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….