Sorry for the long wait for my next recollection. I’ve got hundreds of stories, all true, but I’ve been screwing around and haven’t taken care of business. Please remember, absolutely EVERY SINGLE WORD is true. Thank you.
In about October 1967, I parked my ’65 Dodge Coronet 500, two-door hard-top convertible, with a 383 engine, on Anaheim Boulevard, across the street from the Anaheim Dodge new-and used-car dealership. I was on “Auto Row” in Anaheim with new-car dealers as far as the eye could see. I ran across the street and headed for the parts department, where I hoped to get a part for my car. A man came out of the showroom and headed for me. “Come on in, we’ve got some great deals.” Why not? He showed me a 1967 Dodge Polara. It had power everything and was a fucking STEAL at $3200, but I told Monte, the salesman, “I like something a little “hotter.” He said, “I know just what you’d like.” I followed him outside to a brand-new two-door hard-top 1968 Dodge Charger RT with big-ass “Bumble-Bee” stickers on the rear quarter-panels, a 440 c.i.d. engine with three two-barrel carbs (a SIX-PACK), with an air scoop in the hood. That car is in a tie for second place for the number of carbs in a car I’ve driven. The winner is a 1968 Maserati, which had SIX dual side-draft Weber carburetors, which I drove at NINETY (90) mph, in a 25 mph zone, but that’s another story. You may be, at this time, starting to think that I’m shitting you. I’m not, thank you. Monte was his name. How can I remember that? Seriously, NOBODY could remember that, right? Don’t give up, there’s a surprise ending to this story.
I fired her up and headed for the street in 1st gear. On the street, I tried to shift into 2nd and the damned thing ground the gears like a motherfucker. EVERY time I tried to up- or down-shift the goddamn tranny, it would grind. It absolutely was not my fault, it was the cheap-ass tranny that Dodge bought from some Lithuanian pimp, and not from MUNCIE, where they got all their 4-speeds both before and after 1968, but THAT tranny was completely fucked at city driving speeds. I had to double-clutch the motherfucker on ALL shifts. Monte thought that I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. I explained to him that it was entirely the fault of the transmission but he didn’t believe me.
Monte had told me, a BUNCH of times, that we were going to go to a street where I could “open it up,” as he explained it. He guaranteed that I could go as fast as I wanted and that there was a ZERO possibility of the cops being anywhere near there. About half-way through his telling me about this wonderful place the second time, I had figured out that the city of Anaheim had built this street for all of the dealerships to use as a TEST TRACK, so as to sell more cars and contribute the sales tax to the city’s bank account. Cops would queer that deal. Yee-hah. It was 1 mile long, with dead-ends at both ends, with a signal-controlled intersection in the middle.
In 2nd gear, at about 25 mph, I drove over some railroad tracks, slowed for a right turn, down-shifted to 1st, noiselessly and smoothly by double clutching it, and made the turn. I had put on my lap belt before that car had moved an inch, but Monte hadn’t put his on. I straightened her out and hammered it. Monte immediately started looking for his seat belt. It was tangled up under his bucket seat so he braced his left foot against the transmission tunnel, his right foot up against the fire-wall, his left arm was around the upper back of his seat, and his right arm was on the door, with his right hand holding the roof of the car with a DEATH GRIP.
I glanced down and saw the needle passing 100 mph. At the same moment, Monte released some of his “holds” and leaned WAY over, so he could see the speedo. He said, “Man, it sure gets up to a hundred miles an hour, fast, doesn’t it?” I said, “It sure does,” shifted into 4th gear at 105, and shut her down after the needle had pointed to 110. It shifted perfectly, AT SPEED, but the son of a bitch was squirrelly in traffic. It was, most definitely, a POS tranny. I COASTED to a fucking stop, thank you. I down-shifted all the way down to second and didn’t touch the brake until I was doing only 30 mph.
Over FORTY years later, I was living in a senior living facility, in Anaheim, and my table-mate, in the dining room, was a nice woman named Charlene. At the table, one day, I told her this story. When I was through, she told me she had heard the SAME STORY a dozen or more times. She explained that she had worked for McPeak Chrysler/Plymouth, which was also on Auto Row, and that the same people owned both dealerships. They all went to the same Bar-B-Ques and Christmas parties, so she knew the salesman I had taken on that ride. His name was Monte Something and he told the story to everyone he met. He had told it thousands of times.
Charlene told me that every time he told the story he would say, at the end of it, “I have to give him this: he knew what he was doing; he was a good driver.” Thank you, Monte.