My first car was a 1972 Ford Pinto. The one that became famous for the gas tank that exploded on impact. It was lemon yellow. I paid $600 for it in 1980.

The second time I drove it, I was headed home on Sunset Blvd. and it was raining. I turned left on Bundy Drive and headed down the hill. Almost immediately the motor home in front of me stopped at an intersection. I pressed my brake pedal … nothing. I pumped the brake pedal … nothing. And then I hit the motor home.

The front of my Pinto crumpled. Smoking and grinding all the way, I drove it home. I told my boyfriend and my mother that the brakes had failed. My boyfriend went out and checked. He said the brakes were fine. My mother opined that I was just going too fast for the conditions, a typical new driver mistake.

We fixed the car, sort of. It needed a new hood and a new right fender. We found a blue fender and a white hood at the junkyard and bolted them on. And there you go! Get back in and drive the car.

But I was terrified. I still insisted the brakes had failed, but nobody believed me. I kept putting off driving my Pinto, and the more I resisted the more abuse I had to endure. Finally I had to drive the lemon yellow death trap.

It was going okay at first but as I came to a red light and depressed the brake pedal … right to the floor! And I’m pumping and nothing, no brakes. I rolled across the eight-lane intersection holding my breath. It was eerily still as no other cars moved. They all waited and watched as I glided out into no-man’s land.

This time I didn’t plow into an obstacle in my path. I was sailing free. So I kept driving. I moved two lanes to the right and aimed for the first driveway I saw. I turned in, set my emergency brake and came to a soft landing in the most perfect and improbable place I could find myself, a Midas Muffler Shop. When I looked up the first thing I saw was the words, “We do BRAKES.”

It took the Midas guy just a few minutes to find the problem. My master cylinder was drained dry, no brake fluid.

I never painted that car. I sold it for $650 with its blue fender and white hood.

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