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Sometimes, the Wheels Come Off

December 10, 2011

The Ford Motor Company recently announced the recall of several models because the wheels could fall off.

Now, I really like Ford. They are a solid American company that makes a quality product. In fact, I have owned several Fords in my life and I own one now and they all have given me years of trouble-free service. Unfortunately, self-detaching wheels is not an attribute your average consumer looks for in a motor vehicle.

  Not all my my cars and trucks have resulted in purely positive experiences. One notable exception was a 1966 Buick Electra 225 (similar to the one pictured,) affectionately known as the “Deuce and a Quarter.”

We weren’t rich back then and it was not 1966. By the time we took possession of that vaunted Electra, it had seen better days and its only claim to fame was that it was the largest passenger car to prowl the American highways.

That old tub drank gasoline like a Georgia Tech frat boy drinks cheap beer and it smoked like Tommy Chong. To my chagrin, it was cursed with the proclivity to have random parts fall off at inopportune times. The more critical the part, the more inopportune, and the left rear wheel was no exception.

It was a beautiful, early spring day in Georgia when my lovely bride and her girl friend decided to take the old float out for a spin. At the time, we lived in a small town outside of Atlanta and the girls were traveling a two-lane asphalt road headed west to a slightly larger village a few miles distant.

I mention the asphalt thing only because many of my Yankee friends are convinced all Southern roads, save the Interstates, are dirt, paved with horse manure.

This particular road was a major thoroughfare that linked Atlanta to Birmingham before the guv’ment decided to build Interstate 20 (“The 20” for all you Southern California folks.) On the day in question, a lot of people were out and about looking for trinkets and hidden treasure at the yard sales and flea markets that lined the highway.

My wife, in her white Deuce-and-a-quarter, has just lumbered through a gentle turn in the highway when the rear wheel made the ill-advised decision to part company with its axle and travel to a different destination. As that huge Goodyear merrily skipped through casually-manicured front yards and across the railroad tracks, the Electra suddenly squatted down on its rear haunches and dug its brake drum into the hot pavement.

Those of you daring enough to attend a traveling carnival have probably ridden a little vomit-machine known as “The Scrambler.” Without having to pay the price of admission, our two ladies instantly felt the thrill of riding the Scrambler, only taken to another level.

As that behemoth of a car whipped in tight circles, daintily bisecting the center line several times, my beloved fellow southerners on the highway that day remained unimpressed as they casually drove past the world’s largest spinning top. Amazingly, the oncoming cars managed to tiptoe by and no one was struck by this Buick-turned-dradle.

My wife and her friend, by the grace of God, came out of the maelstrom dizzy as a June bug on a string, but uninjured. Until the state highway department eventually repaved said highway, the only evidence that remained was a vulgar, deep gash in the road.

I suppose this tale speaks to the fact that mechanical failures can happen to anyone. More importantly, it demonstrates how Southerners tend to remain calm and collected in the face of danger.

Copyright © 2011 by Doug Couch and “Observations From A Southern Outpost”
All Rights Reserved

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