Born under a good sign
You’ve heard the old saying, “yup, she was built on a good day”, meaning the car in question was somehow built on a special day. Yeah, a day like no other, when everybody’s lunch was perfect, when somehow the entire factory floor had gotten laid the night before, when the bonuses finally came through and the stars all lined up perfectly over the Hamtramck plant and every single car that left the line that day was a winner. Sure, yeah right. Weeellllll, maybe it ain’t so far fetched.
I’ve had a few cars that just sucked no matter what and I’ve worked on more than a few that required what amounted to a friggin’ excorcism to finally behave in an acceptable fashion. I’m not just talking parts replacement on a grand scale, I am talking about consulting the Goetia, blood letting, and ritual tool sacrifice.
On the other hand I have owned cars that just seemed right. It didn’t matter what kind of day it was or what brand of gas was in ‘em. These cars would fly down the road and they always seemed to know the way to wherever it was the driver wanted to go. I am talking about the kind of car that could get you out of a bad situation, save your life, curry favor, lay the magic patch, and evade all kinds of radar and pursuit. Magic. Born on a good day.
My ’66 Satellite is just that kind of car and I know it is true because I should be dead by most counts, or at least in jail or broken in some insane physical fashion (the mental damage is there for all to see). I’ve taken dirt far too fast at night under the influence and that alone is enough for me to know that the car is the reason I can write this. The car is imbued with properties that enable it to achieve or receive divine instruction. I swear it can steer itself. In all the years I’ve owned it, it has never even so much as run out of gas and that has absolutely NOTHING to do with me; every other car I’ve owned has run out of gas. The Satellite died on me ONCE…four blocks from the parts store in San Francisco…thank you, late model Chrysler electronic ignition. If I had left the frickin’ points distributor in there it never would have happened.
One night, in the rain, I got on the 101 headed south. I entered at the Caesar Chavez on ramp under power and gave her a touch too much and she lept into kick-down. The ass end violently kicked out thanks to the “sure-grip” and I lifted like a rookie but remembered to counter steer and she kinda straightened out. I was now moving to the left across four lanes of highway at night in the rain at approximately 10 p.m. going over 50 mph in a major city. Oh shit.
I put in a little throttle but she kicked out the other way and not very nicely. I tried and failed to straighten and it was looking like center divider rail slide for me…carburger, with a 100% human patty. I was somehow miraculously in a major hole in the traffic and I tried again to counter steer and throttle and the car fully spun back across all four lanes and cut out. We were rolling backwards now and I laid in the brake and held steady thinking “it’s gotta be now.” By that I meant death or dismemberment. I looked to the left and saw headlights slowing down through the drizzle. I was now tail against the right-hand retaining wall that held Bernal Heights from flowing out over the highway.
I had no time to think. Adrenaline was king now and I mechanically shifted to neutral, keyed her and she barked right to life and I cranked right and pulled away unscathed. Not one scratch, across four lanes of freeway sideways and back again backwards. No blood, no dents, no damage, nothing but a racing heart, whispered thank you’s to the divinities and some strange smelling sweat.