By Mike Hoinowski
Being in my mid 30’s the “follies of my youth” are not all that far behind me…who am I kidding, they’re far from over! I went to high school in the last few years before everyone had cell phones, GPS, or cars that could tell your parents where you went and how fast you got there. My friends had 80’s Camaros and Firebirds, I had the use of my parent’s TR4 and my first car—a TR7 coupe.
On a hot Saturday afternoon in June of my senior year a group of us were at school making hoagies for a fundraiser. I had pulled the TR4 under a covered entranceway out of the sun to keep those comfy black vinyl seats from reaching nuclear reactor temperatures for my ride home; and to crank up the radio so we had some tunes while we worked. We finished everything much faster than expected. At this point I’m not sure who’s keen eye made the observation that the TR4 looked slightly narrower than the entrance doors to the school, but an observation such as this must be verified, so we instantly began plotting.
I maneuvered the TR4 right up to the door. (We told the janitor we wanted to hear the radio better.) We had about one inch to spare on each side, but there was still a steel bar down the middle of the two doors. Those wrenches and screwdrivers in the trunk that were rarely needed to resurrect the car from some roadside malady suddenly had a purpose! Now we just had to figure out a way to get up the two small steps without losing the exhaust or low hanging parts. We were stumped and pretty much gave up on our misguided adventure, until a trip to the restroom revealed large stacks of outdated college decision books, marked as trash, lining the hall in front of the guidance counselor offices. Makeshift ramps: check! …Plotting officially resumed.
We knew our time to get the car in the school would be limited since the one on-duty janitor kept checking in on us every few minutes (which was wise on his part). Two people would remove the door’s center bar, while several others would run books down the hall from the guidance office and hand them off to others who would carefully line up the books with the car’s wheels as I sat there idling. Two friends with disposable cameras were our assigned photographers. Now we just needed a window of opportunity, which was soon handed to us on a silver platter. The same janitor who had been keeping a sporadic suspicious eye on us all afternoon casually walked over and said that he needed to go over to the middle school and would be back in about 10 minutes (…not so wise).
We sat patiently at cafeteria tables until his truck turned the corner and cruised out of sight. We sprung into action like a NASCAR pit crew! In under a minute the bar between the doors was out. A minute after that we had ramps made of books, and I was carefully easing through the tight double doors into the lobby. Our high school was being gutted for renovation so the floor was bare concrete and all the ceiling tiles had been removed, which made for an echo filled hallway when students crowded it between classes. The already sporty sound of the TR4’s exhaust suddenly erupted into a cacophony of sound reminiscent of a racetrack starting line as it crossed the door’s threshold. It was fantastic! We shouted over the rumbling as we positioned the car for pictures in front of the trophy case and welcome sign. After several minutes of pictures, laughter, and a little engine revving we decided we better get the car out before the janitor returned or someone heard the ridiculous amount of noise and came to check it out.
I eased the car backwards through the doorway and down the improvised ramps with a little direction from my friends, and our “pit crew” sprang back into action to put everything back to normal. There was a small clunk as I backed out the door, but I had no idea what it was until we began replacing the door’s middle bar. The TR4’s sway bar had caught the adapter plate that held the bar in place on the threshold and sheered off the one screw holding it in place. A moment of panic set in, how would we explain the missing door bar and subsequently unlock-able door when the janitor inevitably returned? We Macgyvered the plate back together by “borrowing” a screw from the corner of the threshold plate that “mostly fit” in the hole of the now broken screw. As we forced the borrowed round screw into the proverbial square hole we saw the janitor’s truck lazily meander around the corner at the far end of the school. We hurriedly replaced the bar without tightening it down and slammed the doors shut.
Once again we sat at the cafeteria tables, hearts pounding and out of breath, praying that the janitor choose to go through a different door so he wouldn’t hear the bar rattle as it slammed shut. Thankfully he choose a different door, looked at us suspiciously once again, and missed stepping in the small puddle of oil the TR4 had left behind to mark its territory.
Being responsible young adults, we cleaned up the oil after the janitor disappeared to his office for another few minutes and re-tightened the door bar as best we could, but it continued to rattle anytime the door shut after that. Oh well, the doors all got ripped out and replaced a few weeks later so no harm was done. We couldn’t help but laugh a little anytime that door slammed shut and rattled during our last few days of high school.
I now have my own British cars, and my parents still have the same TR4. It’s now restored and since it is no longer five different shades of BRG, I’m not sure I’d to try and squeeze it through a doorway anytime soon. Have I grown a little older and wiser after all? Depending on who you ask, that’s highly debatable.