My First Car: A Bondo-And-Rust Ford Courier

I earned the car by painting my neighbor's house

My first car was a 1972 Ford Courier. For those who don't remember, this was a small pickup truck made by Ford in a joint venture with Mazda, and was a pre-cursor to the Ford Ranger/Mazda B2000.

Half of my ancestry is Bohemian, and, according to my mother, I got all the gypsy blood. So, at age 21, upon returning from nearly two years of working and hitchhiking around Ireland and mainland Europe, I was broke.

So, I was delighted when Mr. Emons, our next-door neighbor, gave me a job helping to paint his house. In lieu of cash, he offered to pay me with a bare-bones, dusty, little white 1972 Ford Courier.

I have always been of the the mindset to "do the best with the hand dealt to me." And I find that situations with limitations get my creative juices going much moreso than a blank canvas. I planned from the moment I made the deal to earn that truck with the sweat of my brow and fix it up to something I could be proud of.

A friend of a friend who built custom furniture let me bring my Courier pickup into his shop on weekends to sand, bondo and paint. Despite my energetic enthusiasm, the last step never happened. So, for the next couple of years my Courier looked like a feeble leopard with oxidized white and Bondo gray spots. In another spurt of energy I tore out the interior only to have my Dad tell me to move that "eyesore" from the front yard. I had to put orange crates into the cab to sit on to drive it around to the back. I put the original bench seat back in, but the dashboard, with the exposed metal tabs, was probably the most lethal part of the restoration process.

Working three jobs and attending Arizona State University full time gave me only one day off that entire year. My cousin Kelly came to visit over her spring break, and I took her to see the Grand Canyon. There was a freak Arizona snowstorm. We got as far as the town of Payson without any sense of hesitation. But just North of Payson we pulled into a church parking lot to consider our options. I was determined (stupidly so) not to let a snowstorm ruin my one-day off. I put that little truck in gear and headed on the road to the Grand Canyon via Lake Mary. The snow was coming straight at us, mesmerizing us. I guarantee we had a guardian angel with us the whole way.

That little Courier came to the end of its life after a day at the zoo with three toddler cousins. It simply stopped at the crest of the swell of the McClintock Road bridge. It coasted into the first driveway at the base the bridge, which ironically was a salvage yard. An uncle of mine rescued the three kids and me, but my Courier, my first car, disappeared into that salvage yard.

Where the salvage yard once stood is today a very popular retail center. I have never passed that retail center without thinking of that little oxidized and Bondo gray Ford Currier.

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