When my grandparents died after 50 years of smoking two packs a day in 1975, they bequeathed to us their car.
At the time, I was 17 and vaguely aware they owned a car: some big, yellow, hulking dignified thing that we never saw them drive. A couple of days after my grandmother's death it showed up in our driveway.
"Grandma has left us her car, which you will be allowed to use," my mother said when I walked in the house from school, "as long as you treat it respectfully."
I went out to look at the angular two-door barge quietly taking up a huge portion of the driveway and thought, "Ugh."
It was a 1965 Mercury. More specifically, a 1965 Mercury Montclair Marauder. It was nobody's idea of hot wheels. You can almost see the Ford marketing guys sitting around a 1963 conference table needing to invoke the staid, manicured lawns of Montclair, New Jersey, where their customers lived grandparents, every last one of them but wanting to bust out just a little bit for those that still clung to fading memories of an imagined youth.
Late this week, it was reported that Ford is close to deciding to phase out the Mercury line. But in Central Ohio, in the mid-1970s, the Merc had its hidden charms. The thing was in pristine condition. It had a radio that could be heard around the block. And it had an engine that could have pulled a truck at top speed uphill: a 400 cubic inch V8.
It had some serious go.
I realized that all this Mercury needed was what they nowadays call rebranding. And so the Mercury was quickly re-christened "The Bomb" and it became a mainstay in my youthful misadventures. Three of my siblings learned to drive in the Bomb. Other explorations were undertaken in its vast, cream-colored, leather back seat.
We gave it some road tests early on. Within a week of its arrival, one of the engine mounts on the monster V8 was history. The original back tires, nine years old and showing full tread that first afternoon in our driveway, lasted just four weeks, having been deposited in black stripes all over town. The Bomb rarely negotiated a corner without shedding a hubcap. Pretty soon, like a feral cat, it had become the marauder it was always meant to be.