That's Why the Writer is a Vamp

Andrew Dederer
by Andrew Dederer
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that s why the writer is a vamp
When I got my driving license, I couldn’t vote. Legal drinking was a distant speck on the horizon. But I didn’t care. I was captain of my own ship, master of my own destiny. Within a few months, the parental units provided regular access to the family hatch. I treated this gift as a matter of life and death, because, well, it was. By that time it was clear that my friends’ driving habits were the greatest threat to my continued existence.

I’m not saying I was the most capable or responsible driver extant. I admit I sought answers to important questions relating to the time / space continuum; like whether or not a Honda Accord with nearly six digits on the clock could do the ton. I planned my experiment carefully, selecting a deserted stretch of four-lane highway just outside of town for the daring deed. Give me a crash helmet and a stick of Beecham’s and I’d have been Chuck Yeager. I didn’t break the sound barrier, but I did peg it at 95.

In contrast, my classmates tested the upper limits of their ancient chariots between stoplights. Only the inherent limitations of their mounts (family sedans and old econo-hatches) slowed their progress. Other traffic didn’t figure. To accept a ride from one of my speed-crazed, hormonally-charged peers was like playing Russian roulette with half the chambers loaded. Fortunately, the brevity of the city confines limited the possibilities for automotive immolation. Unfortunately, our city was a small island in a sea of country roads, with endless opportunities to accel.

For those Boomers and Gen X’ers who came of age in a small mid-western town, the term “vamping” will bring back instant memories. For those of you who grew up in the burbs or amongst high-rises and belt highways, vamping was the fine art of launching a vehicle into flight over a bump. It was a relatively simply matter of blood, guts and a pair of lead feet. Find the right bump, back up a bit and go for it. As for the landing, well that WAS the tricky part. God help you if another car happened to be driving in the opposite direction.

There were more than 600 kids with licenses at my school, perhaps 2000 in the city. No one knew exactly who was riding this dark thrill-ride until they failed. And more than one did. Perhaps the knowledge that I was leaving for college after graduation kept me from vamping it up. Then again, that didn’t seem to stop my college-bound friends’ pursuit of “air time.” One particularly brazen pair of associates managed to mangle three cars between them. Two of the autos snuffed it in single car accidents. The other required a joint effort, in what became a famous “experiment.”

As in all towns, Springfield had a teen hangout: Quik & EZ (yes, we thought it was pretty funny too). This less than salubrious edifice sat on a corner, connected to a large strip-mall parking lot by a short, steep ramp. Despite the brief distance from the ramp to the street (perhaps 50 feet), our two heroes managed to drive their Nova onto the ramp at 50mph; enough to catch that elusive air. Emboldened by the accolades, the driver decided to perform their automotive stunt show in the opposite direction. Hitting the 45 degree parking lot connector at over 50 miles an hour, their car never actually touched the ramp. It flew from one lot to another, bottomed out, spun 180 degrees in a shower of sparks and plowed over an electric transformer.

Our heroes pulled themselves out, performed a quick inspection and discovered that the bottom of the car was fairly well fused. The car “looked like a canoe”. Since the police hadn’t showed (yet), and home was only two miles away, they decided leaving would be a good thing. They piled back in and headed home, shedding parts the whole way, driving into local legend.

For those who survived and got something faster; the next level was thrashing around the two-lane out by the lake. That road had lots of curves, little police presence and plenty of trees capable of cutting a Firebird in half (I saw the pictures). One particular stretch saw fatal accidents in three straight summers; proof of the road’s automotive allure and our local drivers’ courage/stupidity.

My luck ran out at the end of my senior year; I was rear-ended by a Sable in a driving rainstorm. For the next four years, my automobiling was restricted to summers and holidays; delivering Pizzas or heading out of town to boss hick kids and JD’s through cornfields. My first set of wheels would be a graduation “gift” of the sort that gave Trojans nightmares, but that, my friends, is another story.

Andrew Dederer
Andrew Dederer

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  • Scott Scott on Jul 24, 2006

    I did launch my Crown Vic at a construction site, although it was quite unintentional. If it had been paved, I might have actually done some damage. As it was, I left a huge dust cloud and a startled passenger. And test pilots chew Beeman's, if I'm not mistaken.

  • Redvet Redvet on Jul 26, 2006

    Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote that contained details about all of the vehicles I've owned to date. The one described here was number four of 21, and I was around 18 at the time... ???69 Jeep Dispatcher 100 (former mail delivery truck): Back then, the postal service auctioned off its used vehicles to the general public. While I still had the VW, I just had to have one of these! It was right-hand drive, and had only one seat in it as purchased. This made for some very interesting happenings at toll booths. My friends and I had so much fun in this thing, I could fill another entire column with just those stories. I???ll share my favorite one here. It was when we played Rat Patrol. If you remember the TV show Rat Patrol, you???ll remember its frequency of scenes with a Jeep getting air over sand dunes. We didn???t have any sand dunes in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, but we did have a trail that ran along the Schuylkill River. To enter the trail, you had to drive down a very short and steep incline, almost like a ramp. We would drive down to the other end of the trail, turn around, floor it, and keep it floored. When we would hit the ramp, the mail truck would leap into the air. How fast we hit the ramp determined how high. And heaven forbid you chicken out and back off the throttle prematurely; this would bring you down nose instead of tail first. Not very pleasant. I was never outside the vehicle to witness it, but people who had told me a few times, the bottom of the tires were about level with their heads. It was all quite fun, but looking back, also amazingly stupid. But nothing bad ever happened, and nothing ever broke.

  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh Dear whiny people .. keep a small number of diesel busses. replace the rest .. my god people like sticking poles in their own bike spokes...
  • Canam23 I moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and the air was barely breathable. Thanks to the mandating of pollution controls and the work of the Air Quality Management District, it's 100% better today. When the first pollution targets were set in the 70's, Detroit moaned that it would be impossible to achieve, meanwhile the Japanese sat down and figured out how to do it. As a result of the constant strengthening of the anti pollution laws, our air is much less dangerous for our children. Furthermore, engineering has now created very clean, powerful and efficient engines. So Stellantis, I'm not buying it.
  • Random1 So several of the interboro crossings are cheap: Brooklyn bridge, Manhattan bridge, Madison Ave, Willis/3rd Ave. One or two others I think.$18 is weirdly cheap, but "early bird" all-day parking is easily under $25 at many, if not most, places. That garage is actually on 62nd St, so I might be able to still drive in post-congestion, but I can't imagine they won't jack up that rate when the time comes, they're gonna be over run.
  • FreedMike Right, the fact that Jeep sales are down this year has nothing to do with it...nope. See FlyersFan's post above for the figures. They're ugly. Now, you'd think that a fact like this might be in this story, but a headline like "Jeep announces layoffs because its' sales are down" just doesn't have enought red meat to toss out. But toss "California" into the mix and voila! Political food fight. And given the political proclivities of a large bloc of Stellantis' U.S. customers, why not blame the big bad gubmint? And by the way, if Jeep has a beef with California, what's with this ad?
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Renegade in Florida. Tigershark engine vibrated like crazy at stoplights. Someone had bumped the plastic cladding and parts were ready to fly off at speed. If you could pick one up on the cheap, you would give to your kid for college or trade school. Once they were earning a steady paycheck, it would be traded in a flash!!🚗🚗🚗