Although I’ve bought several cars, only 2 were fitted with sound systems – a CD player in the ’32 and a cassette player in a particularly evil 1965 Chevrolet El Camino. Both came with obligatory discs/tapes that the previous owners had failed to remove before handing me the keys. The sadly now deceased pick-up’s undeclared added bonus was ‘Hank Williams Greatest Hits’.
I gunned the thing past a slower car only to find myself wrestling a high speed mother and father of a tank slapper…
I was a novice when it came to traditional country music and American cars but I instantly fell for both. The black Chevy had been modified in Tennessee – the 327 engine having been upgraded to a 350 that was putting out a conservative 400 brake horsepower. Frankly it was insane. For the nine months I owned this fearsome car, the equally unpredictable country singer serenaded me – until the inevitable accident one fateful winters night.
The end came under the Sun in the Sands roundabout where the A2 runs up to the Blackwall Tunnel. In those days it was a single lane from Eltham through to Blackheath where it then opened up to 3 lanes. Keen to get home, as the road widened, I gunned the thing past a slower car only to find myself wrestling a high speed mother and father of a tank slapper. Eventually I over-corrected and cannoned into the nearside concrete support of the roundabout above. I must have been travelling quite quickly as no sooner had the front end made contact with the wall, the Chevy spun round and clouted the rear wing before slewing to a halt astride the centre lane.
It was akin to a NASCAR shunt and given the El Camino didn’t have belts I was very lucky not to hurt myself. Bits of it lay in the opposite carriageway, steam poured from the destroyed radiator and to get out I had to turn sideways on the bench seat and use both feet to kick open the crumpled door. The only thing that broke the silence was Hank “and crave the love you threw away. The time will come when you’ll be blue. Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…”