As a fan and occasional writer of science fiction, there are some worlds I absolutely love and take inspiration from in my own work. The likes of Cowboy Bebop, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica have kept me in amazement since first discovering them.
I like to group these together in what I call Analog Science Fiction. Where the technology is fantastical, but there is a rough, lived in aesthetic to the world. Things are controlled by buttons and levers. Computer read outs are often very basic. There are no fancy touchscreens or holographics here.
This leads to my car. While it isn’t the newest example of of it’s kind on the road, it isn’t in perfect shape, nor is it the top trim of its line, it’s one of my favorite cars I’ve ever driven. In Battlestar Galactica terms, I would say it’s most similar to the Viper Mark II. While not as new as the Mark VII’s, it is still able to hold it’s own under the right conditions. (Plus the colors match!)
In my last article, I wrote about owning a Bronco II, and that was true up until a couple months ago. However, I had discovered a problem with owning my dream truck… It was difficult to get in and out of.
It’s no secret that time hasn’t exactly been kind to my body. Working in the industrial fields I did left me in a worse state then a cared to admit for a long time. My knees having been a major casualty. While I don’t need it every single time I get up, having a cane just makes it easier for me to move around. However, it presents its own challenges. There’s not always a proper place to put it when I eat somewhere, or need more than one hand to carry something. I soon discovered that climbing in and out of my truck each day was getting more and more painful.
Working on the engine meant literally climbing on top of the engine bay and hunching over it to change things like spark plugs. What should’ve been a couple hour’s worth of work took me almost five, because I was constantly needing to painfully lower myself off the engine to give my poor knees a rest. As much as I hated to admit it… I should find a new car. Scarlet was too hard to live with, and I was doing myself no favors by ignoring that.
When working at Streetside Classics, I drove many examples of the third gen Camaro. They were all almost exactly the same. Red with black hood stripes. I-ROC or Z/28. Almost all had the Tuned Port Injected 305 or 350.
When I had the chance to test drive what is now my car, I was very surprised at how comfortable it was to get in and out of. I could pivot and fall into the driver’s seat and when I needed to get out, I could put my weight on my cane and and lift myself out with little difficulty. No running boards to worry about and a low slung driving position where I can keep both legs extended.
My Camaro is an example of the final year for this body style. It features the Heritage Edition paint scheme with red stripes over white. It has the option of wearing glass or solid T tops, and with it being Texas, I keep those on to make sure the car stays somewhat cool. It comes equipped with a throttle body injected 305 and an automatic four speed. I’ve heard people complain that the base model RS Camaro was an absolute dog but I don’t know what they mean. The car is plenty fast off the line and handles very well out on the highway.
The shocks are new and the brakes have been upgraded with drilled and vented rotors so that’s probably why. The AC has been converted over to modern freon and blows cold. The body is mostly original, save for the Z/28 front end that was swapped on some years ago.
One area I totally understand the criticism of is the quality of the interior. Even with new plastic on the dash and brand new carpet everything feels cheap. The squeaks and rattles and wind noise are sometimes so loud I have to turn up the radio just to hear it.
Still, while I never saw myself in a car like this and I’m sad to see my Bronco go, it’s amazing feeling to own a car like this. It doesn’t hurt me to drive and while the drivetrain isn’t the most desirable, it’s reliable technology that is easy to maintain. I know others have had some horror stories with their third gen F bodies but this one has yet to fail me.
The body isn’t perfect, and the interior is cheap feeling. It’s got this ugly kind of charm to it and I’m honestly surprised at the looks and compliments I get. This is no Z/28 or IROC-Z. It’s a base model with fancy paint and a red interior. Still, it holds to the spirit of what I believe the Camaro is. It’s a fun, rumbly little coupe and it looks faster than it is.
So when I’m driving along the highway at 80 miles an hour, listening to Aerosmith with the tops off, plastic interior squeaking and rattling away, with the exhaust rumbling behind me… What do I hear? Nothing but the rain…
“Ship like this, be with you till the day you die.”
You present an interesting perspective on vehicular accessibility. Traditional “cars” such as your Camaro will sooner or later start to become scarce and perhaps too old to be desirable used; and as we know, automakers have largely given up producing this form factor in exchange for vehicles that are much more like your Bronco in terms of height and ingress. At the same time, physical issues such as bum knees will impact everyone sooner or later. So, what options are going to be available for drivers in (say) 10 years when they’re unable to clamber up into SUVs and crossovers?
I’m not quite suggesting that automakers should be planning for a certain percentage of the driving population’s ultimate decrepitude (hey…I’m of that age too…so I know of what I speak 😉 ), I’m just thinking about a time maybe in the not too distant future when drivers of a certain age are looking for vehicles they can comfortably get into, but find nothing except boxy things that require hauling yourself up to get behind the wheel.
So, EVERYBODY will be disabled? That’s funny, I’m 68 and haven’t been sick in 35 years, the year I went VEGAN. (1986)
Good for you. I think you missed the point that he was trying to make though.
I thought SUV’s and crossover’s ride height was good for people with bad hips.
I hate to say this, but if the Camaro ever gets too challenging, try a minivan. My previous company car was a Dodge Caravan. Didn’t need to climb up or down to get in. Level entry & well shaped door openings made things easy.
Not a driver’s car and certainly will not attract comments like your Camaro. I hated the thing for the entire 250k I had to drive it.
Despite my disappointment when the company replaced a wonderfully responsive Bonneville SSEi with the Caravan, I have to admit the Caravan was easily the best vehicle I’ve ever experienced for ease of entry and exit.
Even my 101 year old mother had no problems moving from her walker to the passenger seat and back. I’m not yet at the point where I need to worry about such things, but sooner or later. . . .
100% right, Rob!
I used to drive a Grand Am! I called it the “Grand Ma”!
I have the opposite problem.
Bad lower back ( herniated, then disintegrated disk, then 20 years of grinding arthritis. Still work with it!) I have a low car which is tough at the end of the day. I prefer the Escape but that’s our “newer” (2011) car my wife drives for store jaunts, etc. My previous ’03 Avalon was ideal height, tall seating for a car, but eventually it aged out of practicality.
The ’03 Town & Country van we had (when we had decent newer things) was a perfect height.
You must be short, because lowering myself into this or even Stephanie’s TSX is not appealing to my 6’3″ frame at all. And that would explain the issues with the Bronco, although its floor height was pretty high due to sitting on a full frame.
There’s plenty of middle ground. The easiest cars to get into are ones that have tall roofs and tall seats, but not a raised floor, like the PT Cruiser and my xB, and others in that category. CUVs are a bit harder, as their floor heights are somewhat raised. But I think we’ll see more of them that are just barely raised.
But I’m glad you found something that works for you, even if it looks painful for me.
Most EVs have the batteries under the floor, so low floors may be not just going out of style, but out of production.
Twice, several years apart, I nearly bought a Rendezvous because I liked how easy it was to get in and out. It was based on GM’s minivans, of course.
That’s a good point; as cars are being withdrawn the message seems to be to buy an SUV or crossover instead…but they aren’t necessarily roomier, since they often have to allow for the 4WD/AWD mechanisms (even if they are only equipped with FWD or RWD). That’s one reason I don’t think the wholesale elimination of cars is a good idea, plus (in my older age) I appreciate how they ride, usually a bit smoother than a truck based SUV, or even a CUV.
As you point out, taller cars aren’t always more spacious; but of course cars can also be too low for easy ingress/egress for non-scramblers. I find myself wishing I could buy a full sized car (like a Crown Vic) or even better a full sized wagon…but it has been close to 30 years since they were last offered as new.
When I was younger, I never really appreciated them, but now as I get older (and sometimes feel my age) I get why they were popular then, especially for the older crowd. The funny thing is we had them back in the day, but even my father was younger than my current age then, so would have to go back to my grandparents to sync up their age at the time with when full sized models were readily available as new cars.
Yep. That was what I was saying above.
We’ll all be part of “the older crowd” eventually. 🙂
My 3rd gen is a ’88 IROC-Z 350 with numerou$ improvement$/repair$ since I purchased her. With modern radials the F-41 suspension still does a very respectable job thru twisties.
The weak spot for me are the totally non supportive seats. That is not a problem of age but simply poor design combined with cost cutting of materials. OTOH, the leg room in the car is better than any other car I have owned out of @ 40 or so!
The 350 may only have 230 hp (or 235 depending on source) but the-IIRC-330# ‘ of torque is felt when one depresses the gas pedal. The car is a very clean, cohesive design without the hideous and bizarre shapes that are inflicted upon most current vehicles. Overall the 3rd gens, with V8s, remain mildly entertaining cars to drive! 🙂 DFO
It is interesting how everyone ages differently, and all of us find a particular car configuration either friendly or not, depending on our unique circumstances. I am in pretty good shape but even though I am not as tall as PN, low cars are something I find less pleasant as I get older. I love them when I’m belted in (like the Miata) but the getting in or out is more, let’s go with “intentional”.
I remember riding in a Firebird version of this F body once upon a time, and still remember the symphony of squeaks, creaks and rattles on bad roads. That one had T tops, which likely made it a lot worse than yours.
A good candidate ease of exit would have been the Monte Carlo with the swiveling front bucket seats. Engine choices range from 305 to 454 depending on the year
I like the looks of the third gen Camaro and these seem to be picking up in interest as resto mod type rebuilds. They can be improved in many ways and still remain smog compliant. The hatchback is a big plus for usability, if not structural integrity. I have several low cars, my Mustang and Jag sedan, but the absolute lowest is my XJS. Getting out means using the upper windshield support and swinging myself out and up. The most pleasant car to enter and exit is my new Flex.
Moving on from accessibility issues, Camaros, Firebirds, and Mustangs of this era still remain available as affordable fun cars. I still want a new Mustang GT convertible and even rented one a few months back, but they will set you back over 50K. Still a little too rich for my blood. My old ’96 delivers almost all the fun and is certainly fast enough for any sane person driving on public highways. Rock on and keep on enjoying your Camaro!
My mom has problems getting in and out of our Town and Country, and my sister’s RAV. The seats are too high and she is only normal height.
What she loves is her Focus, and my CV Sport for climbing in and out of.
A friend of hers of similar age, loves her Taurus.
I cannot, and I have always struggled with, getting in or out of a Camaro. My knees are up around my ears and it sucks. I still jog and have no physical issues at all, but those cars are ridiculous. The Miata I had needed to have its top down so that I can access it.
We are NOT the future. Cars do not need to be designed for our old bones to creak in or out of. There is a reason why our parents loved their full sizers. No one really cares about our mobility needs, sad to say. We might have the money, but we do not have the market’s ear – anymore.
AS to this Camaro – my mom had one. She loved it. It was a leaky, creaking, groaning beautiful bimbo car. Good looking, but completely impractical. Got lots of compliments. You are lucky to put more than a a suitcase in it, and it is considered child abuse to force anyone into the back seat.
Still a good looking thing. Europe doesn’t make crap like that. Thankfully we do, because – we are who we are. We be crazy Americans!
Great car story. Good to see it keeps you youngish. When I get out my porsche bystanders say.. having problems there…
I say na that was the other bloke…ha