Frankie's blog

Living The Dream Part II

I know, I know….it’s been way too long. So, where were we….?

Oh yeah, we were all bailing out of my ’81 Turbo Trans Am like a bad Chinese fire drill tearing up the hill to literally press our noses to the exterior showroom glass. How could I forget?

That car was so beautiful and the Russet Brown finish was really highlighted by the gold GTA accents. I never got to see it any closer, as it was dealer swapped at some point in the next week for a new 1987 Bonneville S/E. So much for legendary beginnings….

The Turbo T/A soldiered on into my senior year in college with only minor protestations, but time was really catching up with it and into the fall of 1987 it was visiting the repair shops too often again. During my holiday break that year my parents broached the topic of possibly retiring the T/A in favor of something newer to drive. Alas, they were up front about not having the funds for a GTA but offered other interesting alternatives. They even gave into letting me keep the ’81 and just parking it…. That sounded like a workable deal to me. So my Dad said “have you seen a Ford Mustang lately?” I know, I know: fighting words to an F-Body lover. But a new car is a new car sometimes, right? With a warranty.

I told him I wouldn’t mind looking at one, and the search began. But the GTA haunted me constantly, and the framed ad hanging in my dorm room did nothing to ease the pain either. LOL

It didn’t take long to find a suitable Mustang, as Ford was really pushing the newly-restyled Mustang GT but I had other ideas. For some reason, even though I was driving one of the flashiest pony cars in recent history I had started to embrace the idea of “low profile”. I know, I know… ME? But it’s true. The Mustang LX was the one that really stood out to me: all the go-fast goodies and none of the aero add-ons. And, lo and behold our Ford dealer in town had one in the same color combo as my Turbo Trans Am. Can you say KARMA?

The test drive hooked me in like 5 seconds… I had never been in a car that ran like that, ever. It was all a guy could do just to keep the rear end from coming around under anything more than piddling acceleration. We went back to the dealership and started negotiations…. and my Dad is one serious negotiator. To make a long story short, it got down to $100 difference and neither my Pop nor the dealership owner would budge. I interjected “I’ll pay the $100 myself” and my Dad was like “oh Hell no you’re not paying a damn dime”. And after hearing the famous spiel about not buying a car any cheaper anywhere else, we left and headed south from Batesville.

Fruitless stops in Searcy and Cabot, Arkansas brought us to Jacksonville and what was then called Long Ford. After talking to the salesman for a bit we discerned that they did in fact have a couple of Mustangs on the lot: a 4-cylinder convertible and a white GT 5.0. I drove the white car for a short jaunt there (with accompanying salesman….booooo) and we headed back to the lot. My Dad asked my opinion and I told him that I loved the car but I didn’t like the white color. My T/A was Black and I kinda wanted any car that I got to be the same color. We were getting ready to leave when lo and behold they did discover that they did have a black GT on the back lot and it had come in that very morning. I went back there to investigate and they were right: a Black/Silver GT 5.0 sitting by the body shop. Still had the plastic on the seats and steering wheel…. and a sunroof! I was hooked and we went back to start negotiating…or actually I went back to sit with my tail between my legs while my Dad did all the talking. Anyway, we were hearing basically a different variation on the same story when my Dad just stopped and got up, thanked the folks for their time, and made for the door telling them that he was going to buy a car on that day somewhere but he guessed it wouldn’t be there. He got to the dealership’s main door before they stopped him. The sales manager said “Mr. Rider….if you’re gonna buy a car today, then you’re gonna buy it here.” Long story short: the car stickered for $15,515. We paid $13,700….which was $200 less than the LX 5.0 that I mooned over in Batesville.

And Dad did indeed take it back to our local dealer the very next day…and the manager would not come out to look at it. LOL

Senior in college, new FAST car, got the world by the tail….let me tell you. On the drive home I was feeling pretty darn spiffy if I must say. The first GTA that passed me on the other side of the four-lane didn’t faze me much; after all, I was driving a brand new 5.0 MUSTANG GT! So, take that, Pontiac!

The second GTA that went by me that day fazed me a little bit more, I must say. Hey, I’m human, right? Still, I was OK…OK…OK. Maybe a stop for a cold drink would take my mind off what I wasn’t driving…

You know where this is going, right? Guess God was rubbing it in a little on December 28, 1987….

No more than five miles after merging back onto the highway, GTA #3 comes easing by me at @ 65 mph. And it was Black….and had all the gold trimmings my Dad talked about….and was the most beautiful car I’d ever seen. And I wasn’t driving it….talk about your heart coming up in your throat, man! Plus, to top it all off….the punk driving it had to be looking through the top opening of the steering wheel to even see; no way could he see the hood at all. Why, that little snot nose so-and-so; THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!!!!

Living The Dream, Volume 1

While Lou’s recent blog entry here on The Source Page has been about the origins and beginnings of the GTA, I suppose my first “Living The Dream” entry should be about how the GTA came to be so important to me, personally. I mean…. I didn’t design them, I didn’t come up with the plan for the car, but they have been a huge part of my life. Where to begin?

The early ‘80s…. Ah, the memories. I got my license when I was 16 and in 1982 got a 1954 Mercury Monterey 4-door sedan to drive and call my very own. And it was a cool car, really, it was. Nobody else in school had one like it and let’s face it….wasn’t that the be-all, end-all in those days? Even if it did have a Kraco stereo in the dash and an OTASCO lawn battery in the trunk to run it. As Jeff Foxworthy used to say….”we’ve got TUNES”…. I still have that car BTW, but I won’t show it to you out of respect to you, the reader.

I graduated to a semi-modern car when I started using my mom’s 1978 Lincoln Mark V in tandem with the Merc. It would run pretty fast with that 460ci V8, you could ensure easy exit from any rock concert by simply angling those incredibly long front fenders out into a line of traffic, and it was cool to a degree to actually experience what it was like to helm the Titanic on the open seas… err, road. I still have that car too, but again…. you won’t be seeing it.

The first cool car I remember looking at new was a red 1982 Corvette. Big honking Cross-Fire-Injection 350 V8, red leather, Eagle GT tires…. and a $20K price tag. GASP! $20K…. for a car….for real? Alas, a fellow whose sister was in my class got it for HS graduation… and at last info their family still owned it. Two cars down was the real apple of my eye, a brand-spanking-new, loud and proud 1982 Camaro Z28 Indy Pace Car. This little beauty was only $14K…. or maybe it was $16K…. it didn’t really matter; might as well have been $1,000,000. But I loved those cars then and would have one in a heartbeat today if the opportunity arose. Loud, flashy, and looking bullet-fast for the day.

The 1982 Trans Am was to me then, in a word…. a horrible mistake. Wait, that was three words. Sorry. I was like “how in the HELL did we get from Smokey and the Bandit…. to this?” There was just no style, no sizzle; “aero” was a new automotive concept on the horizon for US cars in those days. And I didn’t get it at all. A Trans Am was supposed to look ballsy, not like it was trying to slip through a crowd and not be seen.

No, thank you, I’ll pass. BTW, where’d that Camaro Z28 go?

First Trans Am was a cousin’s 1981 Turbo T/A. Still vividly remember the first time I saw it in December of ‘83; my parents told me there was no way they could afford the afore-mentioned Z28.… but they could afford this car. Talk about taking your breath away: black paint, one-year red trim and decals, red S/E striping, alloy Turbo-Flow rims. Man, I had died and gone to heaven….

It worked out that I had the choice between that car and a 1984 (IIRC) Chrysler K-car Turbo convertible. Even with the ‘81 Trans Am being on its third model year, I still think I made the better choice even today. LOL

College came in the Fall of ‘84 and was going…. and by 1986 and into the spring of ‘87, the Turbo T/A was showing its age. New turbocharger, ECM, partial paint work…. really starting to cost some $$$ just to keep it on the road. The local Goodyear Auto Service Center didn’t look forward to my visits. My parents traveled for a living then and one weekend at home over my college Christmas break in early ‘87 my Dad caught me in the house and asked if I had seen the newest Trans Ams. While aware of the success of the 1985 restyle, I admitted that I had not, and he proceeded to tell me about one he had recently seen at a Pontiac/GMC dealer showroom in Louisiana while having his work truck worked on. A maroon one that had gold trim “just twinkling all over it”…. hmm.

As I recall, this was just about the time that the famous Black GTA magazine ad started showing up in the enthusiast press. OMG! Talk about taking your breath away in a single gasp. Still have my original framed piece that hung in my dorm room back then; that thing has seen a lot of wishing and praying both, oftentimes together! Anyway….

My actual first glimpse of a GTA took place on Interstate 40 on a weekend trip back home in a driving rainstorm in early ‘87. I say “glimpse” because it was across a median as wide as a couple of football fields in a torrential downpour at 65 mph. A white GTA in the fast lane blew opposite me in seconds…. knowing now what I do about those original Gatorbacks, I’m impressed whomever was driving had the guts to drive that fast in the rain. So much for initial first impressions….

While I guess Arkansas wasn’t a big selling ground for GTAs, we did have lots of IROCs running around Russellville. They loved trying to provoke an old Turbo 4.9 T/A too, believe me. The local Pontiac dealership there in those days was called Rye Motors, an older family owned Pontiac lot. I knew them pretty well because I’d “graduated” to them from the Goodyear place after they tired of trying to help me keep the ‘81 rolling. Apparently the GY fellows didn’t care for old cars with searing hot turbo accessories under hood that had virtually no usable service space….who figured? The folks at Rye had no problems with that whatsoever; their prices proved that pretty quickly.

During the requisite college cruising in those days there was a downtown jewelry store that had huge, mirrored storefronts that we used to cruise by and look at ourselves in. I was that vain at one time I’ll admit; it helped me gauge my cars cleanliness! LOL It also happened to be right across the street from Rye Motors.

Cue to some cruising right before Spring Break 1987. We’re at the “storefront” looking at how good we look yet again, when a chance glance across the street cause this guy’s heart to stop beating immediately. Suddenly, looking good ourselves didn’t appeal to me nearly as much as what was sitting across the street bathed in strategically placed spotlights; on the showroom floor at Rye was a real, live, honest-to-God 1987 GTA….

And it was Dark Brown Metallic. I’d not see another one for over 10 years….

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