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Clunker tales will take your breath

By Randy Martin
For the Salisbury Post
Editor’s note: In a recent column about “clunkers,” editorial page editor Chris Verner asked readers to send in their favorite “clunker” stories. Spencer resident Randy Martin offers these:
Since you asked, here are a couple of clunker stories (I had sooo many clunkers in my youth, as I was just a poor lad). These are both true stories!
I was driving my old, beat-up English Ford, a 3-speed manual, down U.S. 1 in Ft. Lauderdale, a four-lane, divided highway, and as I approached a red light, my brake pedal went all the way to the floorboard with no resistance whatever. I yanked on the emergency brake (between the driver’s and passenger seats), and it came off in my hand. I swerved into the grassy median, dodging palm trees, and eventually bumped to a stop against a palm tree.
English Fords really were death traps.
In college in the mid-’60s, I owned a 1957 DeSoto with the enormous tail fins. The thing must have weighed about 20 tons and drove like a tank. The dual exhaust pipes were rusted out, allowing exhaust smoke into the car through the crack in the back seat. You could actually see the smoke coming through the crack.
So I got that fixed, or thought I did, and headed from college in Ohio to spring break in Ft. Lauderdale, in 1964, with my fiance and four frat brothers. In northern Kentucky, on I-75, one of the back-seat riders said, “Hey, there’s smoke coming through the crack in the seat back here!”
I said, “Nah, you’re imagining things, I got that fixed.”
A few minutes later, I noticed everyone in the car was sleeping except me, and I was feeling like I’d had a few beers. Then the guy who had complained about seeing smoke sat up suddenly, hitting himself in the head. I saw him in my rear view mirror, and hollered his name. He didn’t answer.
“Oh, #@$%,” I thought, “carbon monoxide poisoning!”
I pulled off the highway and started dragging unconscious people out of the car, slapping them silly and yelling “breathe deep! Breathe deep!” Everyone came around eventually, although not without some near mishaps. One big fellow jumped up and ran straight toward the highway. I had to tackle him from behind to keep him out of the traffic.
A truck driver stopped and radioed for an ambulance on his CB. My brother, who was in a lead car, noticed I wasn’t behind him, and came in reverse on the shoulder until he found me. We decided not to wait for the ambulance, and squeezed the three guys from my back seat, who were the worst affected, into his car, while I drove on to Lexington with my windows down.
I found a repair shop, and my brother and I watched closely while the mechanic put tail pipe extensions through the bumper, the recently unconscious frat brothers, true to their Deke selves, went across the street to a bar and got roaring drunk.
Spring break is another story.

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