Monday, May 15, 2006

Kids and Speed

It is said that one goes through three phases with regards to Dad:
"My dad can beat up your dad",
"My old man don't know shit!",
"My father used to say..."

I hit stage three long ago. Dad is a terrific guy for many reasons, and he has always been a car guy. Had a Cuda when he married my mom. I was thinking of the Hell I put Mom and Dad through when I was wanting my first car. What made me think of this was a wreck I heard about this last week where three kids got killed. One of the cars involved was a corvette, which is how I heard about it. Kids and speed just don't mix, and I was lucky that Dad knew this.

When I was pleading with the folks to buy me a car (age 16), we went on a few test drives together. I was angling for the hottest car I could get, and Dad was trying to keep me alive. We went out south of town to look at a Mach I once.

It was blue and white, as I recall. Aftermarket rims, and pretty bald tires. Standard trans. 351 engine, 4 bbl carb. The man that owned it was older than me, younger than Dad. He wanted 3K for the car, and allowed us to take a test drive.

Southeast of town there is a housing development named Dove Springs. It's fallen on hard times now, but back then it was still being built out as a bedroom community. There were large sections of road where there were no houses. We went to one such, Dad driving. The seller lived in Dove Springs, so it wasn't a long ride.

I could barely contain myself. The car had a rumble to it that was pretty nifty.

Dad looked over at me.
"What do you think of it?"
I looked back, square and open.
"It's OK, I guess". I have to be cool here. If I let on that I know it's a hotrod, I'll never see this car again. I'd be relegated to driving the VW camper van.
He smirked at me, slightly reproving.
"You buckled in?" He says. I nod.
Quick as that, he rolled up some revs and dropped the clutch. The tires broke loose and commenced screeching. The car stayed straight though, and we hook up and make a run down the new-layed street.
"Has a Posi, I think" he hollers over the engine. We're coming to the end of the street. Before we get there, he brakes, downshifts and turns left into the neighborhood, far over the speed limit.
"Not my car! Haha!" Is this Dad?
We make the block and come back to the new street again, and I see a pair of huge new burnouts where we took off.

We line up and do it again! The car is emmitting a smell now that I would recognize later as brakes and clutch heating up.

We get to the end of the street and stop.
"And that" he says, looking at me, icy blue stare from under deep brows, "is why you can't have this car". And we drove back to the owner, thanked him, but also no thanks, and left.

I ended up with a 318 '73 Duster. I was an idiot for turning down the VW. It had a BED in it, ferchrissakes! I wrecked the Duster on all four corners though, so in retrospect it was a good choice!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Roarcourse drivers have a communication problem. It's very difficult to tell anyone who has not been on a course what it's like. It's FAR easier to just smile and mutter things about "good grip out there today..." and so forth.

I don't know how to conquer the communication barrier. It's very much harder to attract more folks to the sport if they don't understand what's going on.

Take NASCAR for example. NASCAR is all about going round and round, very fast. Minute changes in car setup and driver habit can make or break a race. None of that is clearly visible to the crowd. It's not possible to be close enough to the cars to feel how they react to the draft, or how they get just a smidge looser in every corner. Thus, NASCAR markets two things: Experience and heroes.

The experience of a NASCAR race is mind blowing. I hate them. Too much flash, not enough driving, too far removed from the pits, too much false "down home" bullshit. I am not a NASCAR fan. However, it is a wildly successful sport with the American public. The marketing concentrates on the experience of the race as a whole, rather than the driving or the tactics in the race.

They also market heroes. Cast as gladiators, the drivers are painstakingly groomed and coached and picked to look a certain way. They are all outstanding drivers, of course, but it takes more than that to be playing at that level. Have to be marketable.

But how do you market actually driving? The best seat in the house is the one behind the wheel. Hard to share that experience. There are in-car cameras, and that helps a bit, but at the end of the day, I think narrative is the best way to tell the story of the track. It's the best way to attract more folks to the sport. Thus, this blog.

I am, of course, not trying to market anything. I like to tell stories and write for fun. But I would encourage those reading this to see what it's like in person. If you ever drive fast and feel a little guilty (but satisfied). If you remember fondly that drag race you were in as a kid. If you like roller coasters or downhill skiing, give high performance driving a try.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The new Z

The new Z06 came out in 2006. It's a dramatic step up from my '02 Z, for many reasons. The question is: Do I want to buy one?

Well, obviously, if money were no object, I'd get one. But it is, and more than that, there's personal code, standards and so forth that combine in a baroque sort of way to muddy the waters.

It's got 100 HP more than the '02 and is very light. It's got a 427 as opposed to a 350, and a dry sump oil system that's more survivable. It's got more modern gee-jaws than Sharper Image. It's got great suspension, and is likely much, much faster in the turns than my car.

I just can't do it. It would double my car payment. I feel like I just got the Blue Car and I'm stupidly loyal. I also feel that buying the first year of almost anything is a bad idea. Perhaps the '07s will be more interesting, but frankly, until I pay off what I have, it's just not that attractive.

I hate to say it, but I also don't like the body style as yet. It's shorter than my car, and a little wider. It's a hatch back, rather than a FRC. It looks like it was chipped out of a piece of flint, rather than shaped out of water, like my car does.

Perhaps I'll get to drive one, and that will change my mind. For now, it's an interesting and very fast car that I will admire from afar.