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Kindred

The 1979 Trans Am

I was on my way home in my GTO this afternoon, with my windows down despite the near-100 degree temperatures of southwest Florida, when I spotted an interesting vehicular duo up ahead. In the lane to my right was a bright red classic Camaro — about a ’68, probably — with a tremendous loping exhaust note and beefy rear tires. In the lane to my left, meanwhile, was a white ’79 Trans Am with gold decals, brown interior and its T-tops off. Nice!

I was in the middle lane, so I sped up a bit and slotted myself in right between these cars. As luck would have it, we all came to a stop at a red light and I noticed for the first time that the guy in the Trans Am had his young son with him. The boy was maybe around 7 or 8 years old and was busy taking pictures of the old Camaro with a mobile phone. I let the goat hang back a little bit to avoid obstructing his view until he was finished.

When I pulled up alongside, I asked the guy in the Trans Am if it was a ’79. He replied that it was, and said that the Camaro in the other lane was being driven by his wife and that they were on their way home from the car show downtown. The Trans Am was actually his friend’s car, and it was all-original with only 16,000 miles. The thing was, indeed, a work of art — it looked showroom new. I noticed it was equipped with the Oldsmobile 403 motor, if the “6.6 LITRE” decals on the shaker were any indication.

The light turned green, and we all took off. Thanks to the typical poor synchronization of our county traffic system — which I never thought I would find myself thanking — we were caught again at the next light, where Trans Am man further informed me that he and his family were members of the West Coast Muscle Car Club (holy shit — the website even plays “Sharp Dressed Man,” one of my old favorite driving songs!), and he had applications in his trunk if I wanted one. It was going to be kind of hard to get out of the car and get one, which we both quickly realized as the light turned green, so he told me his phone number.

“My name’s Jim,” he said.

Well, well, well.

It was many years ago when another man named Jim and his 8-year-old son went cruising in a ’79 Trans Am, with its T-tops removed and the wind blowing through their hair. I found it fitting, somehow, that next month I’ll be getting some work done on our own classic Trans Am so that those days might once again be relived — sooner rather than later, if luck holds. Things are still up in the air a little; I’ve got plans for the car but only a vague idea of what it will cost, plus the cost of transporting it to Florida is nearly a third of the cash I have on hand. Not to mention that the storage options I have here in Florida could easily become endangered.

But today’s chance encounter with another kindred motor-spirit was like a reminder from some higher power — much like the collapse of Pontiac Motor Division early this year — that I have a job to do, a car to restore and memories to relive, and that I should not let a lot of waffling deter me from that end result. Even more important, getting to know some local guys will bring connections, local experts on car restoration and repair, and will help me feel less like I’m alone down here, surrounded by a swath of rich people with Lexuses (Lexii?) who wouldn’t understand automotive heritage if it ran them over at 50 miles an hour.

I’m absolutely going to make this happen.

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