It was the crack of noon when Don Smoltz, a cross between a young adult and an alcoholic, stepped out of the basement and into the warm world of mid spring. His 1974 Pontiac Grand Am at the curb, with its 400 cubic inch, 4-barrel engine could melt off a set of tires in 4 minutes flat. With most of Don’s income allocated to alcohol, rent and fines (although he was rarely caught), he refrained last night from smoking the rear two tires into oblivion and settled for a 2-minute burnout. That left the back skins looking like a black mirror with absolutely no tread left. The skill in this maneuver is to know when to back off before the steel belted cords become a wheel well brush. When they do, tire disintegration is imminent, and you WILL cut your hands changing the tire. Grinning at the returning memories that started unfolding in Don’s mind, he recalled the events leading up to last night’s game of BEATER TAG. With automobiles costing around $4,000 brand new and wages around $6.00/hour, no one would dare destroy a new car; however, with winter salts dissolving steel and unreliable engineering, cars dropped like a rock. You could pick up a 4-year-old car for less than 20% of its showroom cost. Throw in body damage and some mechanical problems and you could nab it for a few hundred dollars. But the real gold mines were in cars that didn’t run. From working at gas stations and hanging with motorheads, Don could see the problem’s origins and assess the repair. He once struck a deal with a friend’s dad to haul away a heap that laid in the back yard for a year. The agreed amount was $25. Don scooted off to the local junkyard and found the right starter. Laying in the dirt with minimal tools, he removed it, took it over to the dead
beast, and, within 15 minutes, had it started. Taking it home, he then fine-tuned some items, put some fresh siphoned gas in, and it purred like a well stroked kitten. Total cost, including a used $13 starter: $38.  

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