Back in high school in my senior year there was a group of brothers we hung out with. They lived by the school so their house became a natural den of bad ideas executed perfectly. One summer their father passed away and each one of them received, if I remember it right, about fifty grand in inheritance. There were four brothers; the two older ones did responsible stuff like put it in the bank or buy a normal car. The younger two did what I probably would have done at their age. They bought super rad cars! What a summer we had.
One of them bought a Ford Bronco that had the sweet removable roof, and had been lifted and giant tires fitted etc. I think he had it for three months before it was impounded by the cops. But what a three months. You would see hand written notes on the community board at the local beer and burger joint saying things like. “$500 reward to anyone who tells me who drives the blue Bronco that drove through my front yard and fence Saturday night.” Ahh the memories.
The other one, Ryan went for a sportier option. A Chevy Nova 2 retrofitted for drag racing. And not polite stop light to stop light stuff, either; we’re talking a monster of an engine, pizza cutter front wheels, giant rear wheels and a roll cage. It was a psychotically dangerous 1/8 mile specialist. The perfect daily commuter for a teenager. I’m pretty sure it was not exactly “street legal.” You had to put octane booster in the thing when you got gas.
My buddy had bought the car for cash from a neighbor whose hobby was drag racing and had gotten the “sell one of the damn things so I can park in the driveway” ultimatum by his wife. The car was almost finished being “sorted out,” or so the neighbor told the starry eyed youth holding a wad of cash that made him starry-eyed as well. When you’re 18 with $50k to burn and you’re staring at a race car…you don’t haggle.
“Sorted out” this car was definitely not. But here’s the best part. Ryan couldn’t actually drive it because he didn’t know how to drive stick. He had this bananas car and he couldn’t drive it. I think after he bought it, it was so terrifying that he just secretly opted not to operate it. So what he would do is find anyone else who was willing to take the helm of the thing and drive. It didn’t matter if you didn’t have a license, it’s not like the thing had plates on it, and if you decided to run from the cops they would need a jet to catch you.
I took one long ride in it once. My friend Jim and I wanted to go see the now defunct Grindcore band Plutocracy at One Step Beyond. We needed a ride, so we hit up Ryan. “Sure, you guys drive though, still haven’t figured out the whole stick thing,” he said around a Marlboro. We were in. I had to sit in the back on a couch cushion because (of course) there was no seat. No seat belt either (Sorry Ma). I think the Nova 2 may have been the inspiration for the film Death Proof. I immediately regretted this, but was not about to quit now. C’mon man Plutocracy was playing.
I sat in the car nervously smoking a Camel and Jim turned the key. The 8 cylinder hell hound barked to life, a grinding loping camshaft-loud engine that sounded like it was pissed off that mere mortals had trapped it in the front of a car. “Uh hey, maybe I can get my stepmom to drive us?” I offered, suddenly way too aware I was the only one not secured by a 5-point racing harness.
“Buckle up buttercup, ” Jim said with an evil grin. The car absolutely shuddered with pent up aggression. It wanted to be at its rightful station, at the devil’s right hand, punishing sinners and Fords. As soon as he found a wide, empty road Jim punched it and dropped the clutch.
I swear to god the front wheels left the ground. Not by a lot, but they did. The car took off like a bottle rocket. All I could hear was the angriest motor a shade-tree mechanic ever slapped together with a Coors in his right hand. It took all of Jim’s constitution to keep on the gas and slam through gears. The car had another trick, however…It pulled really hard to the right when under power.
After some shoving and cursing we got the car off someone’s (who thankfully was not home) lawn. We were off. Now however the car pulled to the right all the time. It was a white knuckler both to and from the show, with Jim wrestling the car just to keep it on the road for ten miles each way.
A week later the Nova 2 joined the Bronco in the county joint. I heard when they brought it in it immediately shanked a Camaro with twice it’s displacement, escaped twice on its own and damn near killed a guard.
It was probably for the best that we lost access to those vehicles, but damn what a ride.
Then Dr. Wife bought a Porsche.
RIP Ryan Semonian. “Pals”