I’ve been a car and motorcycle enthusiast (“nut” in the usual parlance) for well over half a century. In that time I’ve spent, in my head, several million dollars I’ve never had on cars and motorcycles that would just be “me.” I keep a mental list of the current candidates, updated from time to time as my tastes change. I do spend a fair amount of time on this. Many would term this wasted time, but then I do not hang out in bars, shoot pheasants for fun, or follow golf passionately, so I’m probably ahead in the long run. So are the pheasants. And the golf courses. To each his own, especially when it comes to our private enthusiasms.
Many enthusiasts seem to have one particular favorite on their mental list that stays the course over the decades. You can see the echo effect of this to some extent in the televised car auctions. What happens is that a boy (and these days perhaps a girl) sees the car of his or her dreams in their teen years, when almost any car is out of reach and “the” car is that most unattainable of fantasies. A few decades later and the person may have done well in life with money and now has the funds to make that fantasy a reality. Moneyed folk in their 4th or 5th decade will pay up, perhaps way up, for the car they lusted after in their second. For that reason, Camaros and Corvettes of the mid-70s, long consigned to the “who wants one?” scrap heap of car enthusiasm, are charging up in value, and previous must-haves of the mid-60s are beginning to fade, as are the people who wanted them. Ahem.
Although the leaders in both arenas are classics that remain constant, for some the vehicle of desire does not conform to any possible rationalization as to “why.” Some are just really into cars and motorcycles that simply puzzle the majority. And thus with me. In motorcycles, I’ve always lusted after the bikes that were raced in long endurance races in the 1970s and 1980s. I’ve hardly ever seen any of them up close, and never seen them race. For some reason the French were really into this, and the large sport bikes of the era with huge headlights affixed to the front of their otherwise aerodynamic fairings speak to me in a language I love but do not understand. A few years ago Honda showed a “retro” concept bike and it would have been extremely hard for me to resist it. As with all of Honda’s really great ideas of the past couple of decades, (my opinion) they chose to stand pat and not produce it. Saved.
In 1972 I worked on weekends for a few months announcing bracket drag races at the then-called Seattle International Raceway. I obtained this gig in my usual unlikely manner. I attended a race at SIR as a spectator and was appalled at the quality of the announcing. The man on the mike seemed disinterested in what was going on, and made many errors. With my usual excess of enthusiasm, I sat down at my hunt and peck typewriter and dashed off a letter. I’d never announced a race, but I had watched hundreds, and announced junior high wrestling matches and basketball games (what a resume!), and by golly I could do better.
To my surprise, a return letter asked me to come down and give it a shot. Wow! $25 and free food for the best seat in the house (inside right about the starting line) and I got to talk cars all day. I had a great time for a few months, and then the reality of working 6 days and a bit more per week began to pall.
It was during this stint that I found “my” car. I’ve been casually looking for it ever since. It was a 1957 Ford Thunderbird in jet black, with a black hard top. After that it gets crazy. The Ford engine had been tossed and replaced with a Chevy 454 fronting a 4 speed stick shift. Torque Thrust “mag” wheels were wrapped with big and little tires, the rears wrinkle wall slicks. There was a roll cage inside. This car did not win all that much, because the driver had to cope with a great deal of horsepower on a track where the traction varied a great deal depending on temperature and humidity, all that power put to the ground through a stick shift while he tried to maximize thrust while not spinning up the rear tires in a spasm of losing silliness.
I did not care. That car, to me, was “it.” As such, it fulfills absolutely none of the usual attributes of a great car. It would not be all that comfortable, as the driver in a T-Bird sits with legs jutting forward almost flat. With the big lump in the front on top of skinny wheels the handling would be “interesting” on a good day. The fuel mileage – it is to laugh. If I found it and had done whatever was needed to bring it up to modern use (disk brakes all around would be a start) it would make a delicious cruiser, sit happily in the sun at a rod show, or perhaps return to the bracket wars – activities that have interest to me but are not high on my list. I have done exactly none of the three in the past few years.
Don’t care. That car is “my car.” I want it. Badly. If you know of its whereabouts please let me know. After that – I don’t know.
As for you, what’s your “it” car or motorcycle?
Copyright 2012 David Preston