The White Whale

1970 Cadillac de Ville white whale

Yeah, I found where Raoul hid it.

Luckily, my credit card was still technically valid.  Now this was a superior machine. Ten grand worth of gimmicks and high-priced special effects. The rear windows leapt up with a touch like frogs in a dynamite pond. The dashboard was full of esoteric lights and dials and meters…  that I would never understand.

The tires were a little low on air…

We made another turn and almost rolled again. The Coupe de Ville is not your ideal machine for high speed cornering in residential neighborhoods. The handling is very mushy… unlike the Red Shark, which had responded very nicely to situations requiring the quick four-wheel drift. But the Whale Bad of cutting loose at the critical moment—had a tendency to dig in, which accounted for that sickening “here we go’ sensation.At first I thought it was only because the tires were soft, so I took it into the Texaco station next to the Flamingo and had the tires pumped up to fifty pounds each—which alarmed the attendant, until I explained that these were “experimental” tires.

Flamingo 1970s
Texaco –> ARCO

But fifty pounds each didn’t help the cornering, so I went back a few hours later and told him I wanted to try seventy five. He shook his head nervously. “Not me,” he said, handing me the air hose. “Here. They’re your tires. You do it.”“What’s wrong?” I asked. “You think they can’t take seventy-five?” He nodded, moving away as I stooped to deal with the left front. “You’re damn right,” he said. “Those tires want twenty eight in the front and thirty two in the rear. Hell, fifty’s dangerous, but seventy five is crazy. They’ll explode!” I shook my head and kept filling the left front. “I told you,” I said, “Sandoz laboratories designed these tires. They’re special. I could load them up to a hundred.“God almighty!” he groaned. “Don’t do that here.”“Not today,” I replied. “I want to see how they corner with seventy-five.” He chuckled. “You won’t even get to the corner, Mister.”“We’ll see,” I said, moving around to the rear with the air- hose. In truth, I was nervous. The two front ones were tighter than snare drums; they felt like teak wood when I tapped on them with the rod. But what the hell? I thought. If they explode, so what? It’s not often that a man gets a chance to run terminal experiments on a virgin Cadillac and four brand- new $80 tires. For all I knew, the thing might start cornering like a Lotus Elan. If not, all I had to do was call the VIP agency and have another one delivered… maybe threaten them with a lawsuit because all four tires had exploded on me, while driving in heavy traffic. Demand an Eldorado, next time, with four Michelin Xs. And put it all on the card…charge it to the St Louis Browns. 

As it turned out, the Whale behaved very nicely with the altered tire pressures. The ride was a trifle rough; I could feel every pebble on the highway, like being on roller skates in a gravel pit.., but the thing began cornering in a very stylish manner, very much like driving a motorcycle at top speed in a hard rain: one slip and ZANG, over the high side, cartwheeling across the landscape with your head in your hands. 

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