Is that a tin cup I hear rattling?

Could I possibly pick a more inopportune time for a Fall Fundraiser? What with the on-purpose and with-malice-aforethought derailing of the Trump economic juggernaut via unnecessary lockdowns; widespread civil unrest and violence; open revolutionary maneuvering from the more treacherous of our two political parties, and such-like unprecedented national angst, mounting a successful fundraiser would seem to be an extremely dubious proposition at the very best. For anybody, much less me.

But needs must, alas. Among other calamitous modern problems currently dogging the Casa CF balance sheet, I have an automobile engine-swap that badly needs doing most ricky-tick, something I dasn’t tackle my own self—lacking as I do both the equipment and the upper-blody strength to pull the job off without ending up squished flatter than a Joe Biden speech, a Ford 2.0-liter i4 cuddling snugly atop my chest and/or skull. I’ll have to hire the job done, to my eternal shame and disgrace as a proud, lifelong gearhead.

On the brighter side, I’ve been checking the local salvage yards, and there are a few compatible junkyard-mills to be had for as little as three hundred bucks. These motors all come with the reassurance and peace of mind that only an ironclad thirty-day guarantee can bring, so assumedly aren’t cursed with any of the same broken timing chains, bent valves, and maybe even holed piston-domes that combined to leave me stranded and forlorn on northbound I-85’s Brookshire off-ramp just over a month ago.

So yeah, we’ll just plunge on ahead with Ye Olde CF Blogge’s Fall Begathon nonetheless, and be damned to omens heralding the possibility of a lackluster outing. I didn’t do a Spring fundie the last two years, an event that had been more or less of a regular thing in years previous. So what the heck, this one’s actually overdue when you really think about it, right?

The PayPal “Support” link over there in the right sidebar awaits whatever alms y’all generous souls might be able to scrounge up and toss into the battered ol’ hat, even the most miserly of which will be very humbly appreciated by Ye Olde Blogge Hoste. I’ll leave this announcement up top for the remainder of the week, and hope for the best. Thanks, gang!

The long, HARD way home

Ed links to the greatest road-trip article EVAR.

The car in question was a Nocturne Blue 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, complete with the WS6 handling package. It was a non-T-top car with stunning paint, a perfect Camel Tan vinyl interior, gold 15 x 8-inch “snowflake” wheels, and A/C, and it was located just a few hours from Chris’ home. Now, I’ve no doubt that when he forwarded me the classified listing, he knew his life was about to get complicated. I was 2,000 miles away in Northern California, while he was basically within walking distance. Friends, however, are friends, and when they’re good ones they’ll go above and beyond to help a buddy out.

I’d been looking for another second-gen Trans Am ever since I sold my 1981 Turbo T/A a few years ago. It was a true Y84-code Special Edition WS6 T-top car with just 34,000 miles, and it was about as clean as they get. With so few miles on the clock though, I just never felt comfortable driving it, thus it was sold with the idea that I’d one day find another. My parameters were simple: I was looking for either a 1979 Silver 10th Anniversary Limited Edition or one in Nocturne Blue. Chris located the latter first.

After a thorough inspection, I struck a deal with the seller and the T/A was loaded onto a carrier bound for Chris’ house. Being overly critical about vehicles is what Chris does—it’s his profession—so when he said the Trans Am was a good car, I knew it would be.

The combination of Nocturne Blue paint, gold snowflakes, and that Camel Tan interior was a match made in heaven, and is perhaps the only combo that can soften the Trans Am’s mullet vibe. There were a couple of miniscule nicks and some minor swirls, but for the most part, many people would have considered it to be a show car. More exceptional still was the fact that the Trans Am was completely stock, showed just over 76,000 miles, and everything (except the damn clock) worked.

Heh. The old analog clocks in cars from that era almost never worked, seemed like. They went on the blink permanently the moment they rolled off the dealer lot, most of ’em.

For some, the prospect of clicking off a 700-mile day in an untested 41-year-old Pontiac might seem a bit unnerving. But Chris and I are two of the most optimistic automotive masochists you’re ever likely to meet, so for us, it was just another Wednesday. This is the type of experiential stuff we live for. Sure, you can do a road trip in a modern car, but, let’s face it, that’s just lazy. Plus, nobody gives a damn when you pull into a fuel station with a new car. A vintage Trans Am, though, is a whole other story.

Try it in a 56 Fairlane sometime, bub. I swear, half the fun of driving mine was the conversations it would spark with perfect strangers. That, and all the honking and waving and grinning as I cruised on down the highway.

On the road, the T/A confirmed what I already knew: that GM F-bodies are some of the best-driving cars of that era. They sit low, offering great comfort and road manners, and, when equipped with the optional WS6 suspension, they handle like a dream. Powered by the original 403-cu.in. Oldsmobile engine and backed by a three-speed TH350 automatic transmission, the Trans Am ran like a top. That is, until it didn’t.

Ain’t it always the way? Click on through for a damned enjoyable read. For some of us geezers, the fabled American love affair with the automobile will never dim or fade.

I turned 16—legal driving age in NC back then—in 1976, and had spent most of the entire year previous trying to wheedle and cajole my dad into getting me a Nocturne Blue ‘Zam—powered by the mighty 455ci Pontiac engine, thanksveddymuch—which sold for a whopping, unattainable four grand. I mean, I wanted one of those badass beauties so bad it made my hair hurt.

My dad, though, patiently reminded me again and again that he wasn’t, and I quote, “made of money,” that I would have to take what I got and be glad of it. Which, naturally, I did and I was. Being a great dad and a car geek himself, he did chaffeur me on repeated weekend trips to various local Pony-ack dealerships, where I collected all the sales brochures and posters I could carry for expansion of the ever-growing Trans Am shrine my bedroom had become.

So no, no Trans Am for me, alas. I ended up with a beautiful, pristine appliance-white 66 Mustang instead; my pop bought it off the auto-mechanics teacher at my high school, who had meticulously maintained and tweaked it over a good few years. I spent the next year or so that faithful little car mercilessly: drag-racing it up and down Franklin Blvd in Gastonia (where my sturdy little 289 handily shamed many a 350 Chevy); wrecking it a cpl-three times; nearly wrecking it even more times; having it repainted when the dents had become just too unsightly to tolerate, then adding a sporty crimson pinstripe down each side myself; adding a top-of-the-line Craig 8-track system (100 watts!!) with Jensen Triaxial 6×9 speakers on the back deck; washing, cleaning, polishing, wrenching, and just generally having myself a total ball with that little Pony-car.

Then, once I had gotten the ‘Stang all covered with sweat and its tongue hanging out from my abusive hot-rodding, it got traded in for a 73 Pontiac LeMans, 350/350, my first and only GM product for many a long, long year. That’s the car that I had to swap out the tranny three damned times over one broiling-hot summer, lying underneath the thing in the backyard with that heavy-ass transmission balanced on my chest as I tried to reach up and get the top two bolts started.

Good times, good times. So sad that nowadays you can scarcely tell today’s anonymous, nondescript plastic egg-mobiles apart, and hardly anybody still cares anyway. They’re missing out on something truly wonderful.

I don’t want to live in a world without a Weinermobile in it

I swear, folks, I have this nagging recollection of having seen a most disturbing story someplace or other claiming that Oscar Mayer was doing away with its fabled fleet of Weinermobiles. Naturally, I was aghast at the grievous blow to classic Americana such a cancellation would represent. Worse still, though, is that in today’s PC nightmare it isn’t at all hard to imagine it happening. I’m quite sure that the “waste and excess” of it; the damage to Gaia from CO2 emissions and fossil-fuel usage; the safety hazards created by having these large, unwieldy vehicles lumbering across the nation, etc etc etc have made for some real headaches for Oscar Mayer in recent years.

The steady stream of protests, whining, and threats of violence doubtless endured by the fine folks at Oscar Mayer for this horrid display of callousness, reckless disregard, and bad stewardship would no doubt make deciding to just say to hell with it pretty much a no-brainer for at least some of the OM suits. Thankfully, however, I looked around some and could find no confirmation of my admittedly vague memory, nor even a hint of such. Eventually I ended up stubling across the very font of all things Weinermobile: Oscar Mayer’s own Weinermobile website, which is a laff riot. That happy sojourn led to further wanderings, which wound up providing all the excuse I’ll ever need to commend y’all’s attention to this treasure trove of fun facts. A sampling:

1940 Wienermobile:
The 1940’s Wienermobile was a bit smaller than the 1930’s model and featured a small pod on top for the driver as well as a hatch at the very rear for the ‘world’s tiniest chef’ to poke out of.

Wienermobile Specifications, 1940:
Builder: General Body Company of Chicago, Illinois

Cost: $5,000

Bells and Whistles: 13 feet of metal in the shape of an Oscar Mayer Wiener, open cockpits in center and rear of vehicle

Yes, of COURSE they have pictures. But alas, all is not perpetual sunshine and lightness of heart; even in Weinerville, trouble can rear its ugly head now and then.

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pulled over for being a road hog
The Wienermobile just got a good grilling — from cops.

The famous Oscar Mayer marketing vehicle was stopped Sunday for hot-dogging on a road in Wisconsin, deputies in Waukesha County said.

The department seemed to relish the bust in a Facebook post.

“What really happened on that fateful day with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile?” the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department said Monday. “The driver of the ­#Wienermobile was stopped and given a verbal warning by a Waukesha County Sheriff’s Deputy for not following the Move Over Law.”

The law requires drivers to move over a lane if they see emergency vehicles on the side of the road with their lights on — and the rule applies even to the operators of ­Wienermobiles.

God bless the Weinermobile, I say. May it grace our cultural landscape forever, to go on roaming America’s great highways and byways to bring a smile, a laugh, or simply a quick, delicious lunch to all people of good will everywhere.

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