The Golden Bullet

March 10, 2011

A few days ago, the lovely Christine reminisced about her first car, the Green Machine. If you haven’t read that post, I’d encourage you to do so here. It’s a lovely piece, full of winning detail. At the end of her post, Christine asked readers to share memories of the first car.

For people like me, who live their richest lives in their heads, a prompt like this is irresistible. So readers, meet The Golden Bullet.

Before I ever set foot in driver’s seat, The Golden Bullet had weathered two previous owners. The first owner, a lovely old lady from Pasadena, or Boise, or Pennsylvania Dutch country, rarely even drove the car.  When my father, searching for a gently used, reliable vehicle, laid eyes on The Golden Bullet, he knew he’d hit pay dirt.

“25,000 miles on the thing, new tires, not a scratch on it. It’s never been in an accident, the lady has all of the paperwork on servicing, and she’s just too damn tired to drive anymore. It’s going for a song.  Mary, it’s almost too good to be true.”


Mama remained skeptical. Daddy-o, true to his German roots, loved nothing more than a bargain. Sometimes those bargains panned out, and sometimes we’d get thoroughly schooled, like the time Daddy got a letter in the mail informing him that he’d won either 1) a 3-carat diamond tennis bracelet 2) a pair of first-class airplane tickets anywhere in the  Continental United States or c) a boat with motor.

“All we have to do is go to a very short–30-minute!–talk on a time-share development in Pensacola.”

“We’re not buying a time share in Pensacola.”

“Of course not! That’s ridiculous. We’re not buying anything. But look at these prizes! There’s not a loser in the bunch. And all we have to do is show up. I’m telling you Mary, we can’t lose.”

Reluctantly, Mama agreed, and Daddy was all smiles as they left. “What do you think we’ll bring home, kids?” he bellowed, waving as he pulled out of the driveway.

My sister and I, twitchy with excitement, spent the afternoon watching Charlie’s Angels re-runs and eating an entire container of Planter’s dry roasted peanuts.

Three hours later, Mama stormed into the house, clomped upstairs to the bedroom and closed the door.

We waited in the foyer, craning our necks, trying to see what Daddy had in his hands as he exited the car.

” I don’t see anything?” I said.

“Well, plane tickets can go in a pocket, dummy,” my sister said. “Same with diamonds. And I don’t think they’d just let you bring a motorboat home with you–you have to store those things.”

Good News: Daddy did not buy a time-share in Pensacola.

Bad News: Translation: Boat with Motor = an inflatable plastic raft with an eggbeater on the back.

Mama was steamed for three whole days. Then, in typical fashion, we decided that Boat with Motor Incident was hilarious and heckled Daddy to death about it.


True to Daddy’s word, The Golden Bullet was a real steal.

Alas, the next recipient of The Golden Bullet was my sister.

My sister treated that car like the Mechanical Bull at Gilley’s.

It was she who dubbed the car The Golden Bullet; probably because the only thing she loved more than that car were real Silver Bullets– icy cans of Coors Light beer–and believe me, there were always bullets in that ride.

The Golden Bullet took amazing abuse; my sister went “off-road” with that vehicle enough times to classify it a Monster Truck.

The Bullet also never needed things like oil or brake pads or Hell, even gasoline– I swear there was one stretch of road between New Mexico and Arizona where the Bullet ran on chi from Sedona red rock and kokopelli pipe music.  Headlights? Nah. The Bullet could navigate without them in a  midnight rainstorm and still be fine. No matter the occasion, turn the key, and that lady started.

By the time I got The Bullet, she was a little worse for wear. Amazingly, the girl still looked okay on the outside. I meticulously scraped all of the bumper stickers and propaganda off the rear with a straight razor, which made my sister snort.

“And now you have–a beige vehicle. A beige vehicle for a beige girl.”

She was right, I guess. The Bullet’s excitement quotient went way down once I took ownership. Other things went AWOL too, like the fan and temperature controls.  The Bullet became menopausal.  I remember watching her heat gauge rise upupup in stalled summer traffic, and cursing, I turned the heater on, full-blast, hoping to pacify her enough to deliver me home.

The Bullet also developed a voracious appetite for cassettes; she ate mix tapes like Chiclets, and I remember hitting eject, pulling out a shiny tangle of Maxell brown loopage, mourning the loss of John Waite and Howard Jones and The Stray Cats.

She was a temperamental old broad, but she carried me through.

When we  finally bought a new car, we handed over The Bullet.  The dealer, as part of the sale, had to drive her to Grand Junction, Colorado, about 5 hours away. By then The Golden Bullet had 133,000 miles on it.*

“Jesus,” the dealer said, looking at her.  “Is there any way she’s gonna make it all the way there?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Daddy said, handing over the keys. “But she survived two teenage daughters, so my money’s on her.”

Mine was, too.

Feel free to wax poetic about your first vehicle in the comments section–I know there’s some good dirt out there!

*In normal circumstances,  a Honda with over 100,000 miles on it is not a huge rarity. But we pummeled that heap of iron.

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