Dancing With The Cars: The Dwyer Collection, Part One
By my count there’s already about 4 cars shows lost to this COVID-19, and the car show season around these parts isn’t very long! With an eye towards some good ones coming up, I drift off thinking about some of the cars that got me where I am today. Not many of them are classics, but all have a little story.
Oldsmobile Wagon- I learned to drive on this mofo, as I revisit every car I ever owned. This was not titled in my name, but once you have 20 fast-food containers in any one place, squatters rights apply. Best memories: 1) Entering and exiting from the tailgate since the driver's door handle didn't work, nor the key on the passenger door. 2) Driving home from Triton College one December night, accelerator sticks to the floor on North Ave eastbound. By the time I run the light at Thatcher, I'm doing 100 and pull the key. Finally stopped at 78th. Walked to Johnnies Italian Ice and had a beef sandwich…turns out it the spring on the throttle had busted. This was also my first foray into larger-than stock stereo—when I rigged an under-dash 8-track player into the sweet AM/FM luxe sound system. First song played? Jailbreak.
Buick Riviera- This was car Number 2 for me. Again, not in the ownership category yet, but this car was basically mine for the formative ages 17-21. My high school parking lot was filled with BMW, Mercedes, Alfa-Romeo etc, so my car was considered gauche by those standards. But I loved it. Favorite memories: 1) There was a dunes trip featuring many bad and fun decisions, starting with a trunk full-of-beer, ending with a roadside restaurant. 2) Hitching this thing to a trailer to pull a Homecoming float, and afterwards, not knowing how to dispose of the float properly so just hitting the gas on Chicago Avenue, launching debris like the rooster-tail of a speed boat. By the time I got to the U-Haul location, the trailer was clean, with only a few remnants of tissue and paper-mache dangling from the back. 3) Midnight speeding on Lower Wacker, Lights off Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and The Cure. 4) Front-wheel drive burn-outs.
Chevy Vega- I ventured into co-ownership with this one (The model on the top is my buddy John, who scraped together the needed 125.00 to become a 50% owner of this thing. The stereo, again, was more than enough reason to be seen in the thing. We connected the Kraco cassette deck and all of it’s 100watts of power to some old bookshelf speakers that just laid flat in the back. Thumpity thump-thump.
Chevy Nova- "College Car.” Everyone should own a car like this. It had a life of it's own (as it was either always running, or never starting). I would come home from a DJ gig at 2AM, and leave it running in the parking lot because I would have to work at 6 the next morning. The headlights stopped working at some point after I kicked in the grille (probably after it didn't start), so I installed the fog lights for my 'everydays', as it were. The drivers door didn't open (correction, it opened, but had to be closed from the OUTSIDE, with a lift and a shimmy) so I would jump in through the window. I still have the scar on my leg from the turn signal post catching my leg as I slid in one time. Memories: 1) Well, painting this thing while parked in front of my dorm--it became an informal party of sorts. I was surprised by the girls who would ask to have their picture taken in front of it. I'm sure now that those photos are tucked in albums and boxes captioned, "Here's me with the loser who draws on his pants and paints checks on his car." 2) A friend goes to the hospital after collapsing and I drive this thing like a bat-out-of-hell into the night to see him, and when I get there, he asks if I can do him a favor? "Sure," I tell him. He then asks me to drive over to his apartment and grab his stash so his fiancee won't find out about it…I learned a lot that night, mostly about stuff I never wanted to know. 3) Some 300 unpaid parking tickets---this is the era when I began to 'make my own spaces.'
Mitsubishi Pickup- The Truck Years.
My sister sold me this Mitsu Pick-Up right around the time I abandoned the checkerboard Nova in a parking lot behind Appletree Stereo in Normal (Hell, it may still be there!)
it was my first go-around with 4-Wheel drive--and I've had something with 4WD ever since. This truck carried me many nights and mornings from Normal to Peoria and back working in my first two radio jobs. A typical weekend would start Friday at 10PM-2AM in Bloomington, then to Peoria for 6-Noon, then back to Bloomington for a 2-6PM shift. Nap, dinner, then back to peoria for Mid-6AM plus board op for the religious shows til' 8AM when Jon Symmonds would come in for the 1-0-Sixties. Then back to Bloomington for noon to 6. Whew. Took out a few cornfields in the by-and-by, but that truck kept kicking. I put the most obscene stereo in that thing. It was too big for the dash (with the EQ, CD and Cassette….oh yeah) so I strapped it to the tranny hump with some huge screws and jammed! Funniest Moments: 1) Filling up the tank on the way out of town, and my Amoco Card gets rejected. So, Gomer cuts up my card right in front of me--and there's still the matter of the gas I purchased and not paid for. I have to leave him my license, and the whole episode makes me late for work in Peoria…so i'm 'making up time' and get pulled over--with--wait for it--NO LICENSE. I tell the cop my predicament and to my surprise, he lets me go! 2) There once was a topper from Delaware…the topper for this truck was held on with some c-clamps, that, during the 2 years or so that I ran this thing, loosened themselves right up and fell off. The double-sided sticky tape heroically stood up to a few trips back and forth, but finally, on the entrance ramp from 51 north to 55 South/74 West, the thing lifted off like a parasail, spinning and floating silently in my rear-view mirror before smashing to the ground and splintering. Ashes to ashes, I say, and drive on… 3) A trip to NIU or EIU to visit my buddy Patrick and sleeping in the bed of the truck on a couch while drunk college students pounded on the roof. I remember a LOT of beer cans scattered about. 4) One very angry, very large, very drunk NOT ex-boyfriend of the girl in the passenger seat trying to lift the back of the truck off the ground whilst I tried to drive away
Red Dodge Daytona- This was it! My first new car I bought with my own money. It must have been about $7800.00 all delivered and all. Every cent of every DJ gig I ever did, plus the truck as a trade. This car took me and my buddy Patrick to Graceland to see the King, past many Waffle Houses and at one point, every damn service light was on at the same time. Seems the main seal hadn’t been installed correctly at the factory…yikes.
White Dodge Daytona-From owning my first new car to bowing to my first impulse car purchase. I was having my red dodge serviced, and this guy was sitting on the lot (a recent trade-in, LOW MILES! COLD AIR! blahblah.) But it said 'Shelby' on the side right? I took this for the day as a loaner, and the turbo was all I needed to feel! Never got the red one back, and this became the beginning of the end for me. The torque-steer was so bad I almost drove right into Michaels when we were racing under the hospital in Peoria. It was very "Fast and Furious" if it were more, well…Fast. By the way, Michaels and the Camaro RS couldn't hold a candle to the turbo4 SCREAMER! To make this car even more awesome--I had my friend Trent (Trentster graphics in peoria---I'm sure it's long gone) paint a claw scratching it's way out of the bump in the hood…with eerie eyes peeking out from underneath…who knows what terror lurks under??? He also added some graphic squares on the side…in mint green. Yeah, if you were thinking that this machine attracted the ladies--you would be right. Just call this the 1990's version of AXE body spray. This car was sold in the QCA, and has been spotted every now and then…look close, I've put a finders fee of $3.00 out there for anyone who reconnects me to it…yes. $3.00.
- Sorry Patrick , but for all your cool driving know-how at present--you have to agree it may never have happened if someone wasn't stupid and patient enough to let you learn to drive a stick shift on his car. This is that car. I will be with you in the winner circle when you win Le Mans.
- Coming out of work at Rocky's to find a topless girl sprawled on the hood so her boyfriend could take a picture of her for "Playboy". The painted claw was THAT cool…I don't think either one was ever published.
- Driving faster-than-necessary everywhere, all the time. Seriously people think about that $3.00 offer…
1993 Ford Probe GT- The baby delivered me from the somewhat erratic performance of the Dodge Daytona, and into my relationship with Ford that continues today. I originally ordered this car from Dahl Ford in Davenport (Ike and I were BOTH young back then!), but due to some...um...timeline issues, cancelled my special order from the factory, and purchased from Jim "Smitty" Smith off the lot at Reynolds Ford the same day.
I loved the 5-speed Manual and how this car drove, but my relationship with front-wheel drive was starting to sputter. I also learned that Manual windows were for suckas, and that burning rubber with FWD filled the engine compartment with a hard to clean resin.
This time period was also my first foray into multiple-vehicle ownership. This was my second "GT" at the time...the other being an Opel GT, which was short-lived but a car I wish I had back. The other short-lived ownership, a Nissan Sentra--it was complicated.
But the Probe GT was a great ride.
- My first conversation with the girl who would later become Mrs. Dwyer. We talked for hours sitting in the driveway of her parents house, the whole time I couldn't believe someone this beautiful and cool would even give me the time of day. Still have trouble with that to this day Tree Dwyer.
- Our East-Coast road trip (same girl) with the squeaky styrofoam cooler and salami sandwiches. NYC at 4AM.