atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#1726: The Blue Bomb.

The Blue Bomb. How the hell could I have been blogging for more than three years! and not have talked about my first car?

Hell, I didn't even commemorate the third anniversary of the Fungus. This blog started April 3, 2006, and it's now three years and five months old.

Anyway, the Bomb. Here is a picture of the Bomb's twin:

Dad bought the Bomb new in 1975. We didn't call it the Bomb then; it was a new Chevrolet Impala sedan, and it was a nice car. (It had come down to a choice between the Bomb or a gold Buick convertible, but Dad got a better price on the Impala.) It was the first car I think the family ever had which had cloth upholstery in it, which was a vast improvement over vinyl.

We went on a trip right after taking delivery of the thing; we went to Saint Augustine, Florida. I don't know what the attraction of that place was, but we went there a lot. (The next year we went to Disneyworld.) I clearly remember Dad stringently following the break-in procedure and keeping his speed below 55 until we'd gone 500 miles; then he stepped on it as soon as the odometer rolled past 500.0.

In 1977 Dad bought a sailboat, and the Bomb got a trailer hitch and air shocks so it could tow the boat. It had no trouble towing anything, not with a Chevy 350 and a Turbo-hydromatic 350 auto transmission.

One winter--I don't remember when, exactly--the Bomb's catalytic convertor caught fire. The Bomb had been the first car our family bought which had smog-control crap on it (the last new car had been the Kingswood wagon, in 1970) and something happened to the cat; it overheated. All I remember was waking up stupid-early to panic and pandemonium as Dad was trying to put out the fire under the car. There was a scorched spot on the carpet and it stunk in the car....

The Bomb also got t-boned: my oldest sister, my other sister, and some others were coming back from something or other and a moron in a Dodge van ran a stop sign. The entire left side of the car from A-pillar to C-pillar was caved in. But the car was repaired and returned to service.

My brother got a CB radio for his birthday about the time that CB radio was big--he installed it in the Bomb. I remember right after the thing was in the car, he and I and his friend Rick were in the car taking part in the miracle of non-telephonic telecommunication when Dad came out and knocked on the window...and the sky had gone green as severe weather approached and he wanted us to come inside and go into the basement.

There was the spot on the right front fender where my brother--learning to drive--bumped into one of the trees bordering the driveway.

In 1982 the Bomb started missing on one cylinder. It would rev up, then chug! the whole car would lurch, and then it would rev again, and chug! chug! miss. We were told it was a fautly cam; apparently engines of mid-70's vintage had a problem with cams going bad. (Much later, after it was too late by far to check, I learned that a problem with the smog pump had been the real culprit for many of these failures.)

Dad bought a used car from our next-door neighbor, and the Bomb sat in the driveway.

In 1983 I got my driver's license, and I drove the Bomb...and one night coming home from roller skating I tried speeding for the very first time. The fuel pump blew, though I didn't know it, and that was pretty well the end of that engine. From then on, it took furious juggling of the throttle to keep it running, even after the fuel pump was replaced, and it had the stereotypical beater car sound. (Remember what Sebulba's pod racer sounded like? That noise.)

The Bomb languished in the garage. I would periodically go out and look at the engine, trying to figure out what the hell I could do about it. 1984 we learned that--to save costs--the school day would be an hour shorter. I would have to get to school an hour later, meaning Mom could not drop me off at school before going to work. Several ideas were bandied about but finally my Dad decided to have my brother's mechanic friend Pat put a junkyard engine into the car, and I would drive it to school.


Engine and installation ran $450, and a few days after school started I happily affixed a Crete-Monee High School parking sticker in the rear window of the Bomb.

Understand, at this point, the car was a beater. There were rust holes behind the rear wheels. There were dents and dings all over the place. The grille was messed up. The beltline trim had fallen off most of the car. The forlorn base of a broken CB antenna graced the trunk lid; the CB radio was long gone and the dash radio was AM-only.

(As far as I know, my brother still has the CB radio.)

But it was mine. This was when kids weren't picky about the cars they drove; just having your own car was paradise.

The car served me well for six years. It seemed like forever, but it really was only six years; and they were nice years for the most part. The Bomb failed to start on me only twice, and both times were due to a faulty battery cable. The car never got stuck in snow either.

Trips taken:

* to Mount Vernon, Iowa, to visit a friend at college (this trip included the only time I've driven over 100 MPH.)
* to Millstadt, Illinois, a suburb of Saint Louis (at least twice)
* several trips to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where we kept the sailboat
* to Bristol Renassaince Faire
* to Great America

I drove all over creation in that car. It got about 20 MPG on the highway; but gas cost less than $0.80 per gallon for much of the 1980s and fuel economy never really worried me.

But when I started college in 1990 I drove the car for a month or so before I got a 1977 Impala to commute in, and that was the end of the Bomb; I never drove it again.

The Bomb sat in our driveway; then it sat in our back yard. After a couple years or so the Code Enforcement people got on us about it and we shipped it to Pat the Mechanic's for storage.

I would have driven it one more time, but the brakes didn't work; the lines had rusted: brake fluid poured into the master cylinder reservoir ran right out again through the bottom. I had to settle for starting the car and moving it into the middle of the back yard, and then just sitting in it and listening to the motor run. Once again, the car had not failed me: I put a battery in it, put some gas in the float bowl, turned the key...and she roared to life, just like always.

Later that night I went out there again and started it...and I cried.

The Bomb went into storage; I went on with things, graduated from college and moved to Cedar Rapids.

I had occasion to go back there to get a few things from the car, mementos...and what I saw was not a pretty sight. The entire bottom had rusted out of the trunk; the gas tank had rusted away too. The interior was moldy. The engine compartment had weeds in it. The car was not even remotely salvageable.

The Bomb got crushed not too much later; whatever unoxidized iron was left has now been made into other things.

Good Lord, I miss that car.

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