For ten years, we rode the “wheels” provided by our school district…no choices, no variety; everyone rode the yellow “loser cruiser!” designed to seat 54 to 84 screaming kids without restraints. Unheated, uncool and driven by “carnies” during the carnival off-season (just kidding)! And for 10 years, we didn’t care. Then…one day…we did!
The advent of the “driving years” brought with it responsibility; how one approached and landed at high school was the foundation of our entire scholastic legacy. Botch the landing and there were wider implications that extended to both older and younger siblings; that was pressure.
We approached the school in a powder blue Ford Pinto….
…Neil Diamond blasting from the radio!
We turned left onto the drive, past the “walkers,” and into the parking lot. I called out to my brother who was talking to a couple of girls standing next to his racing red Pontiac GTO. He didn’t hear me!
Maggie had picked me up at 7:15 a.m. It was our junior year; it was Maggie’s car. She loved Neil Diamond; I needed a ride. I drove to school with two girls on a good day…three girls on a very good day! Today was a very good day; a fully occupied Pinto….Maggie, her older sister Karen, our friend Jackie, and me.
Back at the school, Maggie backed her Pinto into an open space…between a Z28 and a Mustang….the rear of the car slightly nudging the Chevelle parked behind her. For the uninformed, the Ford Pinto name belied the car’s true tendencies…explosive tendencies. Reports of gas tanks “allegedly” exploding in rear end collisions. Because of this, Ford issued recalls…multiple recalls! How cool is that?! Despite the recalls, the Pinto remained our wheels for the entire junior school year. And on this day, as I did on every school day of that year, I sat quietly in back…over the gas tank.
News reports of Pinto’s “blowing up” around the country were printed in the local newspapers. We became “bad ass” as we drove around the community blaring Neil Diamond. “There goes that powder blue, powder keg,” people would say. “Those guys are crazy!” We had rebel reputations and all the perks that go along with it at the high school level; eventually we were even given a dedicated parking spot 40 feet from the other cars. Nobody wanted to nudge our Pinto! It was mint! There was talk about gang jackets, but we never could agree on the graphics.
But this isn’t a story about Pintos; it’s a story about friends. A story about friends driving friends in a powder blue Ford Pinto with explosive tendencies…blasting Neil Diamond. Powder blue Ford Pinto, explosions, Neil Diamond…that was the ‘70s in a nutshell! The four doors opened, eight legs met the pavement and we strutted straight into 1980.
We graduated in 1980 and went our separate ways. During the ensuing years, my memories of our walks from the parking lot, past the tennis courts and into the halls of the school have faded. But I do recall the friendships. I do recall the fun. It was quite a ride. Age tries to take the fun out of you…at least in how you recollect the stories of those times to your kids.” Get on the bus, stay in school, listen to your teachers, and when you get older, I’ll tell you the rest of the story…about a small gang who drove around in a powder blue Ford Pinto blaring Neil Diamond…they ruled the streets of their time…
When that time comes, it’ll go something like this…”For ten years, we rode the “wheels”…
P.S. In 1980, I bought a 1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula 350 two door coupe as my ride for my senior year; not as cool as the Pinto. I left Neil back in 1979. As for what happened to the powder blue Ford Pinto…I don’t “recall,” but I imagine some future owner took Mr. Ford up on his….and replaced it with a Yugo!