I’m normally pretty curmudgeonly about the inherent inferiority of old cars. A 5-year-old Camry will outperform just about every classic Detroit muscle car or Italian sports machine in nearly every category from comfort to acceleration. The windows fog up, you just push a button: problem solved. The asphalt gets rough, you don’t notice it: problem solved. Road trips in 60s cars in the pre-cell-phone era could turn particularly hellish; I’m trying to conjure up a sense of romance from my mid-80s memories of limping a Fairlane with a failing distributor down some godforsaken California Central Valley highway, in search of a junkyard with a Windsor-equipped donor car… and I just can’t do it. Yeah, the good old days were really pretty terrible. However, all that sensible real-world nonsense gets thrown right out the window when I go for a nighttime drive in rural America in a rattly-ass old car and a good song comes on the radio. Quick, get me a ’71 Plymouth Cricket and a stretch of two-lane!
Last time I was in South Carolina, I caught a ride from Kershaw to Camden with Tunachuckers team captain Mike, in his 1967 Volvo Amazon wagon. Here comes Warren Zevon‘s “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” on the radio.
Sure, the Amazon rides like a Kävlinge grain harvester (only without the harvester’s fuel economy) but this sort of experience is one of the best things about being an American with car keys.
Even my 19-year-old Civic, EFI and all, manages to pull it off… when the highway is a two-lane stretched across the eastern edge of the Great Plains, that is, and the song on the AM is by George Jones. Not even a 21st-century GPS unit can ruin this moment.