In 1967 I was a carefree kid sliding through High School laughing, playing baseball and thinking about pretty girls and fast cars, neither of which were particularly affordable at the time. Many of my friends in high school had acquired a car, and they ranged from utilitarian to exotic, all US made iron, with a good mix of “muscle” cars in the crowd. Dad surprised me near the end of my junior year with a brand new, black vinyl over regimental red 1967 GTO. It was a muscle car, but there were many rides on the lot that could best it in the quarter mile. (How I know that is a closely guarded secret.) I have often wondered where the Goat ended up, probably smelted down and reincarnated a Prius, God forbid.
Old cars and old men have much in common, which leads to this writing. As an example, the cars of this era were relatively simple. Most of us could swap out plugs, set the points and timing, adjust the carbs and change out worn belts and such. Our generation enjoyed a little grease and oil on our hands and certainly knew which polishes and waxes were superior. We knew a lot about tires as you were looking for new ones every 10K or so to replace the bias belted tires of our day. We could identify virtually every car we encountered, from any angle, and were always looking for badges and bulges that separated the performance cars from the grocery getters. Regrettably, seatbelts were usually neatly crossed on the rear floorboards and seldom worn. We were not aware that lap belts, while helpful in rollovers, were not much use in keeping you out of the steering column, the demise of a lot of folks in those days. Today, I am still drawn to the cars of that era, where weak V8s churned out 200 horsepower, while the fire breathers torqued out 400 and more, all the while delivering 8 miles to every gallon of then cheap premium fuel. What about the parallel with old men, you ask?
The “car guys” of that era were also relatively simple, in a good way. We were motivated by the dream of earning a living, owning a home and raising a family, often with the same girl we took to the Junior Prom. Air conditioning was a luxury, in a car or home, and we were still motivated by Detroit’s annual reveal of their latest offerings. Today, every other car on the road is foreign manufactured iron, with small displacements churning out incredible horsepower while delivering equally incredible fuel efficiency. Pop the hood, or trunk in some cases, and we would not have a clue what we are seeing, most of it requiring thousands of dollars in electronic diagnostics to decipher any issue that shows up. With respect, the men coming of age today have never had oil on their hands and would have no idea what a dipstick is, or if it even exists in their car. (I owned a BMW Z-4 that had no dipstick, you pushed a button on the dash to “check” your oil.) When car shopping today, performance is a remote consideration, after concerns with fuel efficiency and extended warranties are evaluated. I doubt today’s generation has ever lined up the family hauler against the loud mouthed neighbor to see whose SUV is quicker. (Again, rumor has it that our generation would square off on a straight stretch and settle arguments with carefully managed shifting and clutch management, a tactic that evokes the 5th Amendment with us.) We didn’t envy the guy with the white collar job driving the latest Detroit boat, rather the guy with the cute girlfriend who drove a super quick Chevy II with the 327/350 that could dust about every thing in town. The Deuce would catch our attention at the A&W, the boat would not.
My hat is off to the new generation of men who see a car as a utilitarian piece of comfortable equipment with a sumptuous Corinthian leather interior sporting blue tooth capabilities and in-dash mapping. This generation can dance with a computer, execute stock trades in minutes and shop for the new family chariot online, even having the car delivered to your driveway, sight unseen. While I admire you, I also feel sorry for you. You will never know the significance of such words as Holly, Edelbrock, Cragar, Muncie, Hurst, Shelby, tri-power and positrack. You will never feel the rush when you key up a big V8 and listen to the tuned dual exhaust promising plenty of push off the line. You will not enjoy the envy of others when you swing into Sonic, exhaust burbling, eliciting a head turn from everyone on your side of the store. Sure, the new stuff will run like hell won’t have it, with electronically controlled everything, in air conditioned comfort, while you listen to satellite radio blasting the tunes of the day. Again, I am sorry for you as ours was the golden age…….today’s Subarus just don’t turn our heads.
Give me the Goat, the Temptations on the AM, and a pretty girl out for a movie. Old men and old cars………we were made for each other!