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Coming of age…

Most of us can remember when we actually became interested in cars. Maybe it was those Hot Wheels or MPC model kits that showed up as gifts. Perhaps it was TV ads (remember that Dart Sport ad in the mid-70s that stated the vinyl roof was ‘like a green reptile.’). I personally remember seeing dragsters on open trailers on US 41 heading toward Gary in northern Indiana long before I had any interest in cars.

Not bad for the second day on the job. Rhonda Hartman’s new nostalgia Charger funny car. (John Stunkard photo)

But for me, the turning point was not just a driver’s license, but the used ’68 Charger my dad bought me so I wouldn’t be tearing up the family car any longer. At that point, I found out that my school buddies I knew were aware of how cool this car was, and I soon decided that it was providence that had kept the vehicle the old man brought home from being something like a Monaco or Polara. That Charger, 318 and all, was a gateway into the culture that frankly transformed the remainder of my life.

The kid keeping an eye on the far end of the autocross track, in the viewing paddock with the ‘beautiful people.’

And let’s face it, the kids we see today and sometime deride for their little rice-burners, they’re just like we were. Those $750.00 muslecars from the late 70s are as far gone as $75.00 classic Packards in the late ‘40’s are; the newcomers are making do with what they can afford. Now I’m not saying that I’m ready yet for a ring in my eyebrow or tattoos from wrist to shoulder, but, hey, that’s just the way it is these days. The teenage ‘shock and awe’ campaign started by James Dean continues unabated.

In May, I decided to take my son John with me to the Year One Experience in Georgia. This event, for mixed makes, was covered in this publication as news, so you already have an idea what was there. Due to the work I do, it is not often my children travel with me on the road; I’m standing out on the starting line, or laying down shooting some car, or talking technical details with other media weasels. So this would be a new experience for both of us.

The kid is not a car guy by a long stretch. John Stunkard is a skateboarder, a fly fishing fan, a competent video game player, and a little on the rebel side, but in his mind cars are basically for utility. Prior to our weekend tour, he had handled nothing larger than a point-and-shoot camera. Now, with deadlines looming due to conflicting events that had kept other editors away, I gave him a digital Nikon D70, a zoom lens, and set him free. Oh, and being the kind patriarch that I am, I also let him chauffeur the golf cart.

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