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Saturday, August 11, 2018

An Ill-Fated Convertible

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An Ill-Fated Convertible
An Ill-Fated Convertible

Jack Karie was a top investigative reporter in Phoenix, AZ. He covered the police beat for the Arizona Republic and wrote a series of articles about an ongoing war in the Superstition Mountains between two gangs that were feuding over a gold mine.

The War

It resulted in several shootings that left at least three miners dead. I helped Karie cover one of the killings and he rewarded me by offering me a reporting job on the Evening American, a daily newspaper owned by a Mormon Bishop named Evan Mecham. He had left the Republic to become City Editor of the new tabloid newspaper, a hard-hitting tabloid edited by Art Heenan.

Karie and I

We became good friends over the next few months. We played poker at his house with several other reporters and we spent our Saturdays at Turf Paradise handicapping the horses. I was driving a Ford Mustang that had seen better days and one morning my car gave up the ghost. It wouldn't start despite all my efforts so I called Jack at the newspaper.

'Hey Boss, I need another car,' I said. 'Do you know any honest used car dealers in this town?'

He hesitated. 'Well, I know one guy but I'm not sure how honest he is,' Karie said. 'His name is Slim Sarwark. He owns Miracle Used Cars at 35th Avenue and Grand. Give him a shot. He'll find a car for you. I'll give him a call and tell him you're coming over.'

Sarwark was a tall, lean Texan who owned and trained a couple of horses at Turf Paradise. He used reverse psychology to sell his cars. I took the bus to his car lot and was greeted by a series of Burma Shave-type signs IF IT RUNS GOOD, IT'S A MIRACLE...ONCE YOU BUY IT, YOU OWN IT...BUYER, BEWARE... and more of the same.

He was smoking a cigar when I approached him in his office...

'So you're a friend of Karie's,' he said. 'I got just the car for you, an Impala convertible that a little old lady from Casa Grande just traded in for a Pontiac. Great car. Runs like a dream. You'll love it.'

The car was white with a red interior. It was parked near the road with the top down and I admit it looked great. We haggled over the price and I ended up buying it.

After I paid Sarwark he asked me what I planned to do with the car. I told him I was newly married and planned to drive my new bride to Las Vegas for a second honeymoon.

'Great idea,' said Sarwark, counting out the money. 'You'll have a fantastic trip.'

I drove my convertible out of the Miracle Used Cars lot and headed for home.

The following day my wife Nan and I drove to Las Vegas. We did fine until we passed Kingman, AZ.

Then I started smelling a strange odor...

Black smoke was coming from the muffler. I ignored it and kept driving even though Nan was concerned.

'I think our car is having some problems,' she said.

About 20 miles from Las Vegas, a car pulled alongside me and the driver yelled, 'Buddy, I think your car is on fire!.' Then he pulled ahead of me and sped away. I pulled to the side of the road and got out. Smoke was pouring from the underside of the convertible. There weren't any flames but there were sparks.

On Boulder Highway, I found a garage and pulled in to have the car checked. Sam's Town Casino was just a short distance down the highway. The garage mechanic said he would check out the car and gave me a loaner. We drove to Sam's Town, registered in the hotel resort, and I started playing poker.

I won about $800. As I raked in my chips, my cell phone rang. It was bad news. The mechanic told me my convertible was finished. The engine had blown and there was nothing he could do but replace it.

I had paid $1,200 for the car. Seething with quiet rage, I traveled back to Phoenix with my wife and called Jack. He, in turn, called Slim Sarwark.

'Bring him back,' Slim said. 'I got another car for him and this one's a beauty. By the way, I got a horse running today in the sixth race and it's a cinch. Can't miss.'

I didn't bet on Slim's horse. It ran out of the money. He did give me a decent price on the second car and it ran reasonably well until I traded it in on an Oldsmobile.

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