The #039;Brown Bomb#039; and duct tape

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2005

I think it would be safe to say that most everyone remembers his or her first mode of transportation.

I use the term "mode" loosely with the thought that not everyone had a motorized mechanism of some sort by the time he was 16 years old.

With that said, how many of you named your first vehicle just like you named your dog or cat?

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I would venture to say that naming your car 25 years ago could be the equivalent of getting a personalized tag today.

Nowadays, we have so many people who drive cars with personalized tags for the sole purpose of forming, supporting or exposing some facet of their personal identity.

Well, my first car didn't have a personalized tag, but it did have a name:

The Brown Bomb.

It was a 1972 Ford LTD, a four-door apparatus with enough smoke coming from the tail pipe to call in a fog control team.

One refined lady passed me one day holding her crinkled nose.

That was okay.

I knew that she didn't have the industrial-strength, heavy-duty steel structure of my car.

My car could bounce off one of the poles under our garage shed and not leave the first sign of any wrongdoing.

My car could collide with one of those short concrete posts found around gas stations, and the post always came away the loser.

Of course, these examples in no way convey any intentional guilt on my part.

Furthermore, I'm sure that refined lady

did not have the opportunity to exercise her legs like I did.

In order to crank "The Brown Bomb," I had to pump the gas pedal furiously while turning the ignition key repeatedly.

It was a highly organized and meticulous combination, one that was not easily accomplished by just anyone.

Not only that, it was immensely decorated under the hood.

Everyone knows that duct tape is the be-all and end-all of Southern repairs. There was so much duct tape on the hoses under the hood of my LTD, you would have thought I could have received radio signals from Yugoslavia.

Several years later, I drove a Fiat convertible, the kind with a ragtop.

(Compared to my LTD, this was a sardine can.)

But, wouldn't you know it?

I got a hole in the plastic back window, and what did I have to use to repair it since I couldn't afford to get a new ragtop?

That's right.

Duct tape.

Now, I was not the only one who had such a fine specimen to drive while a teenager.

Whenever she got lucky, one of my best friends would be allowed to borrow her grandmother's car for the sole purpose of riding around Greenville to see whatever and whomever we could see.

I don't know if "lucky" is the right word to use.

Several of us would pile into what could be described as nothing less than a mini-yacht.

I can see now that we were completely protected in that car since other objects of various sizes and densities would just bounce right off it without a scratch to the car.

I'm sure we kept a megaphone in the backseat just so those sitting in the front seat could hear what we were saying.

And, my friend had to sit on three Sears catalogues just to see over the steering wheel. Well, you get the picture.

Today, I see sixteen-year-olds driving these brand new cars, and I think to myself, "No teenager needs a brand new car that can travel 140 m.p.h., can crank on the first try, has no megaphone in the backseat, and has no duct tape under the hood."

There is something to be said for that first vehicle with all of its flaws. It leads to a definite satisfaction and appreciation when you sign your name to that first brand new car that you buy after you have finished college and have gotten your first real job.

I'm afraid many of our young people today are missing that very real and intrinsic value which can only be learned and appreciated when personally experienced.

After discussing all of this with Samson, my 21-pound tomcat, we agreed that air-conditioning was the best thing about new cars.

Samson enjoys looking out the windows when he rides in the car with me.

But, mostly he enjoys the air conditioner, which means that he requires at least four of the six vents to be turned directly on him.

Whether I'm having a hot flash or not is totally irrelevant.

By the way, I've noticed a little skip in my car lately.

I guess I'd better get out the duct tape.

Regina Grayson is a reporter with the Greenville Advocate.

She can be reached at 334-383-9302, ext. 126 or via email at