The brutal sun finally started setting as I headed up the Grapevine. Since my plan was to go for broke, I had opened the taps. According to the speedometer, I was pushing 75 mph. It had only been 50 miles since Bakersfield, but with the gas leak and increased RPM I decided I needed to refuel one more time before making the big downhill home to Los Angeles. This of course meant engaging in my own personal stupidest act of 2008: adding gas with the engine still running. I found a nice, empty looking station near Gorman. Long story short, I’m still here. And the drive into LA turned out to be cathartic.
Anyway, I’d done it. Obviously, there’d been much discussion between me and Murilee regarding the prospect of just saying “hell no” and sending the cash back to Prague. Especially after the Chrysler refused to start. His argument was, “You need to do this. Every car guy needs to have an adventure like this with a beater in the middle of nowhere.” Cruel? A bad friend? Insane? A little of all three, sure. But also wise. I did need to do this. As an automotive journalist, how could I not? Like Camus said, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”
There is something near-magical about cruising Los Angeles at dusk in a gigantic American convertible. The provenance is spot on. Whatever other reasons there are for this car’s existence, they’re little more than hollow echoes. The Chrysler was as at home as any of the palm trees lining the freeway. Passing Dodger Stadium I actually felt near human again, after six hours of (sweaty) suffering. But you see, this was just a trick of time and circumstance. The damn Chrysler was cursed.
I drove the behemoth to a deserted street and called my lady, “Pick me up. Come pick me up, now!” Honestly, I wanted to pour gas over the 300 and strike a match. At least beat on it with a hammer. She got me home, I showered, and quite honestly forgot about the horrible car for the next few months.
Well, tried to forget. See, the Czechs still wanted the blasted thing. The problem, or precisely one of the problems, was the shipping facility’s hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Not exactly a convenient time frame, especially since it would take two drivers to tango. Also, by then, I hated the 300. I didn’t want to go anywhere near it; it’s able to produce more headaches-per-mile than any car, well, ever. Still, I had to hold up my end of the bargain and eventually blocked out a day when both me and my poor, sweet, innocent fiancée were free.
After forty-five minutes of wrenching, hammering and straight-up cussing (plus jumper cable), the once mighty 440 turned over. Victory! Now all I had to do was pilot the ship 20 miles down to the port and wash my hands of the evil bastard forever. Ha ha ha! As I began gaining speed I heard a “thwap thwap thwapping” sound. I thought it must be the roof, but it got louder as I went faster. I pulled over and — voila! — the good ole bias-ply tread had separated from the tire. At least I live two blocks from a tire shop, right?
Oh so wrong. Not only didn’t they have a suitable tire in stock, but they couldn’t think of a single tire shop in town that would stock such a size. Even the competitors three blocks away. Pricks. Well, I’d simply drive. Just kidding! The damn 300 refused to start. Then the shop monkeys told me I couldn’t park there. I’ve rarely felt so violent in my life. I raised the white flag and called AAA, explaining that I needed a flatbed. Forty-five minutes later I get a call, “Our driver’s down at Figueroa and 45th street. He can’t find you.” As calmly as possible I explained that the Chrysler was broken down on the corner of Figueroa and 45th AVENUE, you retarded motherfuckers! Come get us, now.
The flatbed grabbed us and dropped us off without incident. Of course, seeing as how that Chrysler is for evil, the port facility had no record of the car or the buyer. Another 90 minutes of frustration right there. My girl and I did get a great tour of the shipping joint’s “good stuff” that was waiting to be sent off to Europe. But even that wasn’t worth the heartache of this Chrysler. Have I learned my lesson? You betcha. I’m looking at a 1969 Ford Torino Convertible in the morning, but this one “runs good.”