Monday, November 22, 2010

My Big Crash

79 Mustang Cobra
            Ruth was very beautiful,tall and shy. Her green eyes  flinched if you moved suddenly. We were going to have a picnic in a meadow behind my cabin the next day to steal pumpkins for Halloween and get acquainted. She was living with a drug dealer at the time.

            I was living in my log cabin on Hatch Pond during the week and in New York City on the weekends. 

I wasn’t working on a book and had plenty of time to go to the local Ford Dealer in New Milford and try out the new Turbo Mustang Cobra. It was an all new car and getting a lot of press.
 I had a 66 Shelby GT 350 Mustang, same color as the one on the right and I thought a comparison of the old beast and the hot new lightweight might make a good article for Road & Track. The salesman tossed me the keys and said, "be careful, it's very fast." Luckily he stayed behind in the showroom.

            I took the shiny new Turbo Mustang Cobra up route 7 heading north and floored it.  Even after the wait for the turbo to kick in, it wasn’t very fast, nowhere near the grunt of the my 66 Shelby GT 350  Mustang.  I stomped on the brakes see if it stopped better than it accelerated and the car yawed left.  Fortunately the road was clear and I wasn’t worried.  There was plenty of time to catch the skid and I steered into it. 

         Jackie Stewart would have caught it but I didn’t. The car was gone, sliding sideways past a farmer’s vegetable stand and into a telephone pole.  That vegetable stand was another bit of luck.  The farmer told the cops I wasn’t going that fast, maybe 55.  Which was true. Looking at the car, wrapped around the pole, you’d have thought I was going 90.
after Bob's test drive the car was headed in two directions

            The telephone pole sailed through the passenger door as if it were wide open and cracked my pelvis.  If the salesman had been with me he would have been ketchup.  Another piece of luck, I had my arm up as the door window shattered so the glass severed the tendons of my arm instead of my face and neck.
click to enlarge
  The dealer was really pissed off.  "You owe me for the car," he said.  I didn't blame him for being pissed off and I didn’t think it was my fault. But I couldn’t be sure.  We settled out of court for the two or three grand profit he would have made on the car if he’d sold the car.

              My friend, playwright and professor Dave Ward, pointed out that there had been several mysterious Turbo Mustang crashes in that first month after the new Turbo Mustang came out. Dry road, no other traffic, driver sober and alert, car found upside down in a ditch, that kind of thing.  A year later I learned that there had been a production computer error on the very first turbo Mustangs. A proportioning galley in the brake system was too small, (or too big, I forget) causing the right front brake to lock up.
  Ruth came to see me in the hospital and brought a bottle of champagne.  I was there for a month but I never saw Ruth again.
Cartoonist Don Silverstein waves from the drivers side where the door was pried off with the Jaws of Life to get me out of the wreck. He took these shots of the car behind the dealer's showroom. (click all the images to enlarge)

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