My Freedom Rides on Four Wheels

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Precarious Adventure

So, today was the day I finally got my project car. A short 40 minute drive up to Stockton resulted in a quick and painless transaction.  I came away with a 1974 Chevelle Malibu Classic. We were under the impression that this was just a Malibu, but were surprised (pleased) to see that it had the top trim level. That meant AC and Swivel seats (and other little after market bonuses such as a push button start and Edelbrock Carb). On the down side, the interior was thrashed and required more work then I was led to believe. Lastly, the power windows were down and not functional, and the speedometer and the fuel gauge did not work. But, with the engine having been rebuilt by the guy who owned the car before the seller, I concluded that this would save me a significant amount of money and work, balancing out the things that weren’t working.

Little did I know, my drive home would prove…adventurous and scary.

The first hiccup happened after we pulled into an Arco Station off of 99. My wife was in the other car with the kids and was waiting a way off when I discovered that the emergency brake would not release. I pulled vainly at the brake release without success. Thankfully, Steve, the seller, came to our rescue and showed me how to release the brake (by pulling the release and pulling up on the brake at the same time). I chalk this one up to one of the quirks of owning a 36 year old car.

Gassed up and on our way, we pulled onto 99 and drove south towards Manteca. I tested the motor out, stretching her legs and hearing her rumble as I felt her pick up in pace. Jenna had to work hard to keep up with the Avenger’s 4 cylinder engine. At this point, I decided I wanted to take the 120 exit and make for 5. Not having a right hand side mirror, I barely see the minivan in my blind spot. As I turn the wheel to move back into my lane, I discover, to my horror, that the steering wheel had popped off of the column. As the Chevelle begins to swerve between the slow lane and the exit lane, I quickly place the steering wheel back onto the column and calm down. As soon as it was safe, I move into the 120 exit lane.

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. A guy and his girlfriend in a 64 or 65 Impala came up behind me, then moved into the middle lane and matched speed in order to get a better look at the Chevelle. I thought that was pretty cool.

As soon as I got onto 5, I started to relax. In fact, after I got over the steering wheel popping off, I actually started to enjoy the drive home. I would periodically step on the gas just to hear her roar. But that was cut short by Jenna pulling up next to me in the Avenger and trying to tell me something. It looked like she was asking me if I was okay, to which I responded, with a dumb smile, that Yes, I was okay. It was only later that she told me that she was trying to tell me that I was going too fast. This prompted her to get in front of me and slow down.

After another half hour of being on the road, Jenna opened up the garage and I pulled in.

I still had that dumb smile on my face, but quickly sobered up as I started mentally ticking off all the things that needed to be done to get the Chevelle to safe driver status.

Lots of work ahead, but it’s going to be a whole lot of fun.