I first saw Flynn in the summer of 1982. Maybe I didn't first see him then, maybe that's when I first noticed Flynn then because Flynn had been an icon of Hattiesburg for a few years by the time that I first got my license or so I remember him as being such. Flynn's appearance was unique, kind of a cross between Michael McDonald of Doobie Brothers fame and Tom Petty. Salt and pepper hair, a half attempt at a beard and a wardrobe that could have been shoplifted from a Goodwill store out of their "Please steal this because we can't give it away" pile. Flynn always looked like he was in a hurry and that he'd just been almost caught naked and had just enough time to grab whatever clothes he could find to put on before he was on his way again to somewhere else to do something else. Overall Flynn just exuded a "fuck it" attitude to a level that I'd never thought possible and that somehow made me notice him whenever we crossed paths.
Flynn drove a Cameo Ivory colored 1969 Pontiac Lemans two door convertible and while I saw that particualr car often enough around Hattiesburg I never once saw the top up. Being a car guy I noticed the drop top Lemans because convertibles were rare these days, mostly European cars ... being a car guy, I passed judgment on Flynn for being just some old hippy guy who drove a convertible with a broken top and he was too lazy or too poor to ever fix it or he couldn't get parts for it because it was an old car and he drove it because he couldn't afford anything else to drive. Regardless, it had a loud exhaust, not noisy, just ... tough. When I asked my dad about the exhaust on Flynn's car my dad told me that the guy must have dual exhausts and that dual exhausts came standard on some old cars and that blew my mind.
Flynn ... his old car ... his appearance.
I remember those as being my young, naive, initial impressions of Flynn, what I felt about him and towards him before I ever got to know him. Looking back at my friendship with Flynn I realize that I had a lot of preconceived notions about him long before he and I ever met ... most of them completely wrong. Flynn dressed like he did, drove what he drove, and acted like he acted not out of circumstance but rather out of choice and once I realized that about him the very concept of living your life like that, the very idea that I could be just like him and live my life in the same manner, was a moment in my life nigh on like an epiphany but that was yet to come ... months and years down the road from the point in time that I'm discussing here.
Seeing that guy with his salt and pepper long hair tied off with either a piece of hide or what looked like a braided leather shoelace, his half-attempt at a beard, cruising around Hattiesburg with the top down ... that old guy just really caught my eye. I didn't know his name, at the time, but I really liked his car. I always thought of Flynn as some bonafide hippy and probably someone that the local law enforcement officials not only knew by first name but probably had regular run-ins with as well ... his long hair, his often slightly unkempt appearance, always with a cigarette in his fingers or turning to the side to blow smoke from his nose while sitting at a stoplight or thumping his used up cigarette butt with all the grace and skill of someone who had not only done that move countless times over but with all the visual draw of the kind of similar acts you saw on the big screen.
Flynn was a mystery.
I never saw Flynn anywhere for long but every now and then I'd see his white Lemans parked somewhere or I'd see him in traffic just cruising along ... smoking a cigarette or running a hand through his tied off long hair.
Once I noticed Flynn, once Flynn became an icon in my world and my perception of him grew he became someone to look for ... his car became something to look for ... in traffic, when I was riding with my parents and car watching ... trying to determine the year, make and model as well as the options of cars that I had taken a liking to. I loved seeing that old Pontiac and even told my dad that I wanted an old Pontiac like the long haired guy drove ... My parents didn't want me to have a convertible so I was a little jealous of the long salt and pepper haired guy who cruised around in what looked like a convertible GTO but wasn't actually a convertible GTO.
I remember talking to Flynn, actually talking to him, for the first time in the summer of 1984. I had just turned 15 and gotten my driver's license. I was at Petal Auto Parts just across the new bridge and as my dad and I were coming out with the used car parts that we had bought, Flynn was getting out of his old white convertible Lemans and heading inside. He didn't even open the door, he just stood up in the driver's seat, bounced once, and like the Lorax from the old Dr. Seus books I read as a child, Flynn literally seemed to levitate up, over and back down out of his convertible. He landed with the sound of black leather harness boots, a wallet on a chain and keys jingling.
That was a damn cool way to get out of a car, I thought to myself.
He smelled of cigarettes and ... whiskey ... and something else, something not entirely pleasant but not unpleasant at the same time. At the time I was driving my first car, my '78 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport but I was fast becoming a Pontiac fan so I was really interested in Flynn's '69 Lemans convertible. Both it and Flynn seemed like they had stepped out of some time warp from the 1960's.
"Nice Lemans." I said, almost scared to talk to this guy.
He really did look like Michael McDonald and Tom Petty had a love child together.
"Thanks." he said, his voice gruff and low, like he sometimes gargled with fiberglass or broken glass.
"1969?" I asked.
"Yeah." Flynn muttered and walked on in.
He had paid about as much attention to me as I would have paid one of those new talking vending machines that talks to everyone that passes by. Like that Flynn was into and out of my teenage life and those five words, those five simple words, were all that we said between us and all that would be said until the fall of 1986. At the time I had no idea that a little over a year later the old guy in the convertible '69 Lemans and I would become friends, strange friends, but friends nonetheless.
"Everybody, listen to me
And return me my ship
I'm your captain, I'm your captain
Though I'm feeling mighty sick
I've been lost now, days uncounted
And it's months since I've seen home
Can you hear me, can you hear me
Or am I all alone"
- Grand Funk Railroad - I'm Your Captain -
Saturday, September 6, 1986
I became friends with Flynn the same way that I usually became friends with memorable people in my life; by the strangest of coincidences and situations. You see, Flynn had the same street number as my parents’ house … he just lived on the other side of town on a different street yet because we shared the same street address number (if not same street name) every now and then he got my mail by mistake. Our two paths first crossed that one cool Mississippi September afternoon simply because the postman had wrongly delivered my Ames Performance Engineering Firebird catalog to Flynn’s address and Flynn was returning the catalog … after he had leafed through it at his leisure. You see, Flynn was a Pontiac man as well and he was curious who else in Hattiesburg would be getting one of the APE catalogs.
There I was, working on my ramped and chocked black and gold ’79 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in my parents’ driveway, changing the oil and this guy comes idling up in his Cameo Ivory ’69 Pontiac Lemans two door convertible. Being a car guy my first thought was that the drop-top Lemans was a pretty sweet ride. My second thought was "what the hell did this guy want?". I wiped my grease and oil covered hands on a shop rag all the while watching this long haired man step out of this pretty nice looking drop top. I had no idea what he wanted and the only thing I could think of at the time was that this was someone else who saw my TA in the driveway and was stopping by to ask if it was for sale … which it wasn’t. Black and gold TAs were pretty rare and this would make the fifth person since June to drive up in my driveway and hassle me by trying to buy my car. I had things to do and decided to cut whatever it was that this was short.
A black t-shirt with a well worn denim jacket with the sleeves cut off, made into a vest, worn over that.
Salt and pepper beard, neatly trimmed, matching color long hair, black bandanna to keep his long hair out of his face.
The guy was older than I was and he strongly smelled of cigarettes and whiskey and ... something else. He looked like a roadie for a heavy metal band. No, he looked like the guy who had done nothing but be a roadie for a heavy metal band ... and he looked like he was hell good at it, too.
“What’s up?” he asked.
His gruff voice sounded flat ... bored even, like he had somehow just found himself in my driveway and, unable to do anything about it, was simply making the best of the situation.
not for sale.” I said as
"Don't remember asking if she was." the guy said , reaching into his vest pocket to pull out a pack of Winstons. He tapped out a cigarette from the pack, drew it out with pursed lips then lit up with a Zippo. I watched him take a long drag and blow smoke out his nose.
I nodded, still unsure what kind of situation had just unfolded in my parents' driveway.
"Are you Christopher Shields?" the guy casually asked, his face like a used car salesman, so was his smile ... his Winston being used like a professor might use a pointer on a chalkboard in class.
How did this guy know my name when I didn't know him? I mean, I'd seen him before, talked to him maybe once that one time at the junkyard in Petal but here was that guy with the convertible Lemans, here in my driveway, talking to me, calling me by name. Yeah, the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up because suddenly I was in a situation I'd never counted on and no clue on what to do or how it was going to unfold.
"Yeah. I'm Christopher Shields." I said.
"Imagine that." the guy muttered as he reached behind his back, pulled out a rolled up magazine of some kind and held it out to me.
Still not sure of what was going on, I wiped my hands one extra time, walked towards him.
I took it from him, still not sure what was going on.
"What's this?" I asked, a little confused.
"It's your Ames Performance Engineering Firebird Parts catalog." the guy said, taking a few steps back towards his Lemans in all the way like he had just performed some service and was now released from some binding contract.
I opened the rolled up magazine and ... sure enough, it was the APE Firebird Parts catalog that I'd been waiting a couple of weeks on. I looked down at the mailing label. It had my name and my address on it. How did ... I looked from the catalog to the guy and back to his convertible Pontiac Lemans.
"So ... is Ames hand delivering their Firebird catalogs now?" I asked, still not sure what was going on.
"Hand delivering ...? Oh! The Lemans!" The guy gave a short chuckle and shook his head.
"Nope." he said and I guess that's all I was going to get in the way of an answer.
"So ... How did you get my catalog?" I asked, looking from my rolled up catalog to the guy.
The other guy shrugged.
"Post office isn't what it used to be. I figure we've got the same street number, just not the same street address. Someone did a mix-up and I got your catalog in my box ... other side of town."
I looked at the catalog.
"It's kind of ... flipped through."
The guy grunted.
"Parts catalogs have a tendency of getting that way." he said.
"A lot." I said, almost having to open the catalog like an ancient scroll.
"Yeah, I read through it a few times while I had it. Had to come over to this side of town today so I thought I'd just drop it off. Figured you were looking for it, that and such." the guy said.
"Yeah. Been waiting on it for a few weeks." I said.
guy nodded, walking past me to look at the '79 Trans Am. He stood
in front of the open hood, took another deep puff, held it then blew it
"That isn't a Pontiac mill sitting in there." he said.
"403. It's an Oldsmobile engine."
"400 is a better motor." he said.
"I like the 403." I said.
"Still not a Pontiac motor." the guy said.
"That's how she rolled out of the factory. They ran out of 400s so they put 403s in it. It's all GM."
"All GM." The guy grunted.
I watched him walk past me, look inside the TA, nod, then walk back towards his Lemans.
"Nice TA." He said over his shoulder. "Don't see many like that still around. If you need parts, I might have you a few. If I don't, I know where a few of these are sitting ... I could get you some parts no problem."
He opened the door to his Lemans and sat down.
"Course ... If it had a 400, I'd have you a whole lot of parts." he added with that smile that seemed borrowed from a used car salesman.
I walked up to stand by the Lemans and looked it over. It really was a nice car, classic lines and I'd have loved to have owned it.
"Nice Lemans." I said. "350?"
"Done anything to her under the hood?" I asked.
"Naw. She's just an all stock 350. Pontiac 350."
I looked the Lemans over. Black interior.
"1969?" I asked.
"Two for two." the guy said tipping his cigarette at me.
"It's in really good shape." I said, running my fingers over the lines of the side of the Lemans.
"Surprised me, too. I bought her from a little old lady that had owned her since she was brand new. She didn't have any family and she got the top down one day and couldn't get it back up so she decided to sell it. Thought the roof was broken ..."
"You got lucky. Right place, right time." I said.
"Don't I know it." the guy said. "Life is funny strange like that sometimes."
Life is funny strange like that sometimes. For some reason that saying stuck with me and I kept turning it over in my mind because that's how my life was ... funny strange.
I remembered the rolled up catalog I was holding in my hand and held it out between us.
"Hey! Thanks for bringing me my catalog. Other people probably would have just thrown it away and never bothered with trying to get it to the right person."
"Listen, chief. You got a Pontiac. I got a Pontiac. Parts are gold. Never throw a part away. If you don't need it trade it or sell it. Someone out there probably needs it a lot more than you do."
"Yeah. Never thought of it that way." I muttered to myself.
"That's how I live my life." the guy said as he turned the key in the ignition and cranked his Lemans. The 350 rumbled to life and idled with a slight lope. I nodded in appreciation of the still living ancient machinery then stepped forward and offered my hand. The other guy looked at it, thought about it longer than I was comfortable with then finally offered his hand and shook my hand. His grip was strong and rough and I matched it.
"My name's Christopher." I said. "Guess you figured that out already."
"That I did, chief, but appreciate the formal introduction. Never hurts to practice the social bits, you know. Keeps being polite from getting all squeaky and rusty."
I chuckled at that.
"Flynn." the guy said. "My name's Flynn ..."
"Most people just call me Shields. Good to meet you, Flynn." I said.
"I consider it likewise. See you around there, chief." Flynn said.
I patted the side of the Lemans and stepped back as Flynn put the three speed automatic into reverse, threw his arm over the passenger seat, looked over his right shoulder and started to back down my parents' driveway. I watched as he pulled out into the street and put the Lemans into gear. I rolled the catalog back up and tipped it to my brow in a final "thank you" as Flynn nodded, gave me a thumbs up and slowly drive away in his rumbling Pontiac Lemans drop-top.
I had the strangest feeling right then ... like something had happened that was meant to happen.
Little did I know ...
The Goat and the Firebird
Saturday, September 27, 1986
Three weeks later I was cruising in my '79 TA, it was warm enough that I could take the tops off, roll the windows down and drive around with just my leather jacket unzipped.
After doing a few laps around Hattiesburg just to relax and enjoy cruising in the TA I thought I might head on down to the Hobby Shop and see if anything new or interesting had come in. I pulled up at the stop light on Hardy Street near the Sunflower grocery store, thinking of Marie ... thinking of high school ... just kicking my mind into neutral and letting it idle. Krank's "Rented Heat" from the Metal Massacre VII cassette was just laying down some screaming guitar riffs when I heard a roar and saw an old 1969 Pontiac GTO run up behind me, pull down on the brakes, move over into the left lane and slowly pull up beside me. The GTO revved on me, moving ahead a little then backing up next to me. It wasn't a jump ... more of a ... tease.
What the hell?
I looked over at the GTO ... faded paint but it looked solid. The only other GTO like that I knew in town was a mechanic named Cubley down at John's Car Care but his GTO was more of a dark reddish purple color to me. This one was once bright red or something and now somewhat faded ... still red, just not gloss.
I looked the GTO over casually as I sat there at the stop light ... sharp lines.
Twin hood scoops, hood tach, factory rear pedestal wing, cracked stripes down the side and sitting in the driver's seat was ...
A lit cigarette in his fingers as his hand rested, smoke slowly rising up.
The guy who had accidentally gotten my APE Firebird parts catalog and brought it over to me a few weeks back was now sitting in the driver's seat. of the GTO idling beside me. Flynn looked over and smiled and I thought again that it was a smile that he had borrowed from a used car salesman.
"Hey! I told you if you had a 400 Pontiac in that TA that I'd have a lot more parts for you." he said to me, raising his voice so it could be heard over the sound of the two Pontiacs idling side by side.
"Is that ... yours?" I asked, not really believing what I was seeing.
"You see me driving it, don't you?"
"Just because you're driving it doesn't mean it's yours." I shouted back.
"Fair enough. Yeah, she's mine." Flynn said as he took a puff of his cigarette and revved his engine slightly.
"Man, that old Goat sounds good. She's not stock, is she?" I asked.
"Hell, no! Not even close!" Flynn said as he worked his right arm, four speed manual, clutch, gas pedal.
The Goat next to me roared like a dinosaur, a long, bellowing growl, up and down, up and down and then settled back to loud idle.
"Smurfy!" I said, giving him a thumbs up with my gloved hand.
"Hey! Want to light 'em up?"
Flynn made a spinning motion with his finger.
"Hey! I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Let's see what you got under the hood there." Flynn said.
"You mean punch it when the light turns green?" I asked.
I looked around, didn't see any cops, not much traffic.
"Why not. It's only gas and rubber ... an getting my car impounded and getting hauled off to jail and charged with reckless driving ..." I said, shrugging my shoulders.
Flynn worked his shifter back and forth, putting the GTO into gear. I unlocked my three speed automatic's shifter and ratcheted it down all the way into first gear, putting one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas.
"Hey, when I pull ahead of you ..." he said.
"IF you pull ahead of me." I said back.
"WHEN I pull ahead of you, because it isn't really going to be a contest, but when I pull ahead of you just follow me back to my place. I've got something for you."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Something you'll like." Flynn said, smiling that used car salesman smile.
"You think?" I asked.
"Oh, I know you'll like it."
The light in front of us turned green and Flynn and I reacted at almost the same time. Flynn's Goat roared, the rear tires spinning and screaming as it leapt out of the hole leaving tire smoke and two strips of dark burned rubber behind. I could tell that Flynn was having trouble with traction by the way his rear end was sliding this way and that as the rear tires spun trying to find some grip. It was poetry in motion, the kind of stuff that they used to write songs about in the 1960's. Flynn's Goat screamed as it left the line and it only got louder.
I sidestepped the brake and stomped the gas pedal to the floor. The 403 cubic inch small block under the hood of the TA roared, the shaker hood slammed hard to the right and the TA screamed out of the hole maybe half a second behind the GTO, leaving behind thick tracks of burnt rubber and tire smoke. I worked the thick padded Formula steering wheel as the rear end of the TA tried to go its own way and the sound of the rear tires screaming never stopped but it was drowned out by the roar of the 403 under the hood and the dual exhaust.
The GTO was four car lengths ahead of me, accelerating like Flynn had lit a rocket in the trunk and I knew there was no way that the '79 TA's 403 cubic inch V8 was ever going to match the pulling power that Flynn's pure Pontiac 400 was putting out ... I was stock, Flynn wasn't and it wasn't even a contest. Flynn's GTO was running away from my TA so fast, so easy it was a joke and I knew it hadn't even been very much of a contest from the very start. Keeping in the spirit of the moment I held first gear to redline, palm slapped the slap-stick factory shifter from first to second and heard the rear tires break traction again as they barked hard.
The rear end got squirelly for an instant then righted itself as my right foot never let off pressing the accelerator flat to the floor. The needle on the speedometer arced past sixty ... the speed limit was thirty-five. Up ahead I saw Flynn's brake lights tap. He was an easy five car lengths ahead of me. His brake lights lit again and stayed lit as the GTO's nose dipped. He was braking. I saw his left turn signal start to blink and I let off the accelerator, drifted over into the left lane of traffic behind him and hauled the TA down from speed using the powered four wheel disc brakes. We turned into an older section of Hattiesburg and Flynn ran fast down streets with few if any stop signs. I kept up with him, not really wanting to fly through neighborhoods where kids might be present or someone could back out of a driveway without looking to see what was coming but I managed to keep up with Flynn and followed him all the way to his house.
It was an older house, in an older part of Hattiesburg and there on his mailbox the same street numbers that my parents' had on their mailbox.
Flynn pulled into the driveway, parked his '69 GTO next to his '69 convertible Lemans and got out, jingling his keys and heading for the front door of his house. I parked the TA in the street next to the curb, decided it was a nice enough neighborhood not to hatch the TA up tight, got out and walked up to stand there on the front porch with Flynn. He opened the front door and stepped on in, motioning for me to follow him. We stopped by a small table in the front foyer and he leafed through a stack of mail, picking out a catalog and handing it to me.
My Nunzi Pontiac catalog!
I'd ordered that catalog like three months ago and I'd been waiting on it for weeks now!
Son of a bitch!
Someone stupid or lazy at the Post Office was giving Flynn my mail by mistake. This was the second catalog that I'd been waiting weeks for, only to find it was delivered here to the wrong address across town from where I lived.
"Thanks." I said, flipping through the catalog.
"No problem. Nunzi is a Pontiac legend ..." he said. "Won't have much for your 403, though ... What your TA's got ... not a Pontiac motor."
"Yeah. It's an Oldsmobile motor but that's how they made them back in '79. It was all GM, just didn't make it a sure thing that whatever car you bought had an engine in it produced by the same division that made the car."
"Olds isn't a bad motor, look at the old 442s. Hey! You ever hear of a guy named Joe Mondello?"
I shook my head.
"Oh, he's a big Oldsmobile guy, really knows his stuff, and he's been around forever. Think of him as Dr. Oldsmobile himself. See if you can find one of his ads in a magazine and order one of his catalogs ... probably got a lot of parts to trick out that 403."
"I'll look into it." I said, thinking that I really would, first chance I could get.
Flynn snapped his fingers next to his temple, tapped his temple twice and twisted at the hip.
"Almost forgot. Got something else for you. Come on." he said.
Without another word Flynn turned and walked on through his house and I followed. We went from foyer to kitchen and then out into the garage. The overhead lights flickered into luminescense and I looked around in appreciation. The garage was a two car garage with a set of stairs in the corner heading up to what I assumed was a loft of some kind, maybe storage like an attic. Old Pontiac and GM metal signs were nailed to the walls of the garage along with posters of cars and scantily clad women.
Lockers, shelves, work benches, three rolling tool chests.
Tools ... more tools than I'd ever seen any one person have in their life.
A camshaft wrapped in an oily shop towel.
Pistons ... one with what looked like a hole punched in it or burned in it.
Connecting rods ... one twisted at an angle that even someone who knew nothing about engines could tell was crazy ass wrong.
Two crankshafts with wire tags on them.
A drill press.
A belt sander.
Extension cords everywhere.
Oil filters and air filters still in boxes.
Boxes of parts.
Milk crates of parts.
Stacks of old car magazines.
Shelves with dealer parts manuals and service shop manuals.
A component stereo system with speakers in each corner, run with bare speaker wire across the rafters.
Flynn stood by one of the rolling tool chests as I gawked in wide eyed wonder. I walked into the garage and just stood there looking around. Flynn's garage was ... in two words ... fucking amazing. I was so jealous of what he had. If I had a setup like this I'd never leave it. I'd be swinging wrenches from sun up to sun down, to midnight, then I'd sleep on the floor, get up and do it again. I really would. I stood in the garage and closed my eyes, breathed deep of old wood, chemicals, the smell of old parts ... and then I saw it.
Under a heavy tarp.
It's lines were unmistakeable, even smothered under the tarp.
Early to mid '70's.
"What's this?" I asked. "I mean ... I know what this is but ..."
Flynn smiled and stepped over to the tarp.
"It's just something I'm working on ... when I can. Don't have much time to work on it so it's slow going. You want to see it?" he asked.
"Yeah. Show me."
Flynn nodded then started at the front and picked up the left front edge of the tarp.
"Get that side, will you, and help me?"
I nodded and joined him at the front, taking the right front edge of the heavy tarp. Together we slowly rolled the tarp front to back, exposing what was underneath.
The rear half sitting up on jack stands.
Square exhaust tips funneled through the rear bumper. Cross flag emblem on the round gas flap in the middle of the rear deck. I squatted near the passenger side rear wheel well. The rear wheels were missing, exposing the rear suspension and the rear disc brakes. Brake lines hanging down loosely into a old blue Maxwell House coffee can full of old brake fluid. Spread around the exposed rear disc brake were the well worn old pads, a box of new brake pads, tools and the brake caliper hanging loose. The rotor looked almost brand new, not even scuffed.
"The rear brakes were gone to crap from sitting up so long. Pretty much rebuilt them with all new parts. Had to track a few parts down through the mail. I was going to bleed the lines and change the rear pads as well but just haven't had time ..." Flynn said.
I stood up and ran my hand over the rear hip of the passenger side of the Corvette. The paint was gone, no telling at a glance what color it had original been because it was all primer gray now, the fiberglass sanded smooth. "Stingray" script on the fender above the ice cube tray side vents. Chrome bumperettes. Crossed flag emblem on the nose. That huge hood bump with the metal emblem there on the side, three numbers that said it all ...
Big block convertible Corvette.
I looked inside the Corvette. Black interior in really good condition but the factory seats were a little low back for my taste. If this thing pulled like I thought it would pull from a dead stop then whiplash might be an occupational hazard of dropping the hammer in this monster.
TurboHydraMatic 400 three speed automatic.
Flynn popped the hood and raised the fiberglass shell, locking it open. There, between the fenders sat 454 cubic inches of big block Chevrolet power. The chrome air cleaner had the cross flags with the "454" logo and below that, on the rim of the air cleaner, it read "Turbojet - 390 horsepower".
I was wrong.
This wasn't a mid-70's Corvette ... with a 454 under the hood packing that kind of power it was early '70's.
"1970." Flynn said, as if reading my mind.
I ran my finger over the rim of the air cleaner ... across the "Turbojet - 390 horsepower" decal.
"That is badass." I whispered.
"Like it?" Flynn asked.
"Hell, yeah. I'm jealous! Where did you get her?"
Flynn stared at the Corvette for a second or two.
"She used to belong to my old man."
"This was your dad's?" I asked.
"So ... Where is your dad ... or is that something I shouldn't ask about?" I asked.
Flynn put both hands together in a mock semblance of prayer and then looked slowly upwards with a cock of his head.
"Oh ... sorry, man. I didn't know."
Flynn shook his head and shrugged.
"He's been gone six years now. He had his life and I had mine. I've made my peace." Flynn said.
Suddenly the drop top Vette took on a whole new meaning, a whole new depth to its existence.
"Is it still stock?"
Flynn looked at me and there was that used car salesman smile again.
No, I guess it wasn't.
"Wasn't the old man's way to keep things the way he found them." Flynn said. "Guess that's just how he lived his life. Good and bad. Always changing things."
"Hell ... Does it run?"
"Sometimes." Flynn said.
Flynn didn't say anything, he just went to the garage door and opened it. Metal on rusty metal screamed and protested. Daylight shined in. I blinked. The garage looked different in sunlight ... colors more vibrant, shadows vanished, details leapt out at you that you didn't see before.
"Haven't driven it in a couple of years now. Hell, haven't even cranked it in month or two ... Probably need to start it up and let it run for a while, let it warm up, circulate the fluids, blow the soot out." Flynn said, reaching over under the chrome air cleaner and working the linkage on the four barrel carburetor to wet the jets.
Flynn reached over inside the Vette and turned the key in the ignition. The 454 rumbled to life, slowly, shaking and growling, but never catching. Flynn reached under the hood again, worked the carburetor linkage, again, tried the key, again and got the same result. Not giving up, Flynn grabbed the windshield and hopped over into the Corvette's driver's seat. He turned the key and started pumping the accelerator. The 454 turned over ... and over ... and over. Flynn really started pumping the accelerator pedal, I don't know what was louder ... Flynn stomping the accelerator up and down or the Vette trying to turn over and suddenly the big block roared to life, shaking, loping, shaking the whole Corvette and I began to wonder if it was going to slip off the pair of rear jack stands that Flynn had it supported on.
Thick black smoke belched from the rectangular exhaust tips and the cloud of exhaust that slowly drifted out into the street. I was glad that Flynn had opened the garage door as it would have been a real noxious fog if he hadn't. As it was the Vette's big block was deafening inside the garage.
Flynn sat there in the Corvette, his head back against the headrest of the driver's seat, eyes closed and smoking a Winston. When he had lit his cigarette I had no idea because I had been too busy watching the big block shake and roar as it growled to life. I looked at the 454 there under the hood, slowly walked around the front of the Corvette and stood by the driver's side. Flynn looked up at me from down low where he sat, he flexed his eyebrows twice and smiled ... this time it wasn't a used car salesman smile, no, it was a kid with his favorite toy kind of smile.
"This is totally badass." I said.
"You think?" Flynn asked, his best used car salesman smile.
"I know." I said, smiling back.
"Yes, it is badass" Flynn said.
"No. This is seriously badass. You need to get this lady put back together and put her out on the street." I said.
"Yes, I do." Flynn said and there was this look in his eye like maybe I had pushed a button or jump started him on something.
I stepped out into the driveway since the roar of thes idling big block Corvette had finally gotten to the point where I needed to put some distance between my ears and the noise. Flynn hopped out of the Vette, walked over and stood beside me. Together we stood there by his '69 Pontiac Lemans. Flynn finished his WInston and dropped it to the pavement, grinding it out under the toe of his Vans.
"I'm going to let it run for a while, warm up, top off the battery maybe ... " Flynn said.
"I'd love to cruise in that thing ... Just cruise around Hattiesburg." I said.
"Tell you what. When I get it all back together I'll run it by your house, see if you still want to go for a ride." Flynn said.
I looked at him, surprise on my face.
"You're serious?" I asked.
"Yeah, why not." Flynn said.
"That would be smurfy." I said.
"It ... what?"
"Smurfy." I said.
"Smurfy?" Flynn asked confused.
"Smurfy. You know ... Cool."
"Smurfy?" Flynn asked again.
"What? You never watched "The Smurfs"? Saturday morning cartoon? Little blue people?"
Flynn shook his head.
"Never watched it and I don't think I've ever heard anyone use that term before to describe something ... cool."
"I use that word all the time, mostly just to be different. Smurfy means cool ... or good or just about anything like that." I said.
Flynn seemed to accept this without the need for any further discussion.
"If you need help finishing the rear brakes, let me know. I can give you an extra set of hands."
"Might do that."
Flynn snapped his fingers again next to his temple, tapped his temple and jogged back into the garage, going to one of his work benches and looking around. He was looking for something and when he didn't find it he moved on to another area of the garage, looked there, and still didn't find what he was looking for. Flynn hung his head, closed his eyes and thought for a moment then looked like he got a Eureka moment and jogged on back out of the garage. He opened the trunk of the Lemans, looked around, shut the trunk again then went over to the trunk of the GTO, opened it and pulled out a shaker hood scoop that looked exactly like the one sitting on the air cleaner of my TA. It was such an exact duplicate, black, with lock ring and the "6.6 LITRE" decal in three shades of gold, that I had to look back at my TA to make sure that Flynn hadn't taken my shaker hood scoop off while I wasn't watching ... and not figuring out how he could have done that without me knowing.
"Picked this up the other day from a guy who used to have a TA like yours. He wasn't doing anything with it and I thought I might run into you again. I got it cheap. Want it?" he asked, handing me the shaker hood.
It was an exact copy, everything included except the rubber weather strip that went around the edge and sealed the scoop to the hood and the rubber drain pipe that let collected water from rain drain away from the scoop.
"Want it?" Flynn asked, again.
"Yeah. Yeah, man. Hell yeah."
"Now ... I figure it's missing the drain pipe here and the weather strip but you can order those at Dossett, couple of bucks each."
I nodded, realizing that I was already one step ahead of him in that line of thinking.
"Now that I've got two scoops ... I can cut one out for cold air induction." I said.
Flynn reached for the shaker hood scoop and I handed it back to him.
"The scoop on your car isn't cut out?" he asked.
I shook my head.
"Want me to cut this one out? Really help that motor breathe." he asked.
"How long would that take?" I asked.
"Not long. Few minutes, maybe a little longer if you want it done right." Flynn said.
"Do it." I said.
Flynn nodded and jerked his head for me to follow him. He led me back into the garage, reached into the Corvette and turned the 454 off. The silence was deafening. Flynn then walked up to one of his work benches and using a variety of power and hand tools it took him about ten minutes to cut out the back of the shaker hood scoop and sand it smooth around the edges. He finished it up, grabbed a can of Krylon flat black and some masking tape and took the shaker hood scoop back out of the garage and to the side of the garage. Flynn taped off the area round the outside of the area that he had cut out then flipping the scoop over, shaking the rattle can, and painting the inside of the scoop the flat black that really made it look complete.
"Let's see how it fits. Go take your shaker off and we'll swap it out."
"Got a flat head?" I asked.
Flynn got a flat head screwdriver from his tools and handed it to me. I went back out to the TA, reached under the nose, popped the hood and began to use the screwdriver to take the old shaker hood scoop off. By the time that I had the old shaker hood scoop removed Flynn was standing beside me with the cut-out shaker hood scoop. I took it from him, careful to avoid the still drying paint on the underside and fit it on top of the air cleaner, tightening it down.
"Crank it up." Flynn said.
I put the old shaker hood scoop on the grass there at the curb, took my keys and reached over into the TA to crank it. The 403 turned over three times and caught and there was an immediate hissing sound coming from the open back of the new hood scoop. Flynn reached under the air cleaner and worked the linkage of the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor. The 403 roared and the sound coming from the open shaker hood scoop was nothing less than full on cool. Flynn reached down, picked up the old shaker hood scoop and handed it to me.
"Put that in your trunk and let's take it for a spin." he said.
I reached into the TA, turned it off, got my keys out of the ignition and put the shaker hood scoop in the trunk as Flynn went back to his garage and shut the garage door before walking back over. I shut the hood of the TA then hopped over into the driver's seat as Flynn opened the passenger side door and sat down inside. I put my seat belt on and cranked the TA, loving the hiss of the open hood scoop now. I looked over at Flynn. He hadn't put his seat belt on. When he looked at me and realized I was waiting on him to belt up he shook his head.
"I'm fine. Let's drive."
I shrugged my shoulders and edged away from the curb, driving slowly away from Flynn's house. The more I pressed the accelerator down the louder the hiss from the hood scoop became.
"They closed off the hood scoop on the Trans Am in the early '70's for noise reasons. Real Big Brother government watchdog crap. Old shakers actually had a vacuum operated door that flipped open if you mashed the long skinny pedal to the floor." Flynn said.
"It sounds a lot better." I said.
"Now it's not breathing through a straw. There's a boundary layer of cold, dense air there at the rear of the hood, at the base of the windshield. With the scoop open the motor will drink from that instead of that dinky snorkel it normally does."
The hiss sounded like a giant snake under the hood. I loved it!
"Ease up towards 49, put your foot into her and see what she feels like."
We worked our way down Hardy Street and as we turned onto Highway 49 Flynn told me to punch it. My foot went flat to the floor as we left the turn lane, fishtailing the rear end as the tires screamed for traction and the TA almost got sideways on me. The hiss from the open shaker hood scoop was replaced with a deep, loud roar ... louder than I'd ever heard my 403 make before. The needles of the tachometer and speedometer raced in their arcs from left to right. At almost the redline the three speed automatic shifted from first gear to second gear and the rear end broke traction for an instant, slipping slightly to the side. With the open shaker scoop the motor felt ... stronger.
"Damn!" Flynn said. "Your smogger might have some guts to it after all."
"She might surprise you." I said. "Especially on the corners. The WS6 suspension option was pretty tight in '79."
"I'll take your word for it. Not much for hanging corners." Flynn said as he pulled out his pack of WInstons, tapped out a cigarette and fired it up.
Normally I didn't let anyone smoke in my TA but something told me that Flynn was the exception to that rule.
"Nice stereo." Flynn said, motioning toward the Kenwood with the hand that held his cigarette.
I reached up and turned the Kenwood on, it was set for WHSY Rock 104.5 and ACDC's "Back in Black" was playing.
"And this day just gets better ..." Flynn said, tapping his cigarette outside the TA and blowing his smoke out the passenger side.
"Like AC/DC?" I asked.
"Does a nun like dick?" Flynn asked.
I didn't know how to answer that reply so I left it alone and just assumed the answer was yes.
I drove the TA on down 49, past Connestoga Steak House, turned on the bypass and started working my way back towards the area where Flynn lived, cutting through the old area where the Hercules plant was. Ten minutes later we pulled back up to Flynn's house. I helped Flynn cover his '70 convertible Corvette back up, grabbed my Nunzi catalog from the work bench where I'd put it down and asked Flynn how much I owed him for the spare hood scoop.
"Call it ten bucks." he said.
"Ten bucks? You're sure?" I asked.
"I got it cheap and I'm passing the savings onto you." he said, smiling that used car salesman smile again.
I took Flynn at his word. Hell, that was a good deal, especially since Flynn had made the scoop functional for me. It was a spare hood scoop. I probably couldn't touch one at a junk yard, let alone find one painted and striped in my TA's color scheme, for fifty bucks. That is, if I could even actually find one. I pulled out my wallet and handed him a ten.
Flynn and I talked shop for the next hour and a half and then exchanged phone numbers and like that I guess Flynn and I were friends ... of some kind or the other; a friendship that would revolve around our love for high performance Pontiacs. What Flynn and I shared was a unique friendship that would last for the better part of the next seven years and in that time I discovered that Flynn was nothing like I had made him out to be, nothing like I had imagined him to be ... no, he was totally unlike any other friend I'd ever had.