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Huffman column: This never happens to Volvos

General Motors Corp. announced Monday it’s halting production of the Pontiac and I’m not amused.
During its heyday, Pontiac produced beautiful automobiles. The Catalina of the early ’60s was magnificent. The same could be said of the GTO in its early days.
Where would “Smokey and the Bandit” (arguably the greatest American movie of all time) have been without Burt Reynolds wheeling about in his Trans Am?
I’ve owned but one Pontiac, and still have fond memories of my 1980 Firebird. I was proud of the car, which I drove in the early ’90s.
My Firebird wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad looking. And it was somewhat sporty, with a vague resemblance to that aforementioned Trans Am that Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields tooled about in.
I drove my Firebird for years. It had over 100,000 on its odometer the night of our grand adventure.
I was employed at the paper in Burlington and drove the Firebird to work one Sunday evening. I was the only person in the newsroom that night.
When I parked outside the building, I tossed the keys in the center console (note to children: Don’t do this).
It was summer and I left the car’s windows rolled down.
Like most newspapers, we had a police scanner in the newsroom. I’d been working 30 minutes when I heard cops in the midst of a chase.
“He’s turning right on Davis!” one hollered.
Moments later it was, “Back on Church!”
In the background I could hear the sound of police sirens wailing. Eventually, all grew silent.
An hour or so later, the phone at my desk rang. I answered, figuring it was my wife.
Instead a male asked: “May I speak to Steven W. Huffman?”
“This is Steve.”
“This is Officer Coble with the Burlington Police Department. Do you own a 1980 Pontiac Firebird?”
“I’m afraid I do,” I said.
(I’m not sure how soon panic should kick in when a police officer calls inquiring about your ride, but with my limited mental capacity, I hadn’t yet reached that stage.)
“Do you know where that car is?” the officer continued.
“Out front.”
“No, it’s not.”
You’ve probably figured by now where this is headed. A drunk had wandered past and pilfered through my car, stumbling upon the keys. Police had clocked my Firebird, as Officer Coble told me, exceeding 90 mph.
They eventually forced the drunk and the mighty Firebird off the road. The good news is, no one was hurt and damage was minimal. Police found the car’s registration and called my house. My wife gave them my work number.
Two thoughts went through my mind upon hearing from Officer Coble.
– No. 1: “My car has been stolen!”
– No. 2: “The Firebird can still run better than 90 mph?!?! Damn!!”
The irony is that I had changed the oil in the Firebird earlier that day and recorded the miles on a notebook I kept in the glove box. From the time of the oil change till the time the drunk was apprehended, the car had traveled fewer than 10 miles, most driven by me.
My car wasn’t just stolen by a drunk, it was stolen by an incompetent drunk.
All’s well that ends well and all that, and the Firebird and I both survived to drive another day. Others may not mourn Pontiac’s passing, but I will.
– – –
When not recalling with great fondness his junky automobiles, Steve Huffman writes for the Post.

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