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The Telegram
  • Jim Hillibish: The beater era — no, it hasn’t rusted away

  • At one point, all of us my age drove a beater. They were mandatory where I lived. There’s no way you’d trust anything near the factories spitting metal-eating pollution.

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  • At one point, all of us my age drove a beater. They were mandatory where I lived. There’s no way you’d trust anything near the factories spitting metal-eating pollution. Even the execs drove beater cars.
    A buddy of mine, Ray, has a good job. And a beater car in the parking lot. He takes it heavily from all of his employees. He could afford a Beamer or an Audi, but no, it’s beater heaven in his parking space. Lucky for him he’s the boss, or he would have fired himself for insubordination.
    Why the heap-o-nuts? Simple. It's genetic.
    All of our fathers drove beaters, and all of their fathers. My generation’s beater was a 10-year-old GM or Ford rust bucket with a V-8 manual. Average price: About $200 if it started.
    When I got my chance to drive Ray’s, it was better than a museum. Ray’s beater smells like an old laundry bag. He’s got one of those knobby taxi-cab seat pads, to cover a big hole. You start it with a green switch hanging from a red hot wire under the dash.
    Press and hold: “Wacka-wacka-wacka.” The car feels like bolts in a blender, and you’re the nuts. Then “kachooom,” as those eight smoothbores explode. I turned off the AM to savor the music.
    I could have sat there all afternoon listening to that “luda-luda-luda.” But no, a drive had to be done.
    I’m out and notice guys in SUVs are not tailgating me, a first in history. I get to a street and nobody runs the light in front of me. They all pull up respectfully, even though the light is yellow.  
    I’m at my favorite four-way, which is always Russian roulette. A guy in a new Caddie pulls up before me. He has the right of way, but he waves me through. What is going on here?
    The dented demented demand respect.
    I pull the bolt chariot into Sears Hardware. The hood is dancing around, and we want to fly this rocket on the freeway without shedding parts. We buy one of those rubber restraining bands, world’s cheapest body repair.
    When I walk out, I notice the lot is filled and cars are driving around looking for spaces. Two open ones bracket the beater. Nobody even dared. Sigh.
    Then up to the expressway. On the entrance ramp, traffic politely brakes to let me in, a first. They know, I’m driving a killer car. I look (and smell) like road rage. I feel their fear as I floor the four-barrel kitties. Second gear, third gear, I can’t drive 65.
    Ray said, “Why not take her off my hands — three hundred bucks.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Well, jeez, it is a great car, but I’d have to first show my wife.
    “Oh,” he said, hopes failing.
    So I whip the heap into our drive. I gun it and lay on the horn. She rushes out.
    “No, no, double-down no, absolutely NOT,” she yells.
    “I guess that means no,” says Ray.
    I drive the cream puff back to his office and sadly press the red shut-down button to silence the symphony. I stand outside for one last, adoring drink.
    Now I know why guys still drive beaters. Now I know what they know. Beaters are coolest. Everything else? Beater fodder.
    Contact Jim Hillibish at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com. 

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