Del Mar Rod & Custom Nationals –
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
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
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