I am a gearhead. I spend more money on parts and vehicles than I do on food, by far. I don’t care if it’s worth doing, I want to prove it can be done. Loud and pissed is, by default, better than modest and precise. I own, on average, a dozen cars every decade of driving. As far as I am concerned there is no excuse for the Prius and I feel I should be apologized to when I am forced to drive one. Gasoline doesn’t have to be cheap, I predict in the future it will be available as a luxury item, like caviar. Most people will never understand anything I am interested in – I feel sorry for them.
I was brought up on cheap American iron cars. I love them. Their interiors have a certain smell after baking in a sunny junkyard for a few years, some combination of plastic out-gassing and cigarettes maybe. The parts from one car fit all the adjacent cars in the section somehow, like a happy miracle. Shaft-mount radios seem to fit just a little better than single-din “standardized”units. Every wheel used to be one of 3 bolt patterns, “offset” used to be “back-spacing.” Engines used to face forward and I used to be happy spending all of my $200 paycheck at the local pick-a-part and NAPA.
They’re almost gone now, like the dinosaurs. It’s unbelievable that I would spend four grand on craigslist on a car that used to be $200 in the Sunday paper. Everything is wrong-wheel drive and nothing has a throttle cable anymore. I miss the vague steering, the bench seat thicker than a mattress you have to finance. It didn’t matter that GM was selling the same car to us under five different marquis, it made a wider variety of parts cheaper and more plentiful. It made the clone of your favorite car you couldn’t afford possible. Everyone’s unimpressive car could be an impressive car in sheep’s clothing. Every curve of super-mass-produced sheet metal was exciting to someone, on some level.
Then the 90s came. I will never forgive the shameful behavior the domestic brands displayed during this remission into the dark ages. They are not the only ones to blame, enthusiasts took blasphemy to new, unheard-of heights. A yellow on purple Fury with zebra-stripe interior and bug scoop on family TV. That was disgusting. The domestic manufacturers had some excuse, they were attempting to keep pace with cheap asian imports that had no focus on performance for the most part. They had a technology revolution left over from the early 80s that they still couldn’t get ahead of, and more infrastructure to support than they could handle whilst being competitive with $6000 cars.
I recently got a tattoo. I had been talking about how badass it would be to have the firing order of a small block Chevy across my scarred knuckles for years I guess, so I got a special gift for Christmas this year. It turns out someone listened to me and bought my tattoo, I just had to make the appointment. I went and got inked for the first time on new years’ eve. It became an unexpected prod to do something when I realized exactly how many people didn’t know what this sequence of numbers meant, I got asked thirty times in one day at work. I am a professional mechanic, this was unimaginable. Nobody recognized the firing order cast into intake manifolds of the engine that could have caused one hundred million people to pick up a wrench.
Awestruck by the possibility that people don’t know anything about the industry that made America after WW2, I started typing this. I can’t show everyone the way to the glory of my kind of machine made of iron, coal and limestone, but I can point out that it’s slipping away to fellow gearheads. Maybe people will stop to think about a fond memory of driving to get donuts on Sunday mornings with grandpa in his Olds. Maybe Delta 98s will cost a grand more tomorrow, I don’t know. There’s plenty of things to hold on to, I’d like to think these are worthy of it.