Out with the old
With four grandsons and one granddaughter, I’m looking for ways to include them in activities that will positively influence them. A few years ago I took my oldest grandson with me to a large car show. I shoved a small digital camera into his hands and told him to have at it. He had a blast taking photos from his perspective. A number of show car owners were delighted to have him sit in their cars, a rare and special privilege. He enjoyed the ride to the car show in my old ‘88 Corvette convertible. Now that he and his brother and his cousins are old enough to all come to a car show together, getting more than one kid into a Corvette is impossible, at least safety-wise.
For the last couple of years I’ve been kicking around selling the Vette and getting something with more seats. Well, I finally did it.
Knowing that I needed to get the car ready to sell or trade, I replaced the original 25-year-old top last summer. I also upgraded to new wheels and did other minor repairs. I enjoyed it for the summer then put it up for the winter at my daughter and son-in-law’s barn in Walpole, N.H. A few days ago I went over, removed the tarp and the car cover, connected the battery, and it started on the very first crank. I didn’t even have to wash it. The next morning I drove it to Manchester, N.H., where I had located one of the retro-styled Ford Mustang GTs. The Vette performed flawlessly on our final voyage together. In many ways I regretted trading it, but once I got behind the wheel of the Mustang, those regrets faded with each progressive mile.
The first thing I do not miss is the "arrest-me-red" color of the Corvette. This Mustang fastback is a very conservative silver with no boy racer graphics, hood scoops or other gee gaws with the exception of a rear spoiler. The wheels? American Racing Torque Thrusts, just like I had on the Vette. I love the looks of that wheels because it is simple, muscular, and tasteful all at the same time.
Because the C4 Corvette was the first one designed as a world class handling car, it had this high, wide sill that you had to climb over to get into the car. The sill was part of what allowed the car to corner at nearly 1G of lateral force ... very impressive for its time. It was also a pain in the butt.
While I love convertibles, I do not miss the added noise of a rag top. You can actually carry on a normal conversation in the Mustang; unless you are mashing the throttle to the floor, which makes the dual exhausts rap with a loud, satisfying rumble. The rest of the time it is very quiet. Then there are the rear seats. What a luxury compared to the cramped two-seat Corvette interior. Finally, the Mustang has a trunk. It isn’t overly big, but it is big enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage. The Vette had no trunk whatsoever.
So, what is the rationale behind a senior citizen owning a performance car? First off, I like it. Second of all, it has the one feature most cars do not possess -- the ability to power your way out of a bad situation. Think about it for a minute. How many times have you wanted to pass a frustratingly slow car, only to find out that your car did not have the power to complete a simple pass without risking a head-on collision with an oncoming truck? Even when you think a pass is safe, a lack of power can get you in trouble if something unexpected happens like a super-fast driver coming around a corner at the end of the flat. There you are with one choice -- abort the pass by standing on your brakes, causing panic for the guy you are passing. If you’d had the power the pass would be long over before you met the oncoming car or truck. I don’t pass cars very often in my Volvo, my Subaru, or in my truck. So now we can take along luggage, pass slower vehicles safely, and bring along company. I will miss the incredible cornering power and visceral performance of the old Corvette, but the Mustang seems more than capable of making up the difference with far more utility. Out with the old.
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.