A Ride To Remember

by Jim Muckenfuhs

In 1978 I got a job at Busam Datsun, in Cincinnati, Ohio. That was a year after I graduated high school and I started as a mechanic doing pre delivery preparation and inspections, undercoating and whatever else I was asked to do; all for a whopping $4.50 per hour. The owner’s son John Busam ran the place. John was what I called a PHD (Papa Has Dealership) and a bit of a horse’s ass. I got along OK with him, but for the most part, he was a pain to deal with and always acted like he was above those around him.

A year after I started, I moved up in the shop, got a minor raise and purchased a 69 Camaro. It was a true SS 396 four speed car. It wasn't real pretty but boy did it run. John thought it was a piece of crap, and reminded me almost daily. "It's all noise" he used to say. He had formed his attitude based on its well-worn appearance and what he didn’t recognize as simple raw power that was expelled through the exhaust. So, all he did hear was “noise”.

In 1980, Datsun installed a turbo on the 280ZX. The in-line 6 cylinder engines suddenly became much more powerful and John thought these cars were the fastest things around. I have to admit, they were fast and fun to drive, but it was apparent that John hadn’t been for a ride in a real fast car. He had never taken a ride in my car.

One day, John decided to take some shoe polish out back and put a note on my window which read, "$99 Special Today Only". He took a Polaroid picture of it and gave it to me laughing as he walked away. Sadly, this is the only picture I have of this car. I was pissed off at first, but now I'm glad I have it. A couple of weeks later, he comes back in the shop whistling to himself, and said "Hey, when are you gonna take me for a ride in the "special"? I was thrilled and said "Let's go before you change your mind".

We got in the car and off we went. Leaving the parking lot, we turned right into heavy traffic on E. Kemper Rd., a major arterial and not a place for high jinx. But, a quick 100 feet or so and another right put us on Lippleman Rd, a small two lane street. I drove nice and easy; following the 35 mph speed limit till the road came to a stop 3/4 of a mile away. Turning right again, I made a quick left into a circular driveway of a large old house. We always used this turnaround for short test drives. Exiting the drive, a quick right, then a quick left and we were heading back the way we came.

A quick note here… the 396 wasn't stock. It had a big cam, 3 inch headers and 3 inch straight exhaust all the way to the back bumper. This is why John always said, "It's all noise". Just as I was about ready to rock his world, he half yelled, "SEE, I TOLD YOU..."

I put my foot to the floor and unleashed its full explosive power. It kicked the car into a hard fishtail to the right, which is exactly what I wanted. I held my foot to the floor while looking out the right side of the windshield. I could kinda hear my passenger screaming something, but didn't care. I slammed it into second gear and the force caused the rubber dash pad that covered the entire length of the dash to fly off into John's lap. (Damn, I kept forgetting to replace those clips). The pad had also fallen into the steering wheel, but I was too focused to stop now. Fishtailing to the left now, the screaming was getting much louder but I still couldn't make it out clearly. I slammed it into third, revving between gears enough to go sideways one more time before shifting to fourth and coasting.

This all happened in a matter of seconds, but must have given John time for his life to flash before his eyes. The scream had turned to a mild whimper as I reached over with my right hand and lifted the dash panel back into place. As you can imagine, we returned to the dealership rather quickly. Pulling back into the lot I started to mock John, saying "Yep... it's all just noise right?"

John didn't hear a word of it. He had jumped out of the car while it was still moving, rolled quickly and got back up; all in a nice suit and tie mind you. He ran into the showroom and didn't talk to me for two days. After that day, the man never got in a car with me again. I've not talked to John in over 25 years, but I know Busam Nissan is still there and I guarantee he still remembers that ride.