Good Times

Often this blog, these last words of the weekly column, are my favorite.  This blog entry allows me to talk about anything on my mind.  Any topic can be opened up for discussion.  Usually I try to make it topical and other times I'm just selfish and rattle on about something I'm pretty sure few will have an interest in.  Today is a bit of both.

We live in great times.  In this week's learning topic I discuss how I use a Slingbox to watch local news channels back home as well as some car and craft shows.  Lately I've become very interested in watching the Barrett Jackson Classic Car Auctions.  I love old classic cars and it's a joy to watch these beautifully restored and rare cars and it's further interesting to watch the prices they go for. 

I'm a muscle car fan.  Mustang's, Cuda's, Camaro's, and more.  I love them all.  Relatively lightweight cars with huge V8 engines that defined the era I grew up in.  I owned more than a few of these cars and keep a few in storage back in the states today.


99 SVT Cobra Mustang

Nikon D2h, Nikkor 12-24mm F4 @F11  1/160th 19mm  ISO 200


While watching the auctions I couldn't help but compare old cars to old cameras.  Both are works of art, and both can be beautifully restored, though the cameras don't demand a premium out of the world price like the cars do.  The average person can actually afford the old cameras. 

And this was when I thought to myself "why would I want to own an old camera with all the much nicer and easier to use cameras available today?"  The answer to that question is that with the exception of either old cameras I've used previously and where there's some nostalgia involved, or possibly old large format landscape cameras, I'd rather use the new modern cameras of today. 

That got me to thinking about the cars.  As much as I love these old muscle cars, and as much as I appreciate their fine lines and raw power, and realizing that if I was super rich I'd own many of these cars.. despite all that the new models are better in almost every way. 

WHAT!  I know not everyone will agree.  However, I own a late model "muscle car" and with it's 512rwhp, 720rwhp with nitrox, it's better in every way than the many Mustangs I drove from the 60's and early 70's.  I suppose we could debate the looks and how they make you feel, but I'm talking about the areas of performance and comfort which we can measure.


Rebuilt DOHC aluminum supercharged engine, 512rwhp

Olympus C3000Z  F2.8  1/160th  ISO 100


This is 1 of 514 black SVT Cobra coupes built in 1999.  It came stock with 320hp, a 600 watt stereo, a great air conditioner, and very comfortable power leather seats with air lumber support. It has power windows, power brakes, cruise control, and full instrumentation.  It's exclusive, it's fast, it handles great, and really for 1999 it was a great performing car.  And at nearly 24mpg it was arguably economical. 

For me it wasn't powerful enough.  I knew when I ordered it from the factory that in less than two months time I'd be meeting up with representatives from Vortech, K&N, Kenny Brown Racing, and some others.. and transforming this car in many ways.  I knew it would end up on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine.  The car emerged as a supercharged 512rwhp driver setting just inches off the ground and was equally at home on the track at SCCA events, or cruising down I-5 to visit my family in California.


Vortech Supercharger

Olympus C3000Z  F2.8  1/125th  ISO 100


After adding several layers of Dynamat sound insulation, interior roll cage, upgraded stereo, and more.. this car was even more quiet and comfortable to drive than in factory trim.  The engine was disassembled and rebuilt using better parts, all four cams were changed to a custom grind, chassis stiffeners under the car were added and in the engine bay.  A new transmission, clutch, 4:10 rear end, and 18" forged aluminum chromed wheels with Nitto rubber.  A Kenny Brown Stage III suspension, Koni shocks and struts, aluminum control arms, poly bushings an dmore.  AND I increased it's mileage to right under 30mpg.  30mpg+ if I can keep it at 65mph.

After making these modifications I went on several long trips with my sons, even part of Route 66.  The car was absolutely reliable, quiet (for 512rwhp), and drove better than the original.  With the interior roll cage and upgraded Brembo's it was even safer.

This car can probably get an easy 200,000 miles on only oil changes and changing the platinum spark plugs every 30,000 miles before needing to be rebuilt.  This car significantly outperforms my 1968 GT500KR Shelby in every way, and it is much more comfortable to drive.


99 SVT Cobra Mustang, Highly Modified

Nikon D2h, Nikkor 12-24mm F4 @F11  1/160th 20mm  ISO 200


Here's my point.  In the last few years we've had new Challengers, Camaro's, and Mustangs available.  There are even modern GT500KR's available from Ford's SVT.  And there are Vipers and Vette's and we haven't even talked about the excellent offerings from Europe or the fast as snot Japanese tuner cars.  Today we have more choices in performance cars available than we ever have before.

So why would we pay $200,000 for a pristine 1970 Boss 302 Mustang when we can get a much better performing car on every level, not to mention many times more comfortable and reliable, for a fraction of the price?  The answer is we wouldn't.  These old muscle cars are rarely restored to be driven on a daily basis. They're built as investments and they make great investments providing a return unmatched by almost any other investment I can think of.  At least investments that carry the same risk. 

If we want a decoration, something to polish in the garage on Saturdays, an investment, a great example of nostalgia to admire then these old cars are the hot ticket.  But if you want a car to drive, and they were meant to be driven, then we live in the best times we've ever lived in with more choices than ever before. 

I've always been a Ford guy.. and I really do like the new Mustangs.  Especially the new 2011 models that will be coming out with standard 420hp naturally aspirated engines that get 29mpg.  But I'd also like to purchase a black SRT8 Challenger and mold it in the same image as my Cobra and turn it into a 800hp perfectly drivable work of art. 

We truly live in great times..


In ending I'd like to share the "why." 

I bought my Cobra when my youngest son was 7 years old.  For as long as he can remember we washed and waxed this car together, raced it at the track, tried new accessories, and he laughs when he tells the story of how he always knew I was outside his school waiting for him after school because he could "feel" the engine as I drove up.  He said the other kids knew the sound too and they'd all smile and then rush outside to see the cool car.  I never knew they would listen for the car, and in fact when I'd approach from several blocks away I'd pop it in neutral and coast the rest of the way in so as not to disturb the last few minutes of class.  But he knew.


Matthew at age 7

Olympus C3000Z  F2.8  1/125th  ISO 100


Next year he'll be off to college.  I'm not sure yet which university, but if it's in a fair weather state I plan on giving him the car.  He's proven himself to be responsible and level headed enough, and I've always provided a good used car for my boys as they've went through college, and he loves this car.  You see, he'd rather drive a Japanese tuner car because that's his generation.  THIS car would become the one he enjoys looking at, polishing, and hopefully some day sharing with his son(s).  The guard has changed.  There will never be better times..


Until next time..