- The Washington Times - Friday, August 21, 2009

Soon after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1963, Daniel Jirovec went to work for a division of General Electric. With the graduate’s newfound wealth, he purchased a used British sports car.

In the spring of 1965, Mr. Jirovec was called to Chicago, where his boss assigned him to cover new territory that included the western half of South Dakota and part of eastern Wyoming. His boss informed him that he would have to buy a “real car,” one that could devour the wide open spaces of the upper Midwest.

Turns out the boss’ brother-in-law sold cars nearby at the Seltzer Pontiac dealership. Mr. Jirovec and his boss jumped into a company car and “off we went,” he recalls. “I had no idea what he sold, but was pleasantly surprised when the dealership came into view.”

On the spot, Mr. Jirovec decided that his new car was going to be red and it was going to be a convertible. He was taken to the sixth (and top) floor of what appeared to be an old A&P; grocery store warehouse.

“There had to be over 100 cars there, any color, style or transmission,” Mr. Jirovec says. The red Pontiac that he selected had a black interior with a 326-cubic-inch V-8 engine under a two-barrel carburetor. The small V-8 delivered 250 horsepower.

“I think I could have had the GTO package for about $285 more,” he says. The car was equipped with AM radio, power brakes, power steering and automatic transmission.

“Then it was off to the boiler room to meet the credit manager who said it didn’t look good. It would be hard to get credit for a single male who had lived in four places in three years,” Mr. Jirovec says.

But, he had a grand plan. After a bit of finagling with the numbers and adjusting the price of the Pontiac, as well as the trade-in value of Mr. Jirovec’s British sports car, a bank loan was approved and he became the proud owner of a red 1965 Pontiac Tempest LeMans convertible.

He drove off owing a total of $91.40 each month for the next three years.

His 3,115-pound convertible rode on a 115-inch wheelbase. “Once I hit the road,” Mr. Jirovec says, “I usually drove about 75 mph.” In western South Dakota he didn’t do much city driving and at 65 mph he reports gas mileage of 20 miles per gallon.

In 1968, about the time the car was paid for, Mr. Jirovec quit his job and returned to school for a graduate degree. Two years later, he was married and the handsome red Pontiac became his wife’s car.

In the North Country, the absence of an air conditioner has never been a problem, even with the heat-absorbing black interior. Mr. Jirovec attributes that fact to the way Pontiac engineers controlled airflow.

“With the top up, the windows down and the plastic rear window unzipped,” he says, “It’s just like air conditioning.”

After the Pontiac had provided 20 years of reliable service, Mr. Jirovec and his wife decided that their car had worked long and hard enough. “I put it out to pasture,” he says.

Even then, he says, during the cool summer evenings where they live in Stevens Point, Wis., we would drive it weekly for an ice cream cone after supper. “It’s a head-turner,” he says.

The Pontiac’s odometer has logged 128,422 miles with the most serious problem encountered been replacing the windshield. Back when the car had been driven only 100,000 miles, Mr. Jirovec says, “The local Pontiac service manager talked me into changing the timing, cooling and generator belts.”

Radial tires have replaced the original 14-inch tires. With the exception of a few touch-up spots, the owner says the red paint is original.

He has recently installed new brakes, brake lines and shock absorbers. Because of Mr. Jirovec’s adherence to recommended maintenance, he says, “It’s never left me stranded, failed to start or left me in the lurch.”

The Pontiac does not receive any special treatment except every Oct. 15 when it is put away for the winter. “I fill the gasoline tank with high-test, add octane booster and lead additive,” he explains.

Before covering it with a blue plastic tarp, Mr. Jirovec litters the interior with plenty of Bounce dryer sheets and mothballs to keep wild little critters at bay.

In the 44 years that he and his Pontiac have been together, Mr. Jirovec observes, “It’s been a good friend and a loyal companion.”

If you would like your Out of the Past review to be considered for an upcoming article, e-mail us your car’s jpeg image, plus brief details and phone number. Type “Out of the Past” in subject box to info@ motormatters.biz.

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