Shooting From The Hip - Blackbourn 379

By: Rob Blackbourn

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Our man Rob got more than he bargained for in L.A. when he demanded a fully-loaded rental car

From Unique Cars #379, August 2015

It’s not surprising that writing about performance cars borrows from firearms’ rich lexicon at times. We immediately get the message from terms like: firepower; ballistic; assault-weapon; projectile; bulletproof. When we read ‘magnum’ it’s the menacing power of Harry Callahan’s Smith & Wesson that springs to mind before any thoughts of double-sized bottles of bubbly. So, yes, there’s a definite linkage between guns and cars in the literature. And at times art and life intersect in interesting ways…

A while back I rented a Chevy Caprice in Los Angeles to take the family up the scenic Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco. Having four kids and heaps of luggage, we booked a wagon over the phone. Sadly when we trooped in from our cab the wagon had gone AWOL and instead we got an apology, a four-door Caprice sedan and a decent discount. To fit more bags in the boot I unhooked the awkwardly mounted spare wheel and lay it flat to free up the potential boot space it was blocking. I was impressed that the tool kit stowed behind the spare was in a nice leather case – miles better than the crappy canvas tool-rolls I was used to. But this wasn’t about tools; it held a gleaming snub-nosed .38 Colt revolver plus a box of factory ‘dumdum’ ammunition. It was loaded with five of those nasty rounds and one had been fired. It seemed likely that LA had suffered yet another drive-by casualty courtesy of a recent Caprice renter. Off it went to the San Fernando Police Department.

Blackbourn -Glock _20

All of which reminds me of a conversation I overheard at an old friend’s wake in Sydney recently. I had known Simon for about half of his interesting life when he ended a good innings in his mid-80s. He was a self-made man whose success was more down to his personal strengths than the boxes you expect to be ticked on the CV of someone of his stature. Before he settled for the comfort of a boardroom chair Simon’s corporate roles had alternated with jackarooing stints and even an opal mining episode.

Marriage came late for Simon, to a lovely woman, Laura, with adult offspring. During the getting-to-know-you phase the step-daughter’s partner emerged as a bloke blind to the distinction between reasonable conversational enquiries and forensic questioning. Apparent gaps in Simon’s corporate narrative prompted some early interrogation. Simon told me that Instead of showing his irritation he took the opportunity for a bit of sport. His responses, delivered with his best poker face were along the lines of: "Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to comment."

Not only did this tactic fail to deter the questioner, according to Simon it sparked his fertile imagination – big time. At subsequent family gatherings he started privately putting specific possibilities to Simon, like: "Were you with ASIO?"… "Were you undercover in the Gulf?"… Simon played on saying that he was unable to confirm or deny.

Later still the questioner got down to the nitty gritty, apparently enquiring whether Simon carried a weapon when ‘on assignment.’ ‘No comment’ responses then prompted even closer focus: "They issue Glocks, don’t they? Do you still have yours, Simon?"

I’d totally forgotten about this little quest-for-truth sidebar to Simon’s life. The last time he’d mentioned it was probably 10 years ago. But it all came back with a rush at the wake. A bloke who looked more than old enough to know better – I had never met the interrogator – was delivering a confidential update to a buddy after a few drinks, just a bit too loudly. "I’ve been right through his study. And the X5. Now I’ll try to get the keys from Sarah to his favourite, the Mk II Jag. That’s where it will be. I’ll bet the Glock’s hidden in the boot…"

 

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