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Guest column | Mary Partington

Before bankruptcy, General Motors, and its muscle cars, once ruled the road

I am so sad. The news from Detroit is disconcerting. The automobile manufacturers are in dire trouble and General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. The problem with American auto companies is not unexpected. The people in charge refused to prepare for the inevitable.

In 1985, GM started the Saturn car company in response to the popularity of the Japanese and other foreign cars. The Saturn Corp. was intended to be different and buyer involvement was encouraged. GM started a revolution and promptly forgot about it. The Saturn brand is to be discontinued along with the Pontiac brand.

My family always had a GM car preference and I have driven almost every brand GM made except for the Hummer and GMC. The thought was that GM produced a better quality car. Through the years American cars and their manufacturers were battered by foreign cars. We tried to "Drive American," but the quality and value just weren't not there.

Cars were so special in my youth. I knew the make and model of every car. We all waited for the new models to be introduced in the fall of the year. Some of those cars were really cool. The convertibles and the muscle cars were the cars in which to be seen. When a boy asked you out, his car was an important factor in whether or not you would accept his invitation.

One of my favored memories involved a great car. It was my senior year in high school and the school jock was looking out the window at a bright red Chevrolet Corvette parked in the parking lot. I walked up to see what Tom the jock was looking at and he said, "Great car." And I answered truthfully, "Yes, and it is waiting for me!"

It was a shining moment.

As an adult, I only have had one car with just my name on the title. (Everything else was owned jointly.) It was a super car and I loved it. It was a Pontiac Firebird with all the bells and whistles. A muscle car with lots of muscle. At one time, the speedometer of a Firebird would go up to 160 mph. After the government mandated clean-air standards, the speedometer topped out at 100 mph.

The engine was a mega horsepower V-8 with a dual exhaust. When I would start that car in the employee parking garage, it sounded like the space shuttle. I parked on the top floor and the rumble from the engine, which made its way to the ground floor, would make my heart pound.

I did not have a sound system like the kids of today. I would crank it up to top volume listening to Pavarotti, not rap or rock. It was my spot of heaven on Earth and I was thankful I had an hour commute.

During my working life, I transported customers looking for a house to buy and I needed a car that fit my position. I bought a Buick and it was a great car until the odometer read 60,000 miles. From that point on everything under the hood that could be replaced was replaced. It was our last GM car.

At times, we were a five-car household. During those years, we owned two Fiats. They were the worst cars we ever owned. One of our American car companies is being saved by the Fiat Automobiles SpA. That is ironic.

That is not the only ironic part of my car story. As a teenager, I dated people with only the best cars. One day I met a fellow and we went out in his car. The car was so old it was no longer manufactured and it had been repainted with a brush. The radio dial was a pencil. I married that gentleman, which goes to prove you can't tell a good guy by the car he drives.

Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey.

Before bankruptcy, General Motors, and its muscle cars, once ruled the road 06/15/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 15, 2009 5:14pm]

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