It was a whirlwind summer for your humble and obedient editor. I was in California (twice), Pennsylvania, and St. Louis, then burned rubber all the way from Detroit to Tampa—everything in the name of “Fun With Cars.” I've driven old hot rods, new muscle cars, stock stuff and modified.
I've blogged, Facebooked, Instagrammed and Tweeted. I even wrote some good, ol' magazine articles. Let me tell you, I had a blast every step of the way. The following is the list of what I drove (including my own toys) since the middle of July—rental cars not included. There may have been one or two others, but I'm old and forgetful. Please forgive me if I've left some off:
1. 2014 Corvette Stingray, base and Z51
2. 2014 Camaro ZL1
3. 1967 Camaro V-8 Sport Coupe
4. 1967 Impala V-8 sport Coupe
5. 1967 Chevelle SS396 convertible
6. 1967 Corvette Sting Ray 327/350
7. 1963 Church Boys Racing Nova
8. 1969 Art Morrison Engineering Camaro
9. 1971 Malibu wagon with Global West suspension & “Hot Cam” LS3
10. 1976 Cosworth Vega
11. 2013 Camaro SS
12. 1972 Nova SS 509
13. 1972 Corvette Stingray LT-1 with a 383
14. 2010 Camaro SS with a ProCharger i-1
15. 2010 LSR Performance Camaro SS
16. Brand X vehicles/test cars found in company parking lot, which will remain nameless.
Sorry to say, the list is missing a Tri-Five entry. Plans to drive at least one fell through. No need to shed any tears or stage a benefit concert for me. I know I'm a lucky SOB. Being behind the wheel of so many amazing and unusual vehicles (all in the period of a few months) gives me a unique perspective. I just put 1,400 miles on a new ZL1 ragtop see No. 2) and in May '13 put some 800 miles on my own 509 Nova (number 13 above), so I feel I'm qualified to comment on the state of the American automobile in 2013–2014.
First, while it is true they don't make them like they used to, I say they don't have to. Do we want to go back to the time of my father's new '56 Chevy, when he had to pay extra for an oil filter? I think not. Today's cars are faster, safer, handle better and brake in a shorter distance than anything that came before. Why can't I lust after old and new? They're both remarkable in their own way.
Certainly classic cars are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than new ones, and they have a heart and soul that's hard to find in anything built since 1976 or thereabouts. But there are a number of reasons for this. I don't think all designers today are half-blind. Maybe only those responsible for the Nissan Juke and everything from Toyota—those poor schlubs definitely need their crayons revoked. The biggest detriment to the kind of styling we love on vintage automobiles is government-mandated crash-test regulations and the EPA's fuel economy standards. When in Detroit, I stopped by the Henry Ford Museum, a must-see for anyone in the area. On display was a copy of the 2011 book of U.S. government regulations automobile manufacturers must follow. It made my Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary look like a leaflet. It had to be a few thousands pages. It's a wonder any new vehicles get built at all, let alone those that are attractive and make over 400 horsepower.
At a recent Mecum auction, a '67 L-88 Corvette roadster sold for a mind-numbing $3.2 million. Only 20 L-88s were sold in that magical year, and they were successful in both drag and road racing. Hot Rod tested a bone-stock L-88 Vette in '69 and it ran 13.59 at 111 mph. With open headers, tuning and slicks, these cars made a good 560 horsepower and could run 11.5s in the quarter-mile. I would buy one tomorrow if I could—and I'd park it right in my garage right next to a new Stingray, a car that Chevy estimates should go 12.0 at 119 in the quarter, all while sipping unleaded fuel to the tune of 29 mpg (and at a base price of $51,995.
Part of the old vs. new bruhaha is when the original muscle cars went away, what followed was so slow and uninspired (tape stripes and 5 mph bumpers, anyone?) that the stars of '62–'72 became legends. Nowadays, performance cars get better every year and they have since about 1987.
Whether you like vintage iron or today's factory screamers, I think it's time we banded together as brothers in arms. It's not old vs. new for me. It's old and new. I say celebrate before it's too late.