The story of that Demon Christine
by Mike Fettes
At the ripe age of 19, I was finally able to obtain a Texas state driver's license. Although I had not recieved the photo-type I.D., I still had the temporary license so eagerly sought by youths my age (and three years younger). I soon began scouring the local newspaper, looking for any car remotely cool and within my price range. I managed to come across a 1967 Ford Fairlane 4-door for just under $1100, but as we all know, friends don't let friends drive Fords. I also came across a Falcon, but I figured I'd need a car a little bit bigger than a volkswagon bug.
One day I was browsing through the Dodge section of our local paper, and came across an ad that read basically:
"1971 Dodge Demon /6, AT/AC. $1000"
Not knowing what the hell a 'Dodge Demon' was, I asked my mom (she'd once been the proud owner of a 1967 steele blue Dodge Dart), who responded with 'OH WOW! A Dodge Demon!'. Somewhat bewildered by this statement (I'd never seen my mom react like this, except when talking of her Dart), she realized the perplexed look on my face and began to explain what exactly this car was. I decieded to call the man who placed the ad, and without even seeing the beast, offered him $800 cash. He sounded more than a little interested, and offered for me to come out an have a look-see. We called our 'mechanic' (a guy with who my mother worked) and we all piled in our cars (my brother-in-law and sister decided to come along too) and drove across town to see her.
Upon arriving we pulled up along behind what looked like a hunter green Plymouth Duster (well, except for the taillamps and the litte devil emblem). Not being too fond of the color green (and it had a white vinyl top to boot), I was more than a bit hesitant at first. Our 'mechanic' gave the car a clean bill of heath, so he and I took the car for a little spin. It was then that I realized that this car was nearly as big as my bedroom - it had a split-back bench seat in the front (capable of holding three adults comfortably), a steel dashboard (something I grew to like - how many other people do you know who could put refrigerator magnets on their dash?), and the biggest goddamned trunk I had ever seen in my life. Mike (our 'mechanic') pulled over and let me drive her around the block. I had never seen a car that had a truck-like steering wheel and parking brake. I soon realized why the steering wheel was do damned big - the car was not equipped with power steering (or brakes for that matter). Whoever designed the car had been smart enough to include a large steering wheel for those hand-over-hand-over-hand turns.
Since the car passed its initial tests, and was accepted at the price of $800, I decided to buy her. My brother-in- law got to drive her home, and for such a large car with only a 225cid, she had quite a little pep. We pulled into our apartment complex, and I immediately began calling all my friends to come over and view her.
Although I didn't have car insurance yet, I took a couple of friends for a spin around the block. Then it happened.. while cruising through the highschool parking lot, the car died (I was a block from home). It took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes to get her started...even though the Holley 1bbl. carb. was getting plenty of gasoline. I managed to get her home, and called our mechanic. Mike came over the next day and took her over to his house for a tune-up.
A couple of days later he brought her back to me, but the engine sounded (and shook) like my mom's old sewing machine. Luckily I was a military dependant, and we lived across from the now closed Bergstrom Air Force Base. I was also lucky to have been dating a girl whose father was an old grease monkey. Larry offered to give me a hand with the car, and we had it towed to the auto shop on base. After a couple of days, Larry and his daughter took the engine apart and called me to give me the bad news - the oil sending unit and water pump had given out at the same time, causing the 5th bearing to snap and grind the cam and crankstaft. The 5th piston was lodged (but not fused) in its sleeve, and the oilpan was full of metal shavings. Luckily Larry had worked on nearly every other engine, and offered to assist with rebuilding it. I got my best friend Donny to come on base with his truck, and we went and bought a rebuilt 225 from a local company ($350 with old block trade-in). We took the new heart back to the autoshop, and over the next month (working on the weekends only) we reassembled the motor, replaced the filter on the tranny, and reattached everything. It wasn't too long before I was putting around town in this large beast.
I was asked several times by my mother what I was going to call my car - its kinda like a family tradition to name our cars, must be a southern thing. It took me a little while, but I finally decided on Christine... Afterall, it was a Demon, and I found that the car was a bit tempramental, if not downright bitchy at times. Aside from the rebuilt engine, I was also forced (over the next 2 years) to replace the rear main flange (the carb would die and I would drop her into neutral, restart her, revv her up and drop her into drive), the driveshaft (same reason), the carb (finally!), and the master cylinder. Unfortunately, I never thought to have the tranny rebuilt. After 2 years of driving Christine around central Texas, the tranny decided that it would decide what gear it wanted to be in. I would be sitting at a stopsign/light and the tranny would drop itself into neutral. Once I was ready to go, it would roughly kick into 1st, then neutral, then 2nd and 3rd. I was forced to trade Christine in on another car. I drug Christine to one of the local Chrystler dealerships (who else would appreciate her?), and was lucky enought to get $1500 on trade in (after producing the recipts for all the new/reconditioned parts - totalling about the same). I managed to get a Dodge truck, but tears welled up as I drove off and left Christine behind.
Although its been 3 1/2 years since I left her, I've been searching frantically for my car. My wife has been scouring the local paper weekly to see if there are more Demons for sale. Although I cannot offer a reward (thanks to my mortgage) I'd KILL to get my hands on my old car. If ANYONE posesses a hunter green 1971 Dodge Demon, VIN# LL29C1B330005, and would like to sell her, you've got a taker !
- Mike Fettes, Austin, Texas