Hammer Time: The Steenkin' Lincoln
You know a car is in trouble when it’s owned by cats. This once proud luxury car had fallen into a rancid feline funk. Cats sunbathing on the roof. Scratch marks on the outside vinyl that had gone from small rivlets to rippling rapids. Even a few dozen tears in the seats from my girlfriends five siblings. The headliner could have easily turned into a canopy plaything for the cats. But thankfully the doors were kept closed at all times. No pee smells in here! In sum, it was redneck car-chitecture that had been forgotten in a rural Georgia driveway somewhere between civilization and Deliverance. The ‘extra’ family car that would prove to be my girlfrined’s future transportation for the next three years.
I would like to say that I replaced all the fluids and hoses. But the truth is I just used the following tools. Battery, gas, duct tape, thumbtacks and a staple gun. The 302 engine started right up once the battery was removed. My wife thumbtacked the headliner while I concentrated on keeping the interior door panels attached with ‘God’s scotch tape’. After a solid seven minutes of interior reconditioning, we started it up and headed to downtown Stone Mountain, Georgia.
A few miles down the road and I smelled something strange. Oil? Gas? Nope. The car battery. It was leaking acid all around the passenger floor. My future wife rode Indian style for the rest of the journey back to the house where I borrowed some baking soda in a futile attempt to clean out the carpet.
Eventually we cut it all out and put a bathrug on top of it. Then we needed a radio. Junkyard? Naaahhh. A $20 boom box from a yard sale was perfectly fine. That was it. The air, radio, power windows, door locks, seats, mirrors, CB radio and even the antenna didn’t work. Apparently 1983 wasn’t one of Detroit’s best years.
What did? The steering wheel, brakes and engine. Oh, and the trip computer worked. That was an amazing thing to behold. One button and it would tell you all the things that were going wrong on the vehicle. A list of wants that would even make Santa Claus sigh in disbelief.
On the road it was pure beater. But safe… and blazingly fast given the driver. Everyone in my wife’s family had lead feet and at 21, my better half saw stop signs and speed limits as mere offhand suggestions. She would take it to her job at a TV station in downtown Atlanta going 85 the whole way on the left hand lane. The car in front of her would see a vehicle the size of Thor bonking up and down, with the headlight covers in half-closed mode… and naturally assume that the driver had to be heavily involved in inner-city pharmaceuticals. Even SUV drivers were afraid of her car. I couldn’t blame them.
Eventually I found a junkyard with the parts we needed. Then two. Then three. After a tune-up the mileage shot up to an amazing 16.5 mpg and the vehicle found it’s mechanical groove. Other than gas it was low-cost. I don’t recall a single thing we had to do to it other than the constant onslaught of leaking fluids.. Let’s face it. The thing ‘drooled’ and by the time I saw multiple puddles on the driveway on a daily basis, I knew it was on borrowed.time .
Like any beater, it was not always loved. When we got a house in the ‘burbs, the Steenkin Lincoln was egged by an unadoring teenager. A visit to the offender’s home with my thick New Jersey accent and gritted teeth yielded the only car wash the vehicle would ever have with us. It served one other function. Sympathy. A young nouveau-riche doctor from Emory decided to unload his ten year old Camry for $500 thanks in great part to the Lincoln’s beatitude.
The very day her mom gave us the title to the Mark VI was the day that vehicle died. We were coming back from an auction (where else?) when the Mark’s computer suddenly read ‘Low Oil Pressure’ followed by automotive castanets. 224,857 miles R.I.P. I loved her so much that eventually we bought another 1983 Lincoln Mark VI. A two door cream-puff which would endure the ages. That one would soon be known as ‘The Blingin’ Lincoln’.
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