A clear day in August, not too hot, and I am tooling down Montana 287 in my brother’s 1975 Pontiac Grand Prix. It has power seats, real wood accents on the dash, and a slight shimmy at 75. The long delta hood forms its own horizon, and the octagonal ornament at the end of it seems about a mile away. This car, two tons of Detroit iron, in many ways symbolizes a certain America: muscular and ostentatious and seriously wasteful. The hood alone probably weighs more than a Ford Fiesta. I imagine I’m getting about 14 miles to the gallon.
There was a time I would have lusted after such a car. But I could never have afforded it in the year it was built, or even a couple of years after. At that time I had a low-paying job and three kids all under the age of six. Economic realities dictated a more practical ride: a four-door Datsun 510. I owned it 10 years. That was a good car, but I miss it less than you’d think.
An automobile like this, it reminds me of Charlie’s Angels and CHiPs and Ricardo Montalban talking about fine Corinthian leather. I should be wearing a leisure suit and enormous sunglasses with a gradient tint. I should be wearing the sideburns I had back then. As it is, I look like some old guy who bought this car new and took pretty good care of it. In short, a boring guy. It’s one of those cases where the driver shows a lot more miles than his ride. Let’s just say I will be turning the heads of no pretty girls.
Still, I like driving this car. It makes me smile. I like how it takes the dips in the road like a motorboat. I like the way you have to roll down the windows by hand. I like that old-car smell. Coming up I-90 I passed a tractor-trailer hauling junk cars, all squashed flat for easier transport. I could still see the grills, though. Every car on that trailer was 20 years newer than this one. Somehow, this Grand Prix has outlived them all – no mean feat considering Montana weather and Montana roads.
The Grand Prix abides. And, for now, so do I. I suppose we’re both more about the past than the potential. Then again, the body’s OK, the tires are fair and that V8 still sounds pretty smooth. Maybe the best miles are yet to come.