PCH, Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72 Edition: Mercury Cougar Or Volvo 1800ES?

Illustration for article titled PCH, Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail 72 Edition: Mercury Cougar Or Volvo 1800ES?

In possibly the most humiliating defeat for France since the whole Algerian débâcle, a French car lost a Project Car Hell challenge to American machinery, with the '61 Simca Aronde getting crushed beneath the rusted hulks of a pair of Lincoln Continentals... and that's with the Simca getting some help from one of the finest PCH commenter tirades we've ever seen (notice hereby given: Graverobber has raised the Commenter Tirade Bar to hitherto unprecedented levels). We'll need to give France a chance to regain its former PCH glory very soon, but we're going to get all political-journalist on your ass with today's choices.

I'm not one of those guys (and they're all guys) who blindly worship every mark that the dope-palsied hand of Hunter S. Thompson ever set on paper, but when the man was on, he was really on (insert rant here about annoying HST wannabes who focus on the lifestyle instead of the writing). Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72 stands as one of the finest works of American political journalism ever written. It's so good, in fact, that we can disregard all the weaker stuff Thompson wrote when he became a parody of himself in later years and lost the ability to meet any sort of deadline. In the book, Thompson refers to several vehicles he drove while covering the 1972 presidential race, and since the current contest features a pair of candidates who differ as widely as Richard M. Nixon and George McGovern did back then, it seems only right to grab a couple of the cars from the book for today's challenge.

Thompson rented an "Auto/Stick Cougar" in Washington DC, a car "built by junkies to teach the rest of us a lesson." While it's possible that rental car companies were using '71 or maybe even '73 models in the fall of 1972, we're going to assume it was a '72 and go with this 1972 Mercury Cougar, which is priced at a price that will inspire very little fear or loathing: a thousand bucks! The seller figures it's best to let the grainy, ill-focused photos tell the whole story, with "72 cougar,351ci-runs-needs some work" being the only description. But what more do you need? You'll be spitting hot black divots all over the road when you get a 460 in this thing!

Thompson arrived in DC behind the wheel of a brand-new Volvo wagon issued to him by Rolling Stone; there's no mention of whether it was a boring ol' 145 or a snazzy 1800ES, so we're going with the latter option. Yes, you'll suddenly find yourself aiming a .44 Magnum at the Mojo Wire as it beeps, beeps, beeps for more copy once you buy this 1972 Volvo 1800ES... well, no you won't, because you'll need to get it running before you head off to stalk cover the '08 candidates. The transmission went bad last year and it hasn't run since, but the driver alleges that the engine "ran good" up to that point. There's rust. Parts are hard to find. Your project will be nothing next to what faces the guy who wins the ticket to the Oval Office, however, so keep that in mind as you shout into the phone to "Big Sven," your parts man in Malmö.


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Rob Emslie

No matter what your political bent, that cougar is project car hell, pure and simple. Old cougars are good. Old cougars are fun. Cougars will getcha' there and back without all that baggage that a young filly brings with her. But a Cougar will bite you on the ass sure as shit.

Seeing this ad, you become immediately aroused at the sight of its dark, ebony presence. Standing ata jaunty tilt and seemingly leaning against the fence as if to say wanna smoke? The fact that it's in Rio Linda, and your best friend's mom's name is Linda Rio seals the deal for you.

Getting the car home, you call over to your friend's house to let him know about the odd coincidence about the car and his mom's name. Your friend isn't home, but his mom picks up the phone. Perfect, you can tell her!

She is intrigued by the story and laughs a lot at your dumb jokes. Linda says she can't wait to see your new car, and in a move that seals your fate, you invite her over.

When she arrives, it's 6 hours later, and nearly midnight. Although she's carrying a six-er of PBR, you know she's already had a lot to drink. "Here" she says, pushing the beer at you and breathing a wave of cosmos and Virginia Slims over you.

"Thanks" you say to her, and put the warming cans on the workbench next to the Cougar's freshly extracted alternator. She walks slowly into the garage, and you're amazed that she can do so in such high-heels. "Have you… been out this… evening?" you ask her, your voice cracking with each syllable. "Out?" she repeats. "Yes, I've been out this evening at a fine dining establishment." "With Mr Rio?" you ask, thinking of her husband and his Navy tattoo. Your best friend once told you that, when his dad caught him smoking pot in the basement, he smacked him up side the head and knocked him out. The only thing he remembered was that tattoo, swinging at his head. She looks down her nose at you, and a lock of hair falls over one eye. Her expression mocks your question, and she shakes her head. "No, my husband is off with his buddies fishing, or so he says. She spits out the word husband like she was saying child molester or advertising executive. "Now, let me see this car of yours."

You lead her back into the garage, where there is little room between the car and wall. "Hmmm" she fairly moans, "It's so long, it must be hard getting it into tight parking spaces." You swallow hard and wish you had grabbed one of those beers. Linda says she wants to see the inside and slides sideways past you, so close that you feel her chest against yours, and her dress shifts left against your jeans. She raises an eyebrow while looking you dead in the eye, and turns to lean over the door and peer inside. Her dress, while seemly demure when she was standing, now appears to cling to her curves and outline her shape in a most provocative manner. "Ummmm, roomy" she purrs, "and so many shiny buttons and things." She rubs her hand down the door edge and under the latch. "I'm not good with buttons and things, that's why I have to wear these front-closure bras" she says directing your eyes to her ample and easily artificial cleavage. It's suddenly really hot in the garage, and you're now thirstier than you've ever been in your life. Opening the door she states that she wants to see the back seat. Linda swings the front seat forward, and in an attempt to duck into the dark, cool chasm of the opera-windowed rear, falls over and spinning, lands on her butt between the front seat and the door jam. "Mrs. Rio!" you exclaim, forgetting your age and her strict instructions to her son that all his friends should just call her "Linda."

Reaching forward, you try and get your arms around her, but she only manages to sink lower, bringing you down with her. The smell of cigarettes and loneliness fills the air between you as she moves her legs to gain a footing, but only manages to shift her dress up around her hips. Part of you doesn't want to look down, doesn't want to see this middle aged woman's underwear. But the stronger, stupider part makes you look, and you see a Victoria's Secret waistband and a black triangle of shear fabric. "You're stronger than you look" she slurs, and reaches her hand between your legs. Gulping for air, you think to yourself, this could not possibly get any worse.

And then it does.

From out in the driveway you hear a voice. "Linda?! Are you in there?" Linda smiles and says "that's my goddam husband, tell him to go f…" Her words are stifled by a belch and you taste bile in your mouth. "What the…?" from right behind you. "Why you little sombitch!"

All of a sudden you feel yourself levitated off the floor, Linda receding from your vision. Her husband plunks you down in front of the car and stands there breathing through his nose and the only thing that goes through your mind is that he should have a ring in his nose, because he's breathing like an angry bull, and they have rings through their noses and his little bloodshot eyes look kind of bovine too and….

When you wake up, you are in the ICU at the hospital and your mother is sitting next to you. "Wha…, what happened?" you say through your wired together jaw. "Oh dear" your mother says. "I warned you about cougars, didn't I?"