaft doing 70 on the Canal Route. For the uninitiated, that’s what we Doodah townies called the I-135 north/south freeway back in the late 70s. Named for a drainage canal that it straddles, I went from 75 to zero in nothing flat.
Sudden thought. I wonder if anyone ever took the Canal Route en route to a root canal?
I sold the MG for parts, marched into the bank with my tale of woe and marched out with a new loan. My sole criteria in shopping for a new ride was dependability. I needed to get from point A to point B without dropping driveshafts. It was 1977, I was 19, had been driving for three years and was on my third car.
I sought Pontiac peace of mind. Canal Route namaste.
Two-door, fastback, louvered rear windows. General Motors called it Porcelain Blue. I called it The Car With An Intact Driveshaft. I pined for a muscle car, but my supermarket sacker salary could not, would not, requite my pining. Adulting was coming hard. The four-year old LeMans was as close as I was gonna get to a GTO.
It was literally twice as big as the MG. It felt like I was taking up two entire pews on the mean streets of Wichita.
Along in here I made the life decision to pursue a technical school education in the Twin Cities. At least that’s the story I told the old man. Truth was, I was gaga over the supermarket owner’s granddaughter, who was in Wichita for the summer and returning home. I filled the LeMans to the louvered rear windows with all my worldly possessions and headed north to the land of what turned out to be more unrequited love... and 10,000 lakes.
My new best friends in Minney-Soda asked if I had a dipstick heater. Yeah, right. Like the time we sent the new kid at the supermarket back for a sack stretcher.
You betcha. Real good, then.
Turned out the LeMans was a LeMon. Caveat emptor. Went through a stage when the damn thing would not start unless I primed the carburetor. For the uninitiated, that involves removing the air filter housing, forcing the choke plate open with whatever’s handy (a beer bottle cap worked well), pouring a few drops of gasoline directly on the carburetor, getting back in the car, firing it up, back out to replace the air filter housing, then back in and on about my appointed rounds.
I carried the gasoline around in a peanut butter jar. Small wonder I didn’t go up in flames. Or get arrested for inciting anarchy with my half-ass Skippy Molotov cocktail.
Passengers who slid in to The Car With An Intact Driveshaft, be they chums or girlfriends, shared a common reaction.
Yo Matson, why’s your car smell like gasoline..?
Well, it’s like this...