I love classic American cars like a thrice-divorced 45-year-old tax attorney loves barely legal coeds. That is to say passionately, inappropriately and almost certainly inadequately while muttering whispered apologies to the beautiful thing I am probably ruining forever. But unfortunately, this is still a free country. So just because I shouldn't, under any circumstances, be allowed near these wonderful machines, that doesn't mean I'm not. When I first started owning these things into the ground, there were some downsides that I was aware of right from the get go -- the gas mileage, the work, the money -- but I've since encountered a few stranger, more serious pitfalls that, for some reason, nobody ever warns you about.
I'm all over the map with my automotive appreciation. As far as I'm concerned, cool is cool, and I have a new crush to swoon and fawn over almost daily. I'm constantly finding new details to incessantly and criminally bore my wife with: "But really the optimal year for the Riviera is the '67, when they upgraded to the baseline 430 while keeping most of the same classic lines," I will tell her, as she eyeballs other, more interesting men from across the room. "Hideaway lights!" I'll squeal, while she quietly googles "Oregon divorce law" on her Android, sighing when the page loads instantly, still cached in her history. That infatuation will last for a day or so, and then my lust is channeled back to the old standard, the '68 Charger. Well, at least until a shiny lil' GTX rolls by, and then I'm off again, chasing after that while laughing, clapping and skipping through the traffic crashing all around me.
Oh, Charger, I don't know if I want to drive you or have sex with you ... but that's not the truth. We both know that I know.
But this behavior is not acceptable in car culture. As soon as you make a decision -- and I mean the very second you put that money down and settle into the seat -- you have committed yourself to a long and brutal bloodfeud with every single other brand in existence.
"Oh, you're a MOPAR man," the man behind the counter at the auto parts store will say, after noticing your car.
"Yeah! They're awesome!" You'll spout eagerly. And then, before you can add "but I almost bought a beautiful Cutlass before this, and I saw a bitchin' Galaxie just earlier today," he'll lean over conspiratorially and whisper: "I've got a Coronet myself."
You'll smile and nod, wondering if it's rude to ask him if that's a car, a bird or a Mexican beer, and then another customer will walk by. The clerk will abruptly raise a hand to quiet you as he passes.
"That was a Chevy man," he'll clarify with unfathomable bile in his tone, and spit on the floor before continuing, "keeps coming in here, all la-di-da like he owns the world. Just been waitin' for another MOPAR man to come along and back me up ..."
Then he'll stand up suddenly, walk to the door, flip the sign to closed, and BAM! You're helping yet another stranger throw a "rug" into Mattigan's swamp, just as soon as you drink up enough courage to remove those incriminating fingertips with a pair of boltcutters.
What happened to that poor bastard earlier, whose only crime in the world was driving a Nova, was no accident -- but you also need to prepare yourself for the many, many other lives you'll inadvertently take if your car looks even remotely "tough." A large, flat grill, sharp, angled fenders, or just a deep rumble emanating from the engine bay is all it takes to summon a plethora of Tough Guys who will try to lemming themselves beneath your tires at every stoplight. For comparison's sake: My other car is a 2005 Kia Optima, which is the automotive equivalent of stapling a Viagra prescription to your shirtsleeve. I can't recall the last time a Tough Guy stepped out into the crosswalk against the light to walk slowly in front of my bumper -- practically daring me to kill him -- when I was crouched in my fucking Kia. Yet, every time I step in the '66 Fury, some dude in a Tapout shirt and a bandanna will come bolting across the intersection like a sexually insecure deer, eye-fighting me like I just asked him if he borrows his wifebeaters from his boyfriend or the gigolo they hire every weekend to make up for his impotency.
"Trick question, asshole: Our gigolo wears a vest. I mean, uh ... fuck you!"
I'm not sure if this happens with newer sports cars too, but in my experience, the simple act of owning a classic car means you're automatically enrolled in a terribly one-sided game of chicken with dudes who have the Chinese character for fear tattooed on their bicep. This is not a thing I understand. How does that prove machismo? If anything, it seems like they're imbuing the driver with an inordinate amount of power: Obviously you, behind the wheel of your giant steel monstrosity powered by tiny explosions, are not going to be harmed by running over Captain Bought-Those-Dogtags-From-Hot-Topic. So really, they're putting themselves in a massively submissive position; yielding their bodies up to the driver's superior power and baring their proverbial throats for him in the most sexually charged dominance dynamic outside of a James Spader movie. So it's great to own a classic car and all, but just be aware that, by doing so, you're agreeing to spend several minutes out of every day satisfying the danger-fetishes of dudes whose personality type is "pectoral muscle."
If you own, say, a Ford Windstar, nobody assumes that you know shit about anything. There is no implied special knowledge that you, a Windstar driver, are expected to share with the world. And you have to admit, that's probably a pretty fair assumption. But if you own a classic car, you can expect to be quizzed, at any time, about every single component of it, as well as those of every other conceivable car built within the same decade. This will happen literally everywhere: At the auto parts store, in your driveway, stopped at a light, or just pulling into the parking lot of a 7-Eleven to snag a Coke Slurpee to mix with your bottle of Jack and night of crushing solitude. Regardless of location, you will eventually be sidelined by some dude (there's a 73% chance he'll have mutton chops,) who will intensely drill you on the technical specifications of your automobile, no matter how busy you seem, or how plainly, visibly incompetent you are.
"What the fuck is this thing?!"
"Nice car," he'll start. "Whaddaya got in there?"
"In ... the car? Like eight pounds of Jack in the Box wrappers, a flat 2-liter of Alpine Mist and a broken flashlight," you'll answer, entirely accurately.
"Ha! No, I mean, what is that, the 318?"
"No, it's ... uh," you'll stammer, just trying to save some face, "the other one."
"The 426?" He'll reply, impressed.
"Hell yes," you'll answer, practically ejaculating relief.
"Naw, man, like ... seven. Seven barrels."
"Shit, custom job. You bore that thing out?"
"Bored it till it couldn't walk in the morning," you'll laughingly reply, at no point in this conversation having had the slightest clue what you two were discussing. Cars, you'd say, if you had to venture a guess.
"Cool, man, cool. Got a 440 myself. Went to put a new intake on her yesterday, forgot to hook back up the PCV valve and fouled the plugs. Came out to pick up some new ones and a pack of smokes. But man, now I'm thinking I should just take that money and go for a 777 instead."
"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing," you'll blindly agree.
"Yeah? Shit, really? Saw a place around the corner. Wanna take a look?"
So you get in his car, expecting to be taken to a garage or possibly some kind of hangar, only to find that you've accidentally agreed to get fisted in a back alley by three tired-eyed Puerto Rican girls while a guy with a statistically significant chance of having mutton-chops jacks off into a puppet.