Thinking Cars

Thinking Cars

What I really meant? “Thinking about cars,” as an analogy.

I wanted, for years, like 1972 or 1975 short–bed F-100 with its very stable six–cylinder, a long line of Ford six-bangers that never stopped working. If I spent less time in Austin’s traffic, maybe a truck with a three on the tree, standard shift. Not sure when those went away.

At one time, I was hard on equipment, and the throw-out bearing would have to be replaced every 20K miles or so. Just my style of driving. I like to be smooth — or think of myself as smooth.

While ultimately less useful, and potentially a little less stable on the road, the short–bed, half–ton always appealed to me the most.

A vehicle from before my driver’s license.

It’s changed, over the years, with my most recent object of lust being a series of old cop cars, usually based on a Town Car frame, with cop shocks and cop tires, and routine cop maintenance. Last time I talked about it, used car lot off the old Austin Highway, guy was explaining that the cars all had over 100K miles, and the drive train itself was a ’98 to 2006 Mustang big-block, the factory hot–rod version.

No, not that.

Like this one: Police Interceptor.

Gas is cheap right now, and not sure how long it will be like this. I was guessing at 20 miles to the gallon, tops, for the highway, so that would be 5 gallons, each way to the Rock Shop — at $2 per gallon? $20 round trip, and that’s with cheap gas. If — when — prices creep back up? Don’t want to consider it at the moment. Still, it would be fun. Cool car.

Hurricane spiked it, say $3/Gal. $30 Round trip?

The upholstery and dash would have to be replaced, and given the current state of phones, a constantly changing environment, I’m not sure I want much more than a cigarette lighter charger. No in-dash entertainment for me.

Like the aforementioned truck, that Police Interceptor has a seat that’s big enough to take a nap on. I couldn’t quite stretch out my whole frame, but it would be doable.

Prior to that idyl?

I did have an affection for British Marque cars, little roadsters that are ever so much fun to drive, but usually, just short, sporting distances — not a hundred mile commute on the straight–line ragged interstate.

Or heavy American iron, like The Caddy?

From a not-to-distant past, in old Austin, my dream car was a venerable 1974 Lincoln Mark IV Coupe. 2 Door, with a vast expanse of hood, that front section probably weighed more than the current hybrid. 460 cubic-inch V-8, leather seats, couldn’t park it in a normal parking lot, due to the car’s relative size. Don’t think it even had shoulder seat belts.

Maybe 4 miles to the gallon, in city traffic? Probably not much more than 10 miles to the gallon, otherwise? Yeah, not a good choice. Very cool car, highly emblematic of true American Iron, though. Covetous until I have to pull up to the gas pump or try to fit in a contemporary two-car garage or now-normal parking space.

Thinking Cars

Another previous affection was for a VW (Bug) pan with a fiberglass Porsche Roadster bolted on top. Kit car. Looks like a vintage Porsche, has the rock-solid (and way cheaper to maintain) drivability of a slightly dated VW Bug. Fiberglass body, wind in the hair?

Two problems, although, factually, probably better performance from a VW frame and motor when compared to an actual ’56 Roadster — no data to back up either claim at the moment.

“no data to back up either claim” has never bothered me.

The first problem is that trip to Austin, at least, for me. The drop-top is so totally cool, but two hours — or more — depends on traffic — in the heat, breathing nothing but exhaust fumes? Not so much fun, and the roaring of the wind is fun for a few minutes, but not after parking under a tree with a large murder of crow.

I lived in New Mexico and Arizona, the high desert — the great American Southwest — off and on for a few years. The Porsche — and VW — motor is an air–cooled, flat 4, hangs out aft of the rear axle. Makes for good traction, and interesting handling characteristics, but as a practical placement? Air–cooled and in the back of the vehicle? Right next to the ground that can easily fry an egg most summers? That just bakes the motor. So that second problem is two-fold, air-cooled and rear-engine. Plus side is ease of access for mechanical repairs, but I’m no longer interested in getting greasy myself.

Thinking Cars

Returning to the quintessential British Roadsters, amusing — slightly ironic — the best of the current British roadsters is a Mazda Miata. I could never. I’ve owned a handful of British roadsters, and while they are enjoyable, slightly quirky, again, living in the American Southwest with our — to some people — brutal summers? The drop top is a wonderful idea but not really practical most of the time. The older British ones are even more fun, back in the days long since passed, I knew guy who shoveled and squeezed American (Ford) 350 V-8s into Jaguars. English craftsman coachwork and sporty handling, American motor reliability.

The English — the joke — was that Lucas was the Prince of Darkness. Lucas electrics? All the wiring and electrical parts on those roadsters?

At one point in New Mexico, a group of my buddies? Every time it rained, all of us with British cars would be stranded. For some reason, the Lucas electrics shorted out in the New Mexico rain. Desert. Didn’t rain often.

Not long ago, on the road to Austin, I zipped past a Bug-Eye Sprite. Austin Healy, evolved into a model called a “Spridget.” Cross between a Sprite with a body that looked like the MG Midget. Cute cars, with the Austin Healy branded model a better deal because, well, the cachet of that brand. Think it was 1275 cc motor, like, I owned motorcycles with bigger motors than that.

However, the notion that a car like that would be fun? Well, yes, it would be a blast for a day like the other afternoon, met a buddy for lunch, had a meeting to go to, and then zipped over to the grocery store. However, in a town that’s filled with monster trucks? Those little cars, no matter how much fun, just get swallowed whole.

Girlfriend had a Honda CR-Z, and I got to drive it for a spell. I adored that car. It was, at best, problematic, but did have its uses. For one, it was a sporty Honda hybrid. Two-seater. Hard-top — with all the modern inconveniences. Great fun to drive, if a little plagued with oversteer, typical of front-engine, front-wheel drive. The major problem was visibility, and there were serious blind spots for me, as a driver, in the back quarter, a little spot — on each side — where I couldn’t see traffic.

The other — wrote in a horoscope, cf. Virgo — drawback to that one car? Either drive it sporty and get under 35 miles to a gallon, or drive it conservative and get 40. I teased 50 miles to the gallon out of it one winter’s evening in a long haul someplace, chatting the whole way.

Thinking Cars

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