Long before anyone was talking about nitrous oxide as a monstrous speed and power boost for their hot rods, I was the proud owner… get ready… of a 1981 Subaru GL. Yessirree. I purchased it from my uncle over a period of years for the whopping monthly installment of $100. I began throwing a paper route for the Arkansas Democrat in my freshman or sophomore year.
[By the way, most you yocals don’t realize it, but the Democrat in those days was the underdog competing against the much older and established Arkansas Gazette. Here’s a fascinating history of Little Rock’s paper war which resulted in the 1991 closure of the Gazette. The Democrat bought all its assets at the time and changed its name to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to reflect “The Best of Both.”]
I threw the route in my neighborhood of Marlowe Manor and in the adjacent uppity neighborhood/estates of Hillsborough out on Hinson Road in Little Rock.
This Subaru could achieve a top speed of almost 85 mph, especially as it seemed to do one weekday on the way to school after a freeze. I was involved in a four-car accident with my buddy, Chris Franzetti in the passenger seat. We looked up at saw that the car in front of the one we were following suddenly lost control and slid sideways. I remarked something to Chris like, “Oboy, the idiots who can’t drive on ice are out today.” Then the car in front of me began to slide. In what seemed like a heartbeat, we also were sliding. I rammed the car in front of me, who had already rammed the one in front of it. We sat in sullen silence for only a second before we were also rammed by the car behind us. I can’t recall exactly how our conversation went as we waited for the cops, but I’m pretty sure I got lumped into the idiot category several times.
I drove Blue Betsy to Ouachita for my first year of college. My suitemates and dorm buddies delighted for a full two years in snatching my keys out of my room and moving Betsy to various locations in town and on campus. I was woken one night by the campus police banging on my dorm door. Blearily, I opened it and was asked rather rudely to move my car off the front steps of the student center. (The culprits, Ken Gibson and Andy Dean, had this picture snapped of themselves before they vanished from the scene; I’m pretty sure Mitch Bettis was the photographer.)
Another night it was the Arkadelphia police who informed me that my car was parked on the Gildner Ford used car light with its hazards on. When I arrived (I can’t remember if it was a squad car ride or if I got a ride from my roommate), I had to bull my way into the car since it was completely filled with balloons. In exasperation, I popped one, only to have a shower of baby powder from the resultant explosion. They had all been filled with one substance or another. Don’t ask.
I can remember that it had one feature that soon became standard on most cars, but at the time was pretty revolutionary. I took full advantage of it. It was a lever beside the driver’s seat that when pulled, instantly popped the trunk. Oooo. Aaaah. For a while, I would attach some kind of sign to the underside of the trunk lid, and when the appropriate friend was behind me in school traffic, I just loved pulling the lever for an instant high.
Betsy served me well throughout high school. One of my best friends, Bryant Turbeville, was given a 300ZX buy his folks which I don’t think he was nearly as proud of as the one I worked for by flipping newspapers artfully over the roof of a Subaru.
She passed away on a dirt road between Hamburg and Crossett during the summer of 1988. I was serving at First Baptist Crossett as a summer youth minister, and as I churned across a small bridge, one of the tires fell into a hole on the bridge (you gotta love those backroads in rural Arkansas!). It snapped my tire rod, apparently, and as I exited the bridge, one of the wheels was not pointing in the direction that I wanted it to go.
I flipped down the road, rolling several times before landing upside down in a ditch. I can remember marveling at the amount of cassette tapes in my car as they dropped their way like hail onto the ceiling of the car that I was sprawled upon. I rolled “up” a window to get out and walked unscratched and bemused to the nearest house to call my grandfather (I lived with them that summer). It was a rather untimely death for my first car.
Thank goodness the nitrous tanks didn’t explode…
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