Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers)
Last week’s story, The Class of ’81 turns 50, was written by Anthony Accardi Jr.
One of my sisters’ former boyfriends had a 1967 blue “goat.” A GTO with 4 on the floor. It was the coolest car I had ever seen up until then. Even when he popped the clutch and the car ended up on the sidewalk in front of the Middlesex Bank on Highland Ave. in Davis Square. By the way, he was cited for recklessness and driving barefooted. But boy, was that car nice.
That incident fueled my infatuation with “muscle cars,” and back in the day Villens were tooling around in some pretty slick machines. I asked some of my friends to recall some of their former rubber leaving memories, complete with glass packs and cherry bombs.
Cruising up to Friendly’s on Highland Ave. in your ’72 Cutlass SS (purchased at Bellotti Olds on Broadway) got a lot of looks. A brand new 1973 Cutlass with swivel seats, also from Belottiis, cost only $3,500. I remember a cherry ‘67 Oldsmobile 442, loaded, with a 4 speed, was revving up its engines in the high school parking lot, prompting the vice principle to reprimand the driver. Go get ‘em Mr. Joyce!
Tooling around the Ville in a 1973 T-Bird with a 460 4 barrel turned a few heads. And then there were the Corvettes. They were so sharp looking. Anyone became cool when they drove a ‘Vette. But when the Plymouth Road Runner popped on the scene, it caused quite a ruckus, especially with the 440 cubic inch engine. If one drove by you, you could actually feel the vibration. In 1968 they sold 45,000 Road Runners and I swear at least ten of them were in Somerville. They sounded sweet, they looked great and man were they fast. I remember seeing a cop car chasing one over the Ball Square bridge once. The driver finally pulled over right before the Powder House rotary and accepted his speeding ticket.
You may remember that sleek 1967 powder blue Thunderbird that was always cruising up and down Holland St. near the Western Junior High School and Teele Square. The Somerville News’ Donald Norton was looking wicked pissa in his 1967 Silver Plymouth Barracuda with a 383. A ’65 fire engine red Mustang Convertible with black interior turned a few heads when it pulled into the Bal-A-Roue parking lot in Meffa. My buddy loved his ‘69 Charger 440, and the cops loved to chase it.
The first car I ever drove was a cousin’s brand new 1969 Chevy Super Sport. I still remember how awesome those flags on the emblem looked. From then on, I yearned for fast cars. They included a 1979 Firebird, and my 1992 anniversary edition Chevy Camaro convertible. That car was a rocket ship. I traded it in and now I drive a family friendly Chevy Tahoe. Some other cars of Somerville’s cruising past were a 1974 Datsun 260Z, 88’ Dodge Daytona, 1989 Firebird Formula, a 1973 T-Bird 460 4 barrel, and last but not least, a 68 mustang GT 390 bored and stroked with full race cam Hurst 4 speed Holly 750 4bbl carb that once did 160 on the expressway at 4 a.m. It probably slowed down to 100 on McGrath Highway.
One day I was coming out of La Contessa bakery, when Highland Ave. was still a two way street. A GTO was racing a Shelby Mustang, using both lanes. I remember seeing people jump back onto the sidewalk and I almost dropped my cannoli! I jumped back into my 1979 Cougar and popped some Zeppelin in the 8-track player.
There were Z28s, Cougars, Mustangs, IROCs, Formulas and Firebirds. A friend gives us this parting thought. “I loved my ’78 Buick Regal white with T-Tops and plush red velvet seats with sport wheels! Sadly, I totaled it on Route 93 on my way to work. Now I drive a 1996 green mercury sable! We long for the days of ‘cudas and goats.” Someday I hope to get another cool set of wheels like the ones we used to drive. Hopefully, when the kids get out of college, and I retire!
I miss the days of driving muscle cars around Somerville. But the good news is, if I ever get the urge to “leave a patch,” my pal has a sweet 79 Camaro that he may let me borrow.
Project Star Presents: “A Yankee in the Ville” on Thursday, August 15, at the West Somerville Neighborhood School Cafetorium at 7 p.m. Free!