01 December 2011

Rex's Rambler

Just received this from my friend Rex. Rex is mostly responsible for you, dear reader, sitting and viewing this site right now. But don't hold it against him...
When I first met Rex many years ago, he had a 131 Fiat, a very nice Alfa Romeo GTV, and a good old reliable Ford pickup for when, well, you know what for. He was presiding over the Maduko Motori Empire of Fine Italian Automobile Parts and Accessories, flying RC planes and building a Lancia Scorpione race car, as well as doing a show on local radio weekend nights.
Rex is a little tardy in submitting his story, but it's OK. Rex is a VERY busy man. Aside from being the master of all things IT from 8 to 5, he publishes and / or maintains several sites himself, such as the Maduko World Headquarters site , Petroleum Equipment Institute , Oklahoma Modern , Tulsa Now , Places2ride , Places2drive , The Left Hand Thread blog  and Two Wheel Oklahoma  . And speaking of Two Wheel Oklahoma, he co-produces, writes and performs in the television series of the same name. Those in Oklahoma should check it out on Cox cable. It is also available on the TUFF TV network in the southeastern US, SKY TV in the UK, Wilhelm Tel in Germany, Play TV in France, CVX in Portugal, CNS in Cyprus and TV Rotorua in New Zealand. Or on the web. Fun stuff. Rex also contributes to the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture and PlanIt Tulsa. Add in his ongoing quest to uncover the history and disposition of the 'Lost Columns of LaFortune ' and you can see that Mr Brown has a full schedule. Oh, and  he HAS been frantically searching for a 'smoky burnout' picture of his first car to send...
A true renaissance man, he is not only a darn good mechanic, but published author, artist and photographer. Observed Trials class champion on a Beta. Bassist for The Insects and Radio Milan, Rex is also Historian and Archivist for my [patent pending] Earth and society changing 'Space Tube". But if you would have just guessed, given his first car, you'd have never guessed...   :)
These days Rex drives a Volvo S60 when encased in the environs of an automobile. Most of the time though, you can find him astride his yellow BMW GS when traveling the highways and byways of his home state.

The (Pistachio) Green Hornet

My first car was probably the most underwhelming vehicle I could have imagined. All those boyhood dreams of wheelie-popping Pontiacs or a chopped Ford Phaeton were dashed on the rocks of reality when my first car materialized. It was in fact, not a Sixties muscle car. It was not a customized, fire-breathing Model T with a chromed Jaguar rear suspension. It was not a barely legal dragster. It was...my Grandma’s car.

A nearly new pistachio green 1975 AMC Hornet.

But to my sixteen year old mind it was not so much a car as a two-door, four-wheel, gas powered emasculation device. I could hardly imagine anything that could have been less of a car.

For those that don’t remember, American Motors Corporation was what we once knew as Rambler. Ramblers were the product of a refrigerator company in Kenosha, WI called Nash-Kelvinator. The Nash Rambler managed to bundle all the excitement of their iceboxes into a car considered compact by Postwar American standards. By the Sixties the Rambler name was applied to the entire range- including the Ambassador which was known in some circles as the “Kenosha Cadillac.”

Ramblers were known for their good value, reliability and... um, reserved styling. Which probably explains why my grandparents were such fans. For years they drove Rebels and Ambassadors and Matadors. But as the years progressed, and Grandma’s eyesight declined, she favored the smaller offerings from Kenosha. When she totalled her Matador sedan in Miami one Sunday afternoon the replacement was the pistachio green Hornet.

But sadly, Grandma wasn’t just color-blind. Her driving days were soon to end when she ran a stop sign and smacked into a Mercury. The little Hornet  was only two weeks old.

My parents told me about the accident that afternoon after school. The Hornet was damaged but not totalled. It had been towed to a body shop in My-AM-uh awaiting a visit from the insurance adjuster. The damage was minimal, accommodations were made and the repairs commenced. But with two accidents in as many weeks Grandma’s insurance company promptly cancelled her policy and suggested she take the bus. I was offered the Hornet.

“Grandma said you can have the Hornet if you pay the deductible,” my Dad explained.

My excitement was quickly damped as I recalled the Hornet’s minty shade of pastel green. My dreams of cruising to school in a wheelie-popping GTO would have to be put on hold. I would have to be satisfied, for the time being, to call myself a Rambler Man.

The little Hornet met an untimely demise one afternoon on North Peoria. A friend and myself had been trolling junkyards in Sperry when we pulled up to a stoplight. It was Peoria Avenue and Virgin, one of those “half mile” intersections- halfway between major thoroughfares. For a brief second I caught the glimpse of blue Ford pickup grille in the mirror, then the lights went out.

I awoke to a scraping noise and a pleasant view of the Rambler’s dome light. I could tell we were moving- but my attempt to the apply the brakes resulted in a busted speedometer. Turned out the impact had ripped the Hornet’s seat (well of course it was a bench seat, duh) right out of the floor and haphazardly reclined us into the back seat. Once I crawled out and woke John up, we assessed the damage. A steaming Ford pickup sat at the light about 50 yards behind us. The poor Hornet had no trunk- it had been instantly converted into a Gremlin.

THEN I got a GTO!


  1. These days Rex drives a Volvo S60...

    Not true.

    I have traded in my Eurosnobmobile for a 328-horsepower Italian car called an Infiniti. Someone told me it was Japanese- what an idiot. Like I can't read? In-fee-NEE-tee.


  2. LOL! I would have done all that twice for a GTO! My best friend in high school had a rust-colored Matador. It looked like a cockroach. And on par with the Hornet (because honestly, you're right ... I don't know what could be much worse) my replacement for the Valiant was a 1976 Dodge Dolt, I mean COLT. It was the bicentennial edition, and it was a white 2-door with bucket seats. The bucket seats had faux denim on the seats and seat backs with red piping. Boy, that thing was a piece of crap.

  3. Wow! A right hand drive Hornet!?

  4. Actually, it was a very rare prototype for possible export... ;)