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A Vintage Future

For the past 17 years I’ve driven nothing but vintage cars. For me, it made perfect sense on so many levels. I love all things old and obsolete, from my cars to my coffee cups. Driving vintage also appealed to the short-on-change artist’s life I’ve been living since I left the house at 18. In the early 1990’s a Dodge Dart was a dirt-cheap car that offered style and even power with a V-8. Not only was it cheaper to buy, but also cheaper to insure and register as well (at least here in California).

Performance-wise there just wasn’t any comparison in the price range and there still isn’t. When it comes to style, for my taste, there might never be a substitute for a vintage car from 1928 to 1968. That’s forty years of car to choose from containing millions of examples in all price ranges.

Perhaps the most alluring part of driving vintage is the time travel aspect. The look, the feel, the smell and the sound all contribute to the feeling of traveling back in time. The crackle of a ball game or The Stones out of an AM radio, the hokey owners manual in the glove box and the 1962 quarter under the passenger seat all make the scene complete. If you throw in a road trip across the western U.S. on secondary roads and overnights in forgotten hotels with flickering neon, you too will be hooked.

The whole deal is irresistibly romantic to me. I’ve taken many trips like the one described above and to keep the juices flowing we drive vintage out to Bonneville every year. We’re lucky enough to live in close proximity so the trip doesn’t wear us out financially or mentally. Even my daily driving activities are in a vintage car. In short, driving vintage was something I thought I could not live without and I would drive my car everywhere, even if it was walking distance.

That has all changed. Not the romance part, that will never go away, but the feeling and the need I used to have to drive just about everywhere. It has changed because this world is changing. Like it or not, the planet is getting warmer and the havoc this is capable of producing is too great to ignore. Further, like it or not, we humans do have something to do with it. Every single thing we do is part of the natural cycle of events on this planet, even the driving of a fossil fueled car is perfectly natural. What is undeniable is the amount of carbon now in our atmosphere, and we have got to do something to level it off if not reduce it.

It is time for hot rodders, racers and car enthusiasts to get together on this. There is no bunch of people more qualified to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems and this warming of our planet is a BIG and COMPLEX problem. There are some solutions which are as simple as driving less, bicycling more, walking more, carpooling if possible, using public transport when available, turning down the thermostat, or lowering the water heater temperature from boiling to just hot. Not everyone can do them all and some folks live under circumstances that might preclude some of these actions. But something, anything, no matter how small or inconsequential it might seem must be done by each and every one of us. Scientists have recently acknowledged they were wrong about how fast Greenland is melting, it is melting much faster than previously thought. That means the sea level WILL RISE and within the next forty years and it will rise at least a foot. Where do you live? 
Here are two of my favorite things. My 1966 383 4bbl. Satellite (trim deleted and filler moved to trunk in 1996) and my home-built Mercian road bike (hand made English chrome moly frame and modified components). I plan on driving and riding both until it’s time to go.

I’m confident we Moparites will come up with some innovative solutions that are fun and filled with horsepower. If it is OK to radically change the front and rear suspension on a ’68 Charger and then drop a 2006 5.7 liter Hemi in it, then maybe a 300 hp turbo four banger is OK too. Maybe a turbo diesel with twice the hp of a slant six running on fry oil under the hood of the lowly Valiant will be OK too. How about an injected 440 on compressed natural gas? Or maybe there will be a 500 hp ‘Cuda convertible with a completely flat torque curve from 0 to 10,000 rpm. Go ahead and curse my name but only an electric motor could produce such results. Don’t worry, it’ll have a cool exhaust note too. We’ll have finally figured out a reason for those ridiculous 1,000-watt sound systems; the loud pedal will be just that, hooked up to a computer filled with samples of the note you want to hear from open pipe Hemi to a V-10 with Borlas on it. Hey, maybe it’ll even drive itself and you’ll actually be able to watch that DVD player you just installed. Until then you can catch me at the gas pump, just a whole lot less than before.


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