I live in an area of Chicago called Edgewater, which is the second-northernmost neighborhood bordering Lake Michigan within city limits. Evanston, the city just north of Chicago, is technically not considered a suburb of the Second City, has a population of roughly 74,000, and is also home to Northwestern University. It is a beautiful college town with an overall feel steeped in arts, culture, eclecticism and intelligence.
I tend to gravitate toward slightly grittier environs than this by default, but Evanston is definitely not too posh for me to spend an afternoon exploring its downtown area or catching a first-run movie at its cineplex. My late father had been a college professor and, to some extent, there’s something about being in a collegiate area that feels at once familiar and comfortable, even if I was far from a straight-A student.
It was in Evanston that I had spotted our featured car off one of the main streets downtown, Davis Street, just east of that CTA Purple Line train station. This ’67 Pontiac GTO (The Great One became its own separate model starting in 1966) was moving in traffic when I first saw it on the street. Sometimes, I’m feeling more social, where I might try to go up to the car and its owner / driver and express my enthusiasm. Just as often, I’m content with avoiding any human interaction, taking some pictures, and being on my way. This particular Saturday was the latter kind of day.
As I watched from across the street as the driver carefully parallel-parked the GTO, I thought of the appropriateness of its being parked in close proximity to a GNC (General Nutrition Center) storefront. I used to purchase supplemental whey protein from GNC regularly (that is, before I discovered that the neighborhood location of a discount supermarket chain also sells a whey protein-blend powder for a fraction of the price). I will still make the occasional purchase at GNC, and I usually find their sales staff to be friendly and knowledgeable. This is helpful, as there is a plethora of different products on the shelves to visually sort through if you don’t know the exact location of whatever it is you’re looking for.
It also helps to go back the same store later, once you’ve made a purchase there. This helps to avoid going through the same round of initial questions at a different location, which can sometimes take me back to my days of being a scrawny teenager. “What exactly are you trying to do? Are you trying to burn fat? Bulk up? Then maybe you should try…” “No, thanks. I’m just looking for the whey protein… Ope!* Here it is. That will be all. Thanks!” I’m in my mid-forties. I’m not trying to do anything crazy like “bulk up” at the expense of my increasingly plaintive joints. I’m not throwing in the towel on physical fitness just yet, but all I basically want to do is to stay as healthy and fit as I can for as long as that’s possible.
I thought it was appropriate and cool that this ’67 iteration of what’s widely considered to be the first “muscle car”, the ’64 Pontiac GTO, pulled up in front of a store in a chain from which many muscleheads buy their supplements. When thinking about current performance cars and what makes them tick, I could think of many of them as “juicing” to some extent, with widespread use of turbocharging, electric current, etc. The future is here, and many high performance vehicles get the job done with the use of much complex technology, but in a much more environmentally responsible, efficient, and safer way than performance cars of yore. There’s something to be said, though, about the way the GTO did it all basically with just cubes and carbs… ahem, carburetors.
I remember liking that our featured car was a non-hardtop and had fixed window frames. For ’67, the GTO non-hardtop coupe was the least plentiful of the three models offered, with about 7,000 units sold against 65,000 hardtops and 9,500 convertibles. (Even the convertible outsold the posted GTO.) The base price of the ’67 hardtop started at a mere $64 more (2.2%) over that of the base GTO coupe ($2,935 vs. $2,871), and the hardtop weighed just five pounds more, at 3,430 pounds.
Standard power came from a 400-cubic inch V8 with a four-barrel carburetor, offering 335 horsepower. The high-output version of this same mill produced 360 horses. According to the editors of Consumer Guide, a coupe equipped with the H.O. powerplant was capable of doing 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds, and the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 99 mph.
I am coming to make peace with the fact that modern performance cars will necessarily have to incorporate more complex forms of technology in order to be more ecologically responsible, and I find it incredible what engineers have been able to accomplish in the way of designing cars that do more with the use of less fossil fuel. At the same time, there’s a certain simplicity and honesty to the blunt-force, no-nonsense kind of muscularity and athleticism that this ’67 GTO represents that I can’t help but admire. Comparing the ‘roided-up action figures of today against those of my ’80s childhood, it seems an appropriate metaphor for the current crop of performance cars versus those of yesteryear.
Downtown Evanston, Illinois.
Saturday, March 10, 2018.
* “Ope” – an Upper Midwest-specific exclamation of surprise, or a split-second mea culpa.