Earlier this year, I had to sell a beloved friend to the four winds. Big Blue, a 1975 Pontiac Bonneville, had finally reached the point where I was unable to properly care for him anymore. Big Blue was the second car I ever owned, but the first one I ever really drove. I’ve had my driver’s license since my senior year of high school, but I never drove until I was much older, until I’d passed my thirtieth birthday. The first car was a 1967 Chevy Malibu, called The Silverfish, but I never drove him because driving intimidated me.

I finally managed to get the driving ball rolling, and I got my hands on Big Blue. We are talking solid steel construction, with a V8 455 engine chugging out horsepower like a locomotive. Hard to get Big Blue started, but once he got going, it was hard to stop him. Driving him around, I felt I was as armored as a tank. SUVs got out of my way, and other luxury cars stayed away – with a junker like Big Blue, it must look like I had no insurance. I did, but if they thought otherwise, fine with me.

Big Blue got in two accidents, both with SUVs who were speeding, and while I was stopped at a red stoplight. Big Blue could take it from behind and laugh. The bumper, molded into the superstructure, took both hits without much ado. I had to replace the back headlights both times, but big whup – one trip to the junkyard and it was a done deal. Both SUV’s walked away with damage to the fenders. I don’t imagine they got off for 25 bucks each time.

Good Lord, the room! I could cram 7 people in my car, 4 in the back and 3 in the front if I had to. You could stretch out in the back and take a nice nap. The trunk was a gargantua of space. I carted home many an estate sale piece of furniture in the trunk, and the back seat could take medium sized shelves or bed pieces if it had to. Talk about insane; it was like Doctor Who’s Tardis. Bigger on the inside than on the outside. The family went on many an excursion with this monster, I tell you.  The perfect outing car. It was a heck of a car to park, however. Parking Big Blue was like docking the Titanic.

Most importantly, I courted K with this car. I drove the four-hour-commute-both-ways every weekend to spend time with her in this car. Big Blue earned his big daddy points getting me from point A to point B and back safely again. I owe Big Blue a debt I can never repay.

I have a new, smaller, more gas efficient car named Micro-Blue now. Big Blue was getting about 7 miles to the gallon on the open road there, and worse in traffic. I could fill him up, and have half a tank two hours later, the way things were going. This 10% ethanol nonsense was really wrecking his carburetor too. Big Blue belongs in an era of pure gasoline satisfaction, where cigarettes were mandatory and Route 66 was a test of adulthood. In the growing dark ages of energy shortage, he just can’t hack it anymore.

So it was with a heavy heart that I decided to sell him. He was stalling more and more often, and I had replaced everything except the engine at this point. I put him on Craigslist, and a demolition derby crew bought him for 100 bucks. They towed him away and I cried into my pillow. It was the end of an era.

So this weekend, I went down to the Berryville, VA county fair, to watch Big Blue in the demolition derby. I figure he’d go out how he deserved to go out – in a Viking funeral of mega-death destruction. I went with the parental units and K. They brought the camera – I hope to have pictures. And there was Big Blue, with all the windows and lights taken out. A hole drilled in his hood to let the fire department spray his engine in case he caught fire. Chains keeping his doors closed. The number 22 painted on his doors. A warrior ready to go out fighting!

The course is a field section cordoned off by concrete jersey barriers and doused with water to create a muddy track. I’m guessing it’s to cut down on dust clouds. There are tons of state troopers acting as bouncers, and a yarn rope between traffic pylons to keep the masses from getting too close. There’s a group of construction vehicles to tow/push wrecks out of the way to the “dead” field, and a dedicated group of firefighters ready to douse fires. A group of referees risk life and limb to throw flags down when drivers break the rules, such as smashing into the driver’s side door. The crowd is right up there in front, without any screens of protection, and I have to say its an awesome feeling to be down with the people watching the mayhem up close.

The cars smash into each other only a few feet from where you are standing, and pieces of rubber from wrecked tire go flying into the crowd at regular intervals. The action only lasts about 5 or 6 minutes, because the cars are soon reduced to smoking, dripping wrecks. Radiators are smashed, axles are bent at ridiculous angles and yet still operate, and trunks are distorted beyond recognition. Yet I had to admire the sometimes over-attention to safety rules and the lives of the drivers. At one point, one car was tipped over and smashed upside down by another car. The announcer was brutal with his mockery of drivers who didn’t ignore the “all stop” order.

So how did Big Blue do? Well, his turn came, and he rolled right into the lineup with the other cars. The match started, and Big Blue…stalled! Yup, Big Blue choked. If a car doesn’t stay in action for more than a certain period of time, the referees rule him out. “Number twenty-two, you’re done.”  Big Blue lasted less than 10 seconds before he choked. He got banged around a bit, but the metal chassis held really well. They dragged him off the field of battle. The driver didn’t look too happy. I felt for him. Big Blue should have owned the battlefield, he was bigger than any of the other cars, and I know his toughness. It was very disappointing.

But fear not. He gets to compete in the next qualifying heat, this week in West Virginia. I probably won’t make it, but I know he’ll bust some chops in that match! For now, Big Blue lives to drive another day.