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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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GOODGUYS Del Mar Rod & Custom Nationals –
Coming Soon,
and Memories of Muscle Cars from Years Past

 


Flamed ’32 Ford Coupe (photo courtesy Goodguys)

It seems like it was only a few months ago that I was walking the aisles and admiring the cars at last year’s Goodguys Del Mar Rod & Custom Nationals. Well, a year passes quickly and soon we’ll have another opportunity to enjoy this great annual show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Mark March 31, April 1 and April 2 on your calendars and plan to attend.


1951 Mercury (photo courtesy Goodguys)

If you do you’ll be able to see over 2,000 pre-1973 vintage hot rods, customs, classics, trucks, muscle cars and street machines. If this show is anything like last year’s (and I’m sure that it will be), you’ll also see plenty of interesting automotive exhibits, too, as well as a used auto parts swap meet, a cars for sale area, entertainment and more. I still remember how much I enjoyed talking with an automotive artist who, by the way, I still intend to visit at his studio for an interview some day.

When I first got my driver’s license (at the young age of 16) I was really into the late 60’s and early 70’s muscle cars. My first new car was a 1970 Plymouth Duster 340 (bright red, no less), and to this day it still holds the record for the fastest I’ve ever driven in a car. Don’t ask because I won’t put the number in print – impressionable teenagers are probably reading this (you know who you are). I will, however, say that it amazes me that I lived to tell about it. Based on my experience, new, male, teenaged drivers should not be allowed to drive such cars on public roads. It was a miracle that I didn’t kill myself – or, worse yet, someone else.

Anyway, the point I was about to make concerns the price of such cars then and now. As I recall, the price of my Canadian 1970 Duster 340 was somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000, brand new. Other MoPars, Camaros, Firebirds, GTOs, Mustangs and so forth were not much more expensive than that. They were all affordable, and gas was almost as cheap as dirt.

Boy, how things have changed. This morning, while eating breakfast, I turned on one of my favorite channels (SPEED), where highlights from a recent classic car auction were on. Cars that almost anyone could have somehow managed to buy, back when they were new, were now selling at auction (not including the auction company’s additional premium) for anywhere from $65,000 for restorations and recreations to over $200,000 for original, perfect, very rare cars!!! That’s way, way too rich for my blood, but thanks to the Goodguys show at least I can still see, if not drive them.

That reminds me of something else. Sure, those cars were an absolute blast to drive in a straight line, but they didn’t corner or stop very well, and they were not very comfortable either.  As great as its acceleration was, the suspension, brakes and tires (Goodyear Polyglas, as I recall) on my Duster 340 were horrible. Give me radials, four-wheel discs and a modern, sophisticated suspension system any day.

My Duster was also one of the first with ventless driver’s and front passenger’s side windows. That feature, in combination with a really poor ventilation system, made for a pretty hot interior in the summer – a situation made even worse by the black vinyl interior and no air conditioning. To this day I still prefer fabric to luxurious leather, and that’s probably why.

Or how about what modern electronics have meant to today’s cars? BMW’s I-Drive notwithstanding, today’s navigation systems, audiophile sound systems, electronic engine controls, computer-controlled ABS, traction control and more are light years beyond what was even imaginable back then. Remember push-button AM radios and oxide-shedding 8-track tapes, or new cars that regularly stalled or wouldn’t start on hot or cold days?

Many of the benefits of today’s sophisticated technology can be found on most vehicles, and today’s high performance cars are even better. If I had $200,000 to spend on a car, I sure wouldn’t get a vintage muscle car when I could buy a new Ford GT (in Gulf Porsche colors) for the same price – and have a factory warranty. Seeing the muscle cars at the Goodguys show will have to suffice for me.


1949 Chevy Coupe (photo courtesy Goodguys)

Goodguys Del Mar Rod & Custom Nationals will be happening on March 31, April 1 and April 2. For more information about this show and others, go to www.good-guys.com.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com. Enjoy the archives and more at www.AutoMatters.net. Drive safely and do join me again next time.

 

Copyright © 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #182 AutoMatters

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