After buying my first car, a Ford Mustang, I held onto the dream for years of making it a custom muscle car but a lack of finances, a shortage of time and a thief robbed me of that dream and left it on the side of the road abandoned.
It was just over a year after the high performance parts had been stolen when the Dodge Ram hit my family head on and totaled the Ford Escort I was driving. The insurance cut us a small check for our personal injuries and $500.00 for the Escort after labeling it as “basic transportation”.
I had been riding around in basic transportation for nearly a decade and I was ready to get something better. As always, I wanted the Corvette but knew that I didn’t have enough money from the settlement for that. I also knew that the insurance check was my family’s best chance of getting two cars; one for Madison and one for me.
I was driving through town when I passed a used car lot with a blue Mazda Rx-7 parked on the front line. I can’t really explain why but something drew me to the car. I had been elbow deep, covered in grease from working on 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines and never really thought about the Rx-7 knowing virtually nothing about the rotary engine it held under the hood. But there I was pulling into the parking lot to take a closer look at the car and the salesman, an older white haired gentleman that had seen his fair share of southern buffets, came out to greet me.
I can’t remember the exact words that were spoken between us but was promised a good deal after suggesting that I might be interested in buying two cars. I soon found myself behind the wheel of the Rx-7 headed to a small family owned glass company to show the car to Madison and get her opinion of it.
The car felt good in my hands. It was quick, responsive and handled beautifully as I shifted through the 5-speed manual transmission. I’m not sure if Mazda was still using the “Passion for the road” or had already switched to “Zoom Zoom” commercials but in that moment, I felt both.
I gave Madison the details and told her that there was a good selection of cars there for her to choose from so after she got off work, the two of us went back to the lot where I picked up the Rx-7 and she picked out a silver Honda Prelude. We agreed that the Prelude would be the family car and the Rx-7 would be for those rare occasions when it was just the two of us.
The salesman was true to his word and slashed the prices on both vehicles allowing us to drive off as satisfied customers in two cars that were both huge improvements over the Escort. But I didn’t stop there; I still wanted a custom car and using the money I saved, I could afford it.
I had some engine work done on the car where I paid professional mechanics to install upgraded performance parts and a stainless steel dual exhaust that was supposed to boost the horsepower another 15 – 20%. The car sounded like an angry bee but it was a very fast angry bee.
I had planned on painting my Mustang a two-tone candy red and black with a silver pinstripe separating the two colors and carried through with that theme on the Rx-7 using blue instead of red. I had the interior customized to match with the bucket seats having black and blue angled pinstripes surrounding a black centerpiece with black carpeting installed and began planning my sound system.
I didn’t know it before buying the car but some Rx-7s were equipped with rear seats. Most weren’t however and the area where the rear seat would have been was covered by a contoured box that proved to be the perfect enclosure for a pair of 12” Rockford Fosgate Subwoofers mounted flush against its surface. I matched the bass of the subwoofers with a set of four Alpine speakers and connected all of it to an Alpine receiver complete with a 6-discs CD changer and a 500 watt amplifier. The sound was flawless filled with clear highs and mids complemented by pounding bass.
In addition to the new stereo, I asked the guys at Roadmusic to install a Viper security system and a Whistler remote radar detector that I could hide discretely in the ashtray with the sensor being mounted behind the front grill of the car. I remember that the remote radar detectors drew some criticism for having a limited forward facing range but I really wasn’t worried about anyone behind me.
After that, I only needed to get the windows tinted and have something that made a statement. It seemed that everyone was riding around with “No Fear” plastered somewhere on their vehicles but I wanted something better than a cheap catch phrase that could be bought from any automotive store. I decided to take my car to a custom sign shop where I had them print out “Beat You Black & Blue” in silver vinyl letters and apply them to the windshield.
I finally had my first custom sports car and one of my favorite pastimes was to go out late at night and cruise through the abandoned city streets listening to my music. I had enough respect not to blast the stereo during those late night drives and found them to be very therapeutic and calming. Sometimes after a stressful day, I would hear the road calling, go out, get some fresh air and come back home to talk to Madison about whatever had been bothering me. I can’t even begin to describe everything that I enjoyed listening to but I do remember playing a lot of Kenny Wayne Shepperd’s Blue on Black, Linkin Park’s Crawling, Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’, Kid Rock’s Cowboy, Van Halen’s Dreams and Clubbed to Death from The Matrix movie soundtrack. There was just something about being alone in my car on the open road when the rest of the world was quiet with absolutely no direction or destination that I found very alluring.