Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Memory Bank: My First Car (AMC Hornet 1973)
With all my recent writing here about Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994) and the Timothy Dalton James Bond (1987 – 1989), I’ve really been recalling that particular period in my life, and especially my (much-mourned) very first car.
As I went into my senior year of high school in New Jersey, and earned my driver’s license, I purchased my first automobile: a used AMC Hornet from 1973. That’s a photograph of it, above. I still love that car, and remember it fondly. Isn't she beautiful?
The American Motors Corporation began producing the Hornet, a compact car, in 1970 and continued manufacturing it and selling it through 1977. According to Wikipedia, the Hornet would eventually “outlast all other compact platforms from the competition that included Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick and Plymouth Valiant.”
If I recall correctly, I purchased the car for a mere one hundred dollars because it was in really bad shape, and then my Dad and I took several search expeditions to a nearby junkyard in Irvington to replace missing or damaged parts. The process only took a few weeks, but we ended up finding all the Hornet icons and logos and other missing elements.
Still, there was a problem: On some cold winter mornings, the car wouldn’t start. In fact, I could only get it to start by jamming a small block of wood into a specific butterfly valve and thus holding it in the open position.
I remember listening to The Living Daylights soundtrack in my car, and tooling around my neighborhood by night in that black Hornet. It was amazing, at that relatively young age, just to be able to leave the house when I wanted, for how long I wanted, to go anywhere I desired. Today, of course, that’s easy to take for granted.
Today, I remember my AMC Hornet with so much love, in part because I do, irrevocably, associate the car with James Bond. Not just in terms of The Living Daylights (1987), but in terms of The Man from the Golden Gun (1974). As you may recall, the AMC Hornet made an unusual guest appearance in that Roger Moore Bond film.
Late in the film, James Bond (Moore) and American sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) -- who happens to be visiting Thailand (!) on vacation -- go after the villainous Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in a Hornet they steal from the showroom. To catch up to the fleeing villain, Bond must jump a broken bridge…and flip the car.
The particular stunt is pretty amazing, even today. A stuntman named “Bumps” Willard performed the jump and spun the Hornet 360 degrees in mid-air on the longitudinal axis ,in is called an “aerial twist.”
The stunt is depicted in the film in slow motion (and with the unfortunate sound effect of a penny whistle),, but I still boast a certain sense of pride every time I see it, since I was a Hornet owner. Apparently, the Hornet was the only car the filmmaker’s could find that could accomplish the difficult stunt.
As much as I may have wanted to, I never tried the Bond jump in my Hornet. But she was a good car, and I miss her. Below, you can see the AMC Hornet and her brief romance with 007 in The Man with the Golden Gun.