From the Braver Institute
During winters that truly look like winters I am sometimes reminded of one of the greatest cars I have ever owned. It wasn’t a great car because of its high quality, it was a great car because it was an incredible piece of junk.
In the mid 80s I bought a burgundy 1976 Buick Special from a kid named Zak who I worked with at the hardware store. He was mad at the car because the differential had gone bad on his way to work and he wanted to be rid of it. He managed to get the car going and it was sitting in the parking lot. He told me he would sell it to me for $35. Something didn’t jibe with a differential problem and the symptoms Zak described, but I wasn’t going to argue with him because you couldn’t tell him anything. I bought it then and there without looking at it.
In the parking lot I confirmed my suspicions. The rear Brakes on the Buick were hanging up. I forget now if I freed them up or if I removed them completely, but either way the car was now driveable. My good friend Mark and I brought the car to my parents house where I had a rather substantial collection of cars and snowmobiles growing in the lot behind the house.
Sometime during the following weeks we went to work on the car and by work I mean we put it through a series of torture tests— hot laps around the house and jumping over the diminishing snowbanks that still remained from the finally-over winter.
After making sure that the Buick could stand up to the rigors of dayto day driving we took it back to the custom shop for a little body work. I picked up the largest boulder that I could find and Mark found a chunk of steel pipe and the two of us proceeded to smash in every body panel on the car. After that we covered the car in graffiti using cans of spray paint. For a finishing touch I painted the words “Captain Kill” in block letters as big as would fit running the length of both sides of the car.
All of this customization did much to distract from the fact that it was a burgundy Buick Special with a gutless V6 under the hood. Now the car had an aggressive air about it and it looked rather menacing. I am sure my parents were very proud to have such a fine automobile on display in the back yard.
The following weekend I loaded up a bunch of my friends and we took the Captain out for a midnight ride on the backroads. There is a field to the north of Mangum Road. In this field there were a couple of knolls that had been cut away to allow for the road, and every winter the snow would drift over the road to a depth as high as the remainder of the knolls— fifteen feet or so. The country road crew would bring out a giant snow thrower to cut through the drifts, leaving walls of snow on the north side of the road.
As we were driving by the first wall I told the guys to hold on and I cut the wheel hard to the right and scraped a huge gouge down the length of the snow wall. Swerving back on to the road we proceeded toward the second wall. Once again I cut the wheel hard to the right and “whuck”! The car was sucked into the drift and stopped abruptly.
It would appear that the shoulder of the road at the first drift was level with the road but there was a ditch just off the shoulder at the second drift. There was no way the Captain was getting out of that under its own power. We walked the three miles back home.
Mark and I returned the next morning with his truck to pull the Captain out but it was nowhere to be found. My first thought was that it had been stolen. I also thought that Zak could be in a bit of trouble since I hadn’t bothered to transfer the title into my name or change the plates on it.
Later that day I noticed the Captain sitting in the yard of the local towing company. The police had it towed. Now I had to figure out how to get the car back without getting in trouble, but that is a story for another time.
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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at email@example.com.