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A strange car

Posted by batate on July 14, 2004 at 10:09 PM PDT

I was shopping for another car. I pulled up in front of the greasy car lot, wanting to know why the vintage cars were so popular. When I found the place, it seemed more like a shady garage than a dealership, and the salesman certainly reinforced that image. He had the distinct smell of transmission oil in his hair, and grime under the nails of his extended hand. I took it, and told him to show me what all of the buzz was about. Sizing me up, he walked me over to a replica of the General Lee, a famous car that was the centerpiece of a 1970’s sitcom called called “The Dukes of Hazard.”

Rather than show me the styling or the interior, Jimbo reached through the window, and popped the hood open. He then showed me the engine. I’ve done a little tinkering in my time, but I didn’t recognize a single stock component. I pointed to a gizmo that I did not recognize, and he told me that it was an XE7 turbo, or something like that. I barely even knew what a turbo charger was, so I may have the letters wrong. Jimbo explained that the device would give me a 2% boost in performance. I was wondering why every car would not want such a thing when Jimbo explained that “only cost” was that he had to let the oils in the turbo heat up while the car started, and cool down when it was done. I’d have to start the car 20 minutes before I started to use it, and leave it running 20 minutes after I was done.

Jimbo looked at his Frankenstein creation with pride, explaining that it took a lot of love and care to keep such a beast running, but it had never let him down. I wondered who exactly was qualified to work on such a creation. He carefully explained that keeping it running was no problem. I’d eventually learn my way around under the hood well enough to do my own maintenance, and in the mean time, there were six garages in Texas who could handle the key maintenance tasks. But Jimbo said that all of the enhancements made the car fast, even very fast. I couldn’t bear to tell him that I really just needed something to do what 90% of the cars in America do, just get me from place to place in traffic and over roads that would never let the car approach its full potential.

I asked if I could sit in it. Jimbo broke into his toothless wide grin and said sure, I could jump in...

Jump in? Ahhh…of course. The General Lee. The doors were welded shut. There were no movable doors. In fact, this General Lee had been built for a Gangsta Rapper, who had not taken delivery of the vehicle, so it had an upgrade: all windows were made of 3” bullet proof glass. Perfectly secure. You could open and close them through a customized remote control that would roll them down just enough for you to squeeze into the car.

I’ve got my share of guilty pleasures. And one of them is the Dukes of Hazard. I really wanted to like this car, so I put my reservations aside for a little while and climbed in. I asked if I could drive it. Jimbo said sure, I could put my name on the class list…

Class list? It took me a little while to switch gears from programmer mode, and it occurred to me that he was going to teach me how to drive this beast. And it might not be easy. In fact, Jimbo had a waiting list for his driving class. I looked at the dash board, and immediately understood. It looked like a commercial 747. Meanwhile, Jimbo was asking what’s not to like. It’s fast, reliable, secure…

There comes a time to end the madness, and I ended the madness, cutting the sales process short. I smiled, shook hands again with a grinning and greasy Jimbo, washed my hands, and then looked outside. There were hundreds of people lined up for the opportunity to buy this car. And later, I saw one of those people flying by me at 95 (in a 35 zone) in the General Lee. He met my eye, and shouted out the window, “Sucker!!!!”

The whole experience seemed vaguely familiar.