A Muscle Car Quest With a Twist

If I knew back then, what I know now…

That seems to be the thought most commonly associated with romantic relationships. For me, it is the most common thought associated with muscle cars. Call me weird, but yes muscle cars…..or better yet why I don’t have one.

Back in my high school days, the parking lot was full of muscle cars. All my friends had one, except me. My dad would not let me have one for fear of me wrapping the car and me around a pole. Adding insult to injury, I could not have long hair either. Having said this, my friend Walter had a 65 Impala SS with a 327, Randy had a 1968 Mustang with a 302, Louie had a GTO with a 400, Johnny was top dog…..a 68 Mustang fastback big block 390 with a stick.

1970-1972 Pontiac GTO.

As for me, I had a 62 Comet with a six. This was not a muscle car. So I go through high school without a muscle car. I am looking at car magazines and dreaming. I did envy the guys who did have them for those 3 years of high school. Graduation sends my friends on their merry way to begin life after high school. Randy and Robert go to Junior college then SWT State, Walter goes to UTSA, Louie gets a full-time job…..Johnny kinda disappeared. A year later I end up at junior college also.

I was a year younger than those guys. Two years of JC and still no car. My dad did buy a 1970 Buick Special with a 215 V8. This was a pretty nice little car. I was able to use this while I was in junior college. My mom gave me her 1971 Malibu with a 350. I took this car when I transferred to the University of North Texas in 1974. A single exhaust bench seat car with 250 hp.

Muscle Car Jackpot: Olds 442

I am here to tell you, having a car while away in college is heaven on earth. Muscle car or not college was a great time for me. Coming back from college I get married to a really hot gal. Now I need a hot car. Finally, in fall 1975 I am able to buy my first muscle car….a 1969 Olds 442, 400 CID, with the factory Hurst shifter in great shape with low miles for $900. At last, I had one and a new hot wife–life is good.

Good, until my cousin comes into town driving a brand new 1977 “Good Times” van. He parks at my dad’s house, opens the side doors, and 3 hot bikini-clad gals exit……I had to have one. By now my hot wife has divorced me. So what do I do—-I sell the Olds and buy a van. I had it for three years. Never quite got it filled with scantily clad females. Fast forward to 1980 the van craze goes way, and I want a muscle car again.

Ford Mustang Boss 302

Reading the local classified ads, I read….1970 Boss 302 Mustang, 4 speed, 42,000 miles, $3,000. I call and come to find out a gal has been awarded this car in a divorce. She is anxious to sell. It reminds her of her ex-husband. I meet up with her and she comes driving up in a dream car. A medium blue, white stripe Boss 302, this was the baddest of the bad when it comes to muscle cars. A test drive confirms my excitement. I am so excited to finally having probably the most desirable muscle car. Like a dumb azz, I offer her $2,800. She declines and we part ways. I let the car walk over $200. I had the $3000 in my pocket to buy the car. Realizing I messed up, I stop at a phone booth on the way home—yes a phone booth, call her and she had already sold it. I should have given her the asking price, but I did not know what it would be worth down the road.

European Drivers

In the 80s I get into European cars. I used to love the Mercedes Benz 280C and 280CE series. I bought and sold several of them. I also had a Jaguar, BMW 635 CSI, and others but I always had the muscle car virus. So in 1995 once again, the classified ads “1970 Olds 442 convertible, dual gate shifter, 455, $7,000” wow I am all over this one. A young high school guy is selling the car. I test drive it and he has run the car to the ground. The big-block engine had no power but the car was in super condition. Who cares? I can overhaul it and have myself a very nice, rare muscle car.

I leave him a deposit, go and get a cashier’s check. Returning, his father answers the door tells me the car is not for sale…..….gives me my deposit back and closes the door. I was left standing there like a groom jilted at the altar. Resuming my search over the next decade, the prices skyrocket way out of my income bracket. The 69 Olds I had in 1975 is now worth $55,000. The Boss is over 100k and the 442 ragtop tops out at $70k. A winning lottery ticket guarantees me a muscle car. With my tail between my legs, I have had to settle for what is known as modern muscle cars. I wanted and finally bought a 2001 Firehawk for a great price. A Pontiac Firehawk….335 horses of solid muscle, 88k on the miles, adding headers, a K&N cold air intake, couple this with an 88 mm throttle body, I am up to 360 horses. I found exactly what I wanted in a Firehawk, LS1, t-tops, Hurst 6 speed, cloth interior in triple black so I am sort of okay with it.

1964 Ford Thunderbird Convertible.
1964 Ford Thunderbird Convertible.

I swore to my wife I will never sell it….she laughs at me. So what happened: I sold it. I have bought and sold other modern muscle cars over the years. Who would have known back in the days, muscle cars would be worth the kind of money they are commanding. I know I did not. So today I have made contact with Randy and some of the other guys. Randy traded his Mustang for a truck. Louie passed away and who knows what happened to his GTO. Johnny just went into oblivion and no one has seen or heard from him. Walter got a job at a big company but I never have spoken with him. So I guess I don’t feel too bad. They did not know the values either.

These days I have been shopping for a 64 GTO ragtop…..not gonna happen. At least not in my income bracket. My wife tells me heaven has a special place for frustrated muscle car shoppers. Feeling frustrated I had given up on a big block hot car.

Classic Ford Thunderbird Convertible

July of 2020, my friend John comes to work and tells me he saw a Thunderbird at the back of a small used car lot. I asked him the year and he tells me, probably 1970 or newer…..not interested. Weeks go by and he tells me the car is still at the lot…still not interested. Three weeks later, we got to lunch at a burger place. John says the car lot is right down the street. We should go look at the T-Bird…..begrudgingly I say okay. So we pull up to the lot and I see it is a convertible. Not only that, it is a 1964 T-Bird convertible…with the roadster tonneau cover. I could not believe my eyes. The car was beautiful and it had the big block 390. Someone took very good care of this car.

There was a mechanic changing plugs and wires. I asked him who owned it. The car belonged to the brother of the lot owner and had come in from California a month ago. Is it for sale? He called the lot owner, who called the brother, who called his wife. The wife wanted 15k for the car. I told the lot owner I would give her 8k. Nope, not going to happen…..end of the conversation. Two days later the lot owner calls me, she will take 9k. I own the car and it is spectacular. Runs, drives, big block, perfect paint, chrome, interior even the clock still works. So while not a muscle car, it is a big block 60’s car.

I am good to go.

Ford Thunderbird Trophy
The owner by his prized Thunderbird and holding his prize-winning trophy.

Photo Attribution

Image by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

Olds and Ford photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Ford Thunderbird photos courtesy of the author.

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Steven Ochoa
Author: Steven E. Ochoa
Steven is a math instructor at a college in Texas.

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