Dallas, Texas, 1965: I didn’t know much about negotiating back then. I knew I wanted to buy the Morgan Motor Car, and Little John had a demonstrator for $3000. I wasn’t able to talk him down, and he wasn’t much interested in my trade-in, a faded-paint Dodge Lancer with “The Spook” written on the back.
The First National Bank of Henrietta finally came through at the end of the day, a day I’d been close to tears several times, and just as night was falling, Little John handed me the keys.
I’d never driven a sportscar. Certainly not one like this.
A Morgan is very light and low to the ground. Beneath the tan leather upholstery, you’re sitting on an inflatable cushion perhaps three inches thick, and the floor is only five inches from the ground. Kind of like driving a go-cart through traffic.
Further, the hood is long and tapering, and you’re sitting right in front of the rear axel, so when you turn a corner, it appears that the distant front end of the car turns the corner, and then some short time later, you turn the corner.
As I drove through the busy nighttime Dallas traffic in the unfamiliar car, working the gears, I suddenly realized that I was sitting so low that my head was lower than many of the headlights on other cars. The speed, the new gearbox, the flashing lights, it was all quite frightening.
By the edge of town, I’d decided to take the back way through the countryside, so that there would be less cars on the highway. Or maybe I just got disoriented and found myself on that road.
This was a smaller highway, a two-laner that wound homeward through a generally deserted woods. Once free of the city, I accelerated up to 65, then the night-time speed limit.
In the low-slung car, it seemed like I was just flying. The tachometer kept reving up, the high-pitched engine eager. And the curves! They popped into the headlights, then I was zooming around like lightning with plenty of screeching from the wide tires. I felt like I was driving a hundred miles an hour.
When the occasional other car appeared ongoing, it was as if it no sooner appeared than zoomed past, receding tail-lights behind me. And twice I came upon other cars, just dawdling they were, oddly, all of them. I passed them like they were parked on the highway.
The mystery of the speeding car was solved the next day: The speedometer was installed wrong. What I thought was 65, was actually 95, and I’d driven all the way at that speed in the unfamiliar vehicle.
Just like Parnelli Jones. Only far more ignorant.