The Truth About Cars » ron howard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 05 Aug 2014 00:25:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » ron howard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com American Graffiti – X http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/american-graffiti-x/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/american-graffiti-x/#comments Sun, 15 Dec 2013 12:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=679594 Way back in 1973, a relatively young and inexperienced director by the name of George Lucas made a movie that starred a whole bunch of nobodies. Called “American Graffiti,” it turned out to be the little movie that could. Co-Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz for just $775,000, it went on to become […]

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Way back in 1973, a relatively young and inexperienced director by the name of George Lucas made a movie that starred a whole bunch of nobodies. Called “American Graffiti,” it turned out to be the little movie that could. Co-Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz for just $775,000, it went on to become one of the most profitable films of all time, making an estimated $200 million dollars and, in the process, turned several of those “nobodies,” people like Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Suzanne Summers, and Cindy Williams, into bankable stars. In 1995, the National Library of Congress declared it to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation by adding it to the National Film Registry.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the story by revealing any of the finer points of the plot. Generally speaking, it is the story of teenage angst and antics set amid classic cars and punctuated by great old-time rock and roll music and the action follows several teens on a hot August night in the far away year of 1962 as they cruise their cars around the California town of Modesto in search of action and adventure. The movie hit theaters just as the first wave of the baby boom generation, people born between 1946 and 64, began to close-in on the ripe old age of 30 and to see it now is to look back upon the days of their youth through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia.

It has taken me a long time to appreciate it. I was all of 7 years old when American Graffiti went into theatrical release and didn’t actually sit down and watch it until VCRs became commonplace in the American home sometime in the early 1980s. Frankly, I didn‘t get it. For me, a founding member of Generation X who was born in 1966, the movie seemed a cloying tale of ancient silliness that had long since been wiped away the decades that had followed them. I think now, however, that the real problem was that, even though I was the same age as the kids depicted, I would never have done the things they did. Having nothing real in common with any of the characters, I ended up listening to the dated, but admittedly wonderful, soundtrack and watching that old Detroit iron endlessly circling the town. In that regard, at least, the movie reflected a reality that I actually knew. That’s because, despite the 20 years that had elapsed between the action depicted in American Graffiti and the tawdry days of my own youth, virtually nothing had changed.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

I got my driver’s license in early 1983 and by my senior year of high school, 1984, my Nova and I were a regular part of the street scene. My car, armed with a six cylinder and a three on the tree, was never competitive but, thanks to my ability with pin stripe tape and a set of rallye wheels that came from my brother Tracy I had a good looking little cruiser that was both reliable and about as fuel efficient as I could get. It was my buddies who had the heavy iron, Rick with his Javelin at first and later a 69 Charger and Denny with a 340 Demon, who carried the honor of our small group. Even so, we were never the “fast guys.”

The fast guys were older than us. Already working solid $4.00 and hour jobs 40 hours a week, they had real money to throw at their cars. There was Jim, who had an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with a 442 front end grafted on. It wasn’t fast, but it was custom. Then came Dave, whose father owned a local body shop, who had a wickedly fast 68 Camaro but who spent most of his time selling and smoking pot rather than actually racing. Next was Bob, who had a custom bodied Comet Caliente that mounted square headlights above a front spoiler do big we called it “The Bulldozer.” And finally Tye, our own local hot-rodder who had finished school just a year earlier. His 68 Mustang had none of the shine or polish the other cars enjoyed, but he worked relentlessly to make it just a little bit faster each week.

Perhaps it was because their cars were so similar beneath the skin, or perhaps it was because, when everything was said and done, they were both a couple of jerks way down deep inside, but for some reason Bob and Tye who should have been, in my opinion, friends were instead mortal enemies. I remember them now, a couple of wanna-be toughs in greasy pants and with cigarettes dangling from their lower lips as they glowered at one another from opposite ends of our local video game arcade’s parking lot. They got there early and staked out their spots, their supporters filling in around them while the rest of us endlessly circled around like a giant school of fish.

Like stags in the rutting season, each boy was compelled to trumpet his prowess in the loudest way possible and every so often, one or the other would jump into his car to start and rev his uncorked engine. If we were lucky, the other boy would respond to the challenge and a burn off contest would ensue. Back and forth it would go, the pressure of imminent conflict gradually increasing by the hour as the witching hour drew nigh. Then, just before midnight, when most of us had to be home, both boys would lead their troops to the battlefield.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

We had a special spot close to the Everett Boeing 747/777 assembly plant. The factory is immense and tens of thousands of people work there. Every shift change floods the roadway with commuters and as a result the plant is served by its own 6 lane wide highway spur. At one end, close to the factory gate is a stoplight to control ingress and egress from the huge parking lots that line the roadway and approximately ¼ mile away is a giant overhead sign that directs traffic onto the main highway, East to Mukilteo or West to Everett. The course was wide, safe and, at anytime other than shift change, totally desolate.

The two caravans of cars, and those of us who had dared to break our curfews to become hangers on, would converge on the spot just prior to the main event. Looking back on it now, the local police had to know what we were doing but for the most part they left us alone. Generally they were good to us so long as we were good to them and, unlike the movie (spoiler alert!) we played no shenanigans. Usually we would get about 30 minutes on-site before a single cruiser would roll through with its lights on reminding us that we needed to go home.

In that 30 minutes we had, however, the ritual was unvaried. Bob and Tye would stage up singly and make a practice run while the other watched. Final adjustments would be made and burn offs would follow. At last, the night culminated as they came to the lone, door handle to door handle.

The stoplight switched to green and both drivers hammered the gas. The sound of their Fords’ engines pounded the night and reflecting back at us off the wall of the factory as the two cars accelerated. Bob hit his shifts perfectly while Tye’s automatic did the work for him as they came out of the hole and ran up to speed. It was neck and neck and then, slowly the Bob’s Bulldozer began to inch away. He stretched out his lead to one car length as then two before they passed the finish line. The winner would slow and turn, making a victory lap along the line of kids while the loser, unwilling to face the jeers of the masses, would continue up the on ramp and onto the freeway.

With the main movers done, the rest of us would take our own turns. Rick or Denny would take on all comers, sometimes winning sometimes losing, while I looked for someone whose engine was as deficient in acceleration as my own lest I be beaten to a pulp every time. There was never money involved, we never had more than a few dollars in our pockets anyhow, it was all for fun and, perhaps, just a bit of pride. And then, as he 30 minute mark would approach, that single police cruiser would come and, as quickly as it started, it would end.

At the end of the movie, we get to find out what happened to the kids those “nobodies” played. As the credits rolled, a single subtitled line told us their fates. Without ruining for you, all I can say is that some of them went far in life and some of them didn’t. I would imagine it is the same for the kids I knew too. Some of us have found our way to places no one would ever have believed we could go while others of us still struggle. The one thing we have in common now are those nights and the heady days that came at the ends of our own childhoods. Maybe one day, someone will make a movie about that.

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Let’s Hope “Rush” Is As Much About Victory As It Is About Death http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/lets-hope-rush-is-as-much-about-victory-as-it-is-about-death/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/lets-hope-rush-is-as-much-about-victory-as-it-is-about-death/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 19:40:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483965 The autoblogosphere is abuzz this morning with comments regarding the plain-and-obvious awesomeness of this movie trailer, and rightfully so. What I wonder is this: will the message behind the film be the easy one, or the correct one? Racing at any level is dangerous. In 2008 I observed two deaths over the course of just […]

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The autoblogosphere is abuzz this morning with comments regarding the plain-and-obvious awesomeness of this movie trailer, and rightfully so. What I wonder is this: will the message behind the film be the easy one, or the correct one?

Racing at any level is dangerous. In 2008 I observed two deaths over the course of just five summer races in which I participated, and I was involved in a crash that saw the other driver leave on the LifeFlight and cracked my visor on the “halo bar” of my rollcage even as it bent the frame of my car beyond recovery. No racer knows for sure that he will be home to see his children in the evening. If you want that kind of assurance, stay at home and play Call of Duty.

From the time it started until after the death of Senna, Formula One was far more dangerous than any sporting activity is today. Grand Prix racing claimed lives with a regularity that seemed mechanical and monotonous at times. It was a meat grinder operating for the enjoyment of the fans and the gratification of the teams; a modern gladiatorial match with a traveling Colosseum. The drivers, too, had the individual vitality and presence of gladiators in the arena, shamelessly chasing sensuality and sensation in what they knew could be very short lives.

In our oh-so-enlightened era, where children wear foam helmets to ride tricycles and the sexiness has been methodically drained from sex by an avalanche of demeaning pornography and an abdication of public morality, it is tempting to let the drivers of the pre-Senna era be defined by their titillating excesses or passion or calculation. James Hunt date-raping stewardesses who put up a token fight but really mean “absolutely” when they say “absolutely not”. Didier Pironi betraying Gilles Villeneuve then dying in a powerboat accident. That sort of thing. We expect our modern racers to be coddled little mechanisms, seamless parts of the car, technically flawless and personally unremarkable. It’s gotten to the point where a driver passes his teammate and the world erupts as a consequence.

When you to go see “Rush”, however, keep in mind that the drivers of that or any other era weren’t there to chase tail or play politics or get in the car drunk or manipulate the FIA. They were there for the same reason men (and the occasional lady) have always been on the grid: to race, to compete, to win. It was true in the low-speed but high-risk horse-track races of the pre-WWI era, it was true for James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and it’s true today. It’s a quest that may be ennobled by danger or burnished by glamour, but it is the same for all of that. I hope that this gorgeous new film portrays F1 racing of that era not as some ridiculous bloodsport on the moral level of a FOX Most Deadly Crashes Video , but rather as the true striving for victory that it has always been. Correr, competir, lo llevo en la sangre, es parte de mi, es parte de mi vida.

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