“The last of its breed”, that was the first thing I heard when I was born. Never knew what that meant until I arrived at the dealership and overheard a salesman say that 2002 was the last production year for the Trans Am. I don’t know how or why, but I was born knowing that there were different versions of me. Three decades worth of alternate personalities and I was the last one. A sad thought, but honorable because that meant I had to be the best one right? After all they built me with the same engine as that pretty boy Corvette and I had a WS6 badge to prove it. I was a bitchin’ ride. Least that’s what my first owner said when he saw me in the showroom.
It was just a kid, didn’t even look old enough to drive. Drooling over the Ram Air decals on the side of my hood scoop and looking over at an older man, his father I assumed. Wearing sneakers and blue and white sports attire with a gold chain around his neck. His highlighted spiky hair was louder than my red paint. I don’t know what it was but I automatically did not like him – at all.
Found myself dreading his presence when I saw the salesman hand him my keys while his dad padded him on the back saying, “Happy 16th birthday son!” He was a damn teenager! First thing that came to mind when I heard he was just 16 was, “Little bastard better know how to drive stick. I’ll drop my transmission before I let him use me as a Driver’s Ed car.”
Good news was that he did know how to drive, and fairly well for a child. Bad news was that he knew he was good and it went straight to his head fastest than my 0-60 time. I was his first car and quickly became a parking lot superstar at his high school.
I was one of maybe a handful of brand new cars on the lot. Mostly it was cars and trucks from the last century with one or two relics from the 70’s just trying to hold themselves together while the hidden cancer under their vinyl tops eat away at them. The other cars started informing me about my owner. How his father owned a chain of businesses and was very wealthy. A single father after a bitter divorce who only used me to win over his son, and it worked. A friend I made in a lifted ’98 Dodge Ram warned me that my owner was a pedal puncher. I quickly found that to be a fact when he left the school in a cloud of my tire smoke, and did that nearly every. Damn. Day!
For the next 2 years the kid drove like he stole me and the cops were only a car length away. I will say that he had some talent, but any memorable example of driving skill was followed by a rookie mistake. I remember one time he didn’t press hard enough down on the clutch pedal for it to engage and I made a horrible grinding noise. A total mood killer for his date.
He was a junkie for low-end torque and used any stoplight to get his fix. I lost count how many times he replaced my Eagle F1 street tires, but I imagine he had an open tab at the tire shop. It felt like I was getting a new set every other month.
After 20,000 miles of his crap I was starting to develop a chip on my fender. I caught myself starting to misbehave whenever I had an opportunity. I would lose traction in one wheel, delay brake fluid, make his CD's skip, or set off my alarm to the slightest touch. Anything I could do to make the kid feel exhausted whenever he walked away from the driver seat. I was fed up with being his toy and used only to attract girls to satisfy his hormonal needs. I’m a WS6 not some common Mustang GT or SS!
One night, we were heading home after a house party. The kid smelled of cheap beer and old spice cologne. After driving me over a curb I suspected that he probably shouldn’t be in control of 325 horsepower.
We were trying to leave this suburbia neighborhood with cookie cutter houses in a maze that seemed to go on forever. Not sure if he knew where he was going but up ahead I could see a Geo Prizm's reverse lights in a driveway. “He has to see it, the lights are white.” I thought as we approached it at 40 mph.The closer we got the more I noticed that he wasn’t slowing down. The Geo started to move backwards, also not bothering to see me. All I could do was brace as the kid noticed and slammed on the brakes, but it was too late. I dug my ties deep into the pavement but I still manged to crash face first into the Geo. The humans weren’t injured but my face had taken a serious punch and the right fender of the Geo was demolished.
That accident turned out to be a blessing. The father decided to sell me to protect his son from a WS6 coffin. Good riddance! This new owner was much older, probably in his late 30’s. He owned a parts store that doubled as a performance shop. With my one good eye I could see all the high horsepower machines in the shop. Some were still asleep, waiting to be finished, while others were hooked on nitrous. I remember being nervous thinking what they had in store for me.
My engine was pulled while my face was reconstructed and within 3 months I was back on the road, but far from stock. Theses mad men had turned me into a street machine! I was hopped-up on bolt-on parts and Hoosier Slick tires. Like a drag car. Here I thought my days of tire burning were behind me and instead I had moved up to the big leagues.
For the next year I was used a test mule for all the latest speed parts that arrived. Super chargers, headers, camshafts, cold air intakes, you name it I ran it. By day I was setting down hot times at the strip and by night I was helping my owner pay the rent street racing. I spent most of my time at full throttle and it only fueled my rage. I was known as “Buck” by mechanics and racers alike for being a handful to control - like a bucking bronco. I never made it easy for them. If I was built to run and I was going to do that, but it didn't mean I had to like it.
I wouldn’t try when it came to hooking up my tires during a race. I would just take off like a stabbed bull and let the driver panic while trying to find grip and keep me between the ditches. Didn’t matter what tires they used on me; I simply wouldn’t try. They wanted a mean machine and they got it. I wanted to scare them into slowing me down, but it wasn’t working. My owner was obsessed with these films about street racing called the fast and the envious, or something clique like that. He thought of himself as one of the main characters and I was his leading machine. “Great, I went from being some kid’s toy to a grown man’s mid-life crisis.” I thought. He saw me as his Frankenstein, a creation of great power and strength that can kill those unworthy of skill. In reality, I was just being difficult.
This owner was darker skinned, slightly overweight with thinning hair and a salt and pepper beard. A blue collar man who meant well with others but had a strong addiction to high octane adrenaline. Some cars are happier when going fast and I'm one of them. I was just tired of the constant abuse and showing off. I’m a car not a party trick! All this anger started to show in my temp gauge and I started to run hot.I didn’t know for how long I was going to have to endure these speed freaks until everything changed one summer night.
It was 2005, I was at the start line under an overpass getting ready for the first street race of the night. I was door to door this Honda S2000 who was stroked out of its cam on nitrous when out of nowhere the crowd fell silent. Idling engines echoed in the still night air as everything went quiet for a moment. Suddenly, like a flash of the light, the dark landscape lite up in a flood of red and blue lights. It was a police raid!
Cars and trucks scattered like roaches in the kitchen. Owner and I made it out clean, but quickly noticed a police interceptor on our tail. My owner did not hesitate and jammed the throttle wide open. I was rocking close to 530 horsepower at this time and furiously started putting distance between me and the Crown Vic.
I was rolling at 140 mph when I started to feel dizzy. The lines on the road began to blur and fade and I started to lose strength. I was overheating! I could feel the panic in my owner's hands and he press down harder on the gas but I couldn't. I began to tremble in pain as my engine started to knock. A few seconds later and a gunshot sound echoed in the air followed by the chiming ring of metal pieces dancing across the road. I began to vomit fluids as I eased to a halt in a fog of engine smoke. My owner got out and bailed into the darkness as police cars surrounded me. I never saw my owner again and was now a hot-rod with a blown engine.
Being locked up at the impound yard was a bittersweet time in my life. I was a convicted criminal, but at least I didn’t have to race anymore. I spent my days collecting dust in the yard swapping stories with the other cars who weer also impounded. An ’87 Suburban that belonged to a murderer with a blood stained passenger seat. Told me the knife was still tucked away under the backseat. A battered ’01 Camry that was brought here after its owner bailed during a DUI hit and run. The smashed Camry mumbled to me that the accident had killed a woman and child in the other car. Hearing their stories made me feel ashamed for complaining about my own troubles. What was my problem? I was a fast car that was used to go fast, so why was I so angry about that?
I thought about that for weeks until it came time to be auctioned off. There were a lot of eyes on me but nobody wanted an difficult hot-rod with a blown engine. I was sold off dirt cheap to a young man who looked like he just won the lottery. He was grinning from ear to ear as he watched me get loaded on to a flatbed truck.
This guy looked older than my first owner but younger than my last. Early 20’s I would say. He pushed me into his garage and immediately started to go through my engine. I noticed blue prints and diagrams on his work bench. Someone who was no stranger to putting things back together. “An student engineer perhaps?” I thought. He seemed excited when he discovered all the performance parts on me and took great care going through every component in my drivetrain.
It was near the end of 2006 when I was finally road worthy again. I had a new engine similar to my original and he had restored my interior and red paint back to factory spec. He even installed chrome wheels and tires to make me look timeless. This owner was quiet. A man of few words and I liked that. He always seemed to be inside his own head watching the gears turn. The first time we went for a drive after being completed he brought a girl with him.
She was petite and skinny with short brown hair. Thick black frame glasses shielded her hazel brown eyes from the world. She looked compatible with my new owner who was a tall lanky fellow who always wore cargo shorts and Chuck Taylor sneakers. I remember that day because of what they said about me. When he opened the garage door her mouth dropped in amazement. “Oh my god! This is what you been working on all this time!?” She seemed excited.
My owner beamed with pride, “Yea. This is infamous Pontiac that everyone has been asking about. I finished it last night.” The girl walked over to me and ran her snow white hand across the hood, admiring every curve with her finger tips. “She’s gorgeous Kyle. Looks fast just standing still. I’m so proud of you!” She ran over and leaped with her arms out to hug him. It dawned on me that I had never seen love before. Not like this. It was real and it didn’t involve using my backseat.
“What made you buy this car if you still drive your dad's Toyota?” She asked while looking up at him. Her arms still wrapped around his waist.
They looked happy. Youth and young love, a blissful combination that I can only related to as new car smell. Rejuvenating and calming while bringing optimism through uncertainty.
“Remember high school? That guy, Carter, used to have one of these.” He said as he started to remove the T-tops of my roof.
“Oh yeah! God that guy was annoying. Always revving the thing and leaving tire marks everywhere. Surprised he didn’t kill himself in that car.” She said while carefully opening my passenger side door and sliding in.
“Yeah well this is basically an identical twin of that car. I remember being 17 and just falling in love with it. Like you said, It looks fast standing still. I’ve wanted one ever since.” Water started to build up around his eyes as if he couldn’t contain his excitement.
They both sat inside and started me up. The acoustics in the garage made my voice sound tremendous! He had kept the performance exhaust system my previous owner installed.
“Whoa.” She exclaimed. “She sounds angry.”
“Nah. She may act mean but she’s a sweetheart if you drive it right.” He eased me into first gear and set off. No tire smoke, no redline revving, just a crisp easy take off. I had almost forgotten what that felt like.
We went for a drive and I tried my best to give them the smoothest ride possible on my sport suspension. When we got back he dusted me off with a cloth and covered me in a warm cover made out of lamb skin. I could hear them talking before he closed the garage door.
“So how does it feel?” She asked.
“What do you mean?” He replied.
“How does it feel to own your dream car?” She said with a giggle.
He paused and exhaled a deep breathe before saying, “It feels like…being able to remember a happy dream when you wake up and having access to that dream at the turn of a key.” That was the last thing I heard before the garage door dropped to the ground. “Dream car?” That was new to me. I have been a lot of things to different people; a toy, a chick magnet, a payday, a rival, but never someone’s dream.
It’s been ten years and he still grins ear to ear when he opens the garage and sees me. Oh sure, he has a loyal Corolla that he uses as a daily, but I’m his weekend warrior. He has never raced me or taken a street light challenge. He doesn’t love me just because I can go fast, or attract attention, he loves me for what I am - his dream car. Instead, we go on Sunday drives and on occasion he will downshift to remind himself what the WS6 badge means. Needless to say I never run hot anymore... I just look hot.