There is a meme that shows up on Facebook once in a while. I’m paraphrasing but the beginning goes something like “We grew up in the ‘60s. We had the coolest cars, the best music……” and so on. I’ve always felt like it was an attempt to tweak the Millenials who are so proud of their cutesy little foreign cars. You know, the ones that have been set so low to the ground that they will drive miles out of their way to avoid having to go over a speed bump or a dip in the road. The Hondas, Acuras, Hyundais, et al with their cantaloupe launcher exhausts that try to make their cars sound badass. Yeah, they may be fast and loud but they still sound like a 1970’s 2 stroke motorcycle. “Riiiinnnnnnng ding, ding ding”. Fact: trying to compare a Honda engine sound to a Detroit V8 is ridiculous. But I digress…..
Today, with a few hours to kill and after I finished some work related tasks, I headed northwest from my hotel in Skokie, IL to the Village of Volvo and the Volvo Auto Museum. My friend, Dennis Brown, has been telling me about this place for a long time but I’ve never had enough spare time when I had meetings in Chicago to get there. This time, though, was different. And all I can say is WOW! I love this place.
First of all, while it has enough displays to qualify as a real Museum, it’s mostly a dealership for amazing classic cars. 60’s and 70’s era muscle cars. And that’s right in my wheelhouse. Walking through the showrooms I immediately started feeling nostalgic and began remembering some of the really cool cars I’ve owned in my life. My feeling of nostalgic euphoria was soon followed by depression….looking at the cars and the prices on the windshields and thinking “Dang, I had one of those.”
My first really cool car was my second vehicle. A 1964 Pontiac LeMans with a 326 engine and a Muncie 4 speed close ratio transmission with a Hurst shifter. It was kind of a big clunky car and not really sexy looking but it was pretty fast and I did make a few bucks running the 1/4 mile near Campus High School. Someone had measured off 1/4 mile and painted white lines across the road. Needless to say, some of us did more than our share of street racing there. I’m sad to say that I abused that vehicle quite a bit and it came back to bite me. Two days after I graduated from High School in Wichita we were on the road to Everett, WA where my Dad was working for Boeing. The first problem hit us just outside of Hot Springs, SD. I was passing a slow moving vehicle and when I geared down and hit the gas the car stumbled. A few miles later it died and wouldn’t start again. Thrown timing chain. We were able to tow the vehicle to Custer, SD where a mechanic fixed the car for us. Onward! After spending the night in Custer while the car was being fixed we headed west. Next day, just outside Livingston, MT, the engine broke again. Dad had to be at work in a couple of days so we left the car with a mechanic in Livingston to rebuild the engine and came back a month later to get it. Made it to Everett with no issues but after a couple of months of bad performance I determined it needed new heads. Found some heads at a junk yard and installed them. No issues….for a while. Then the carb blew it’s guts. I got a new carburetor and during the installation had to tweak one of the aluminum fuel lines just a wee bit to make it fit. A week later the fuel line broke, the car caught fire, and all the wiring was melted. Insurance guy says “Total Loss” and gave me a check.
This unfortunate event led me to my second cool car. With the insurance check and a little more money I borrowed from my parents I located a 1965 Impala convertible. It had a 283 engine with the venerable Powerglide transmission. Yeah, the Powerglide wasn’t as sexy or quick as a 4 speed but I have to say it was one of the best trannys ever for driving on ice and snow. I was dating a girl that lived up in the mountains where they get a lot of snow and not once did I get that car stuck. If the tires were spinning I would just spray a little Clorox on the back tires, drop the tranny in low, and idle right out. It was awesome. Besides that, the car was a chic magnet. In warm weather my buddies and I would drop the top and cruise Colby Avenue in Everett with the 8 track blaring. Good times. I owned the car for about 18 months and in a fit of rampant stupidity, I sold it a week before leaving for Basic Training. Man, would I love to have it back right now.
Soon after moving to Colorado. I came upon cool car #3. A 1969 Dodge Dart GT with a 340 engine, single 4bbl carb, and 4 speed. It was FAST! And thirsty. It would pass anything on the road….except a gas station. It was a different color but looked sort of like this.
I had this car for a couple of years before I was beset with another bout of galactic stupidity. I traded it in on…..wait for it…….a 1973 Mercury Capri. What the bleep was I thinking? I was certain that my days of having cool guy cars was over. But wait! Not long after I met her, Judy became the owner of a nice little 1967 Malibu. 283 engine with a Powerglide. A great little car. She wrecked it once but her Dad found a new front clip and we worked together to install it. She drove that car until a few months after we were married. I was working for a company that supplied me with a company truck and since we were dirt poor we made the decision to sell the Malibu to one of my co-workers for what we thought was a pretty good price but today it was little more than walking around money. Are we seeing a stupidity trend here? I have no excuses.
These days, as I’m in my 60’s, my idea of a cool car has changed considerably. My current cool car is a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum version. Yes, Virginia, my creature comforts are becoming more and more important to me as I get older. The Pathfinder isn’t particularly cool looking. My son said “Oh…you bought a mini van.” IT’S NOT A MINI VAN DAMMIT! It’s not really fast though it has a decent enough top speed. But oh, the creature comforts…Heated leather seats, a heated leather steering wheel, Dual sun roofs, Sattelite radio. Navigation system. Bose stereo system. Yes, my idea of a cool car has changed.
One more observation about my cool cars…they all had one thing in common that made them extra cool. The Impala and Dart had a front bench seat and though it had bucket seats, the LeMans didn’t have a console between the front seats so I could put a folded up blanket there to fill the gap. What is so cool about that? Well, think back to the 60’s. One of the biggest deals was driving around with your girlfriend sitting next to you. Try doing that in your cutesy little foreign car. Can’t happen. Damn, I miss the good old days.
Yes, I had a great time at Volvo. And after reading this I’m pretty sure Judy will NOT let me travel to Chicagoland with easy access to lots of cash. If she did I might come home with my next cool car…that really isn’t a car. What do you think of this one?