Different strokes for different folks. The idiom certainly applies to almost everything ventured by humanity, but I’ve never understood how someone could own a beautiful (or ugly) antique car and leave it hanging out in the garage. The itch to drive would be unbearable. My days of using my ’65 Mustang as a warm weather daily driver are certainly over, but there’s still very little in our imperfect world that’s better than the view over an old car’s hood.
Living in the winter wasteland that is Michigan is a blessing and a curse. Although I get to enjoy my old cars only about seven months a year, this absence almost certainly makes the heart grown fonder. This picture of my Mustang’s long hood is from 2006, just a month before I tore it down to a bare shell and spent four years doing metalwork, interior, and paint. This is on I-75 South, and it reminds me of how great a freeway car the Mustang is.
Here we are again, post-overhaul, on M-115 in Northern Michigan, near Cadillac. It still loves the open road, but I might have gotten a little greedy last year. The original 289 just got too tired, so I added a little juice when I rebuilt the engine. Unfortunately, the current combination of headers and mufflers creates a hellacious exhaust drone at 60. Ouch!
My Corvair is also a decent highway car. I generally hate driving in the rain in an old car (visions of rust are always dancing in my head); but last year, my dad and I got caught in a downpour of epic proportions. This old convertible definitely leaks, so I’ll take the conditions shown in the lead photo–a nice sunset and a dry road.
The Corvair gets the best mileage of my fleet, but driving for more than an hour or so is torture; I’m recovering the seats this summer and adding seat extenders. I don’t believe late Corvairs were made for six-footers.
On the other hand, my ’53 Buick is plenty nice to drive, but can also be tiring on longer trips. First, it has bias-ply tires, so it follows the grooves in the road. Second, it doesn’t feel very comfortable cruising at more than 60, so I’m always mirror driving. Finally, it gets no more than 15 MPG, and that’s a miracle if it happens. I reserve this beautiful anachronism for shorter trips.
It’s also fun to take it to cruise nights, where it’s like a flying saucer amidst a sea of Chevelles, Mustangs, Camaros, and Novas.
I’ve saved my best highway car for last. My ’65 Skylark has a 300-cubic-inch V8 with a Carter AFB and 2.78 gears in the back. It can cruise all day at any speed traffic demands. It has a couch for a front seat, and is simply the best investment I have ever made. More than once this winter, I’ve literally dreamed I was packing the Skylark’s trunk to embark for parts unknown.
Of course, my dream road trip would involve being surrounded by the cars of America’s past, but those days are mostly gone.
However, I’ll keep driving my old junk for as long as I can. I haven’t taken any road trips in the Dirty Dart yet, but I can’t wait to stare down its hood, doing one of the most satisfying things a person can do.