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Ahoy! Land Yacht Approaching

I’ve even spent my own money on Mopar iron  – the first one was a ’69 Fury III.

During my dad’s life we had a not-so-friendly thorny conflict about the kinds of cars I bought, even after I moved out and was on my own. It really began in my teens in the mid-‘60s when I wanted to buy a sports car from a neighbor -- an Austin Healey Sprite for $300. One of my high school friends had a restored-to-mint fire-engine red Austin Healy 3000 with an in-line six engine with triple SU sidedraft carbs. It had one of the most seductive car body shapes ever, and no stock American engine looked like that! I thought the miniature convertible Sprite would be likewise entertainingly attractive to girls. Not the first time I made an automotive miscalculation with the opposite sex.

I had a paying job ($2.00/hr) working at a drive-in movie theater concessions stand and doing general repair and trash pick-up on the weekends. Whoa, the cultural expansion I got from that job! I logically begged my dad to loan me the $300, and I’d pay him back. Might as well been asking for money to go visit a stable of hookers. Relenting somewhat, he told me to research how much regular replacement parts would cost for the Sprite. I dimly recall that an alternator cost about $45 (in 1967 money), and he pointedly explained he could buy a Cadillac alternator for less than that – end of Sprite discussion.

Buying Cars By Weight

My do-it-yourself, USAF-lifer-fighter-plane tech dad only bought American cars --by weight. So I grew up around cars and station wagons with V8 engines typically over 400 CID with 4-bbl induction. Any import 4-cylinder engine was, “a sewing machine.” His idea of an econo-ride in 1974 was a used Plymouth -- a 2-door hardtop ‘69 Fury III with the “little” 318 CID engine. He bought it as his daily driver in ’74, right in the first OPEC-induced gas crisis. He bailed out someone trying to unload a V8, even one he considered small. That decent engine eventually led to my buying and driving (flogging) a ’72 Dodge Demon with a 318, but that’s a longer tale for another time.

The ’69 Fury had a new curved body and sweeping interior design and really put the previous, squared-off Fury’s interior and exterior in the weeds. You have to admit that almost 40 years later its looks have aged amazingly well for such a large car. My dad ultimately gave it to me to use in my last year at undergraduate college (’78) to eat up the desolate miles between New Mexico and Arizona, where my family lived.

I think he did it more as a defensive action for him than a generous one for me. He didn’t want to get any whining phone calls from you know who in the middle of the night saying how my “foreign twit-car” (his words for any import car I looked at) had broken down. I just had to pay the Fury’s operational costs: maintenance, insurance, and gas. What a bargain it was on some fronts. It never broke down, ever. The insurance was dirt-cheap because it was nearly 10 years old and full-sized. Filling it up with gas was its only liability. Well, I did get teased mercilessly from my college buds who had more modern and stylish rides.

4-Wheeled Magic Trick

But whenever I and five buddies wanted to take a road trip over 20 miles long or jaunt down to Juarez, Mexico, for some enlightening R&R, they’d volunteer the Fury III. Their newer rides were too cramped, and nobody would steal my car -- a thief knew he/she couldn’t afford to be bled every time they went to fill it with gas, even with its 2-bbl carb.

My heretofore teasing friends would graciously contribute gas money; they knew we weren’t going in it if they didn’t. It could haul all six of us and our gear with no whining from the car or us. I would lend it to friends to use as a moving truck – just pay for the gas. Once some of them managed to fit a twin sized mattress in the trunk – with the spare still in it – and to close the lid. Cavernous isn’t big enough to label it.

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