The sad demise of American car culture

Richard Cranium

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Homogenized modern vehicles have made driving mundane

July 12, 2022

Today’s youth get a bad rap for being boring: they don’t join clubs, volunteer, pursue hobbies, or invent anything. Their sartorial style is a sad mishmash of tired trends, their movies unimaginative remakes (there are nine Spider-Man movies now), and their music is largely stoned hip-hop artists talk-singing to the same hypnotic beat.

There are many forces at work in the dulling of the current generation, but one of the simplest reasons youngins may not feel inclined to go anywhere or do anything is because getting there is such an exercise in meh. When was the last time you sat in the driver’s seat of a new car, gripped the steering wheel and felt one iota of excitement?Where I live, collecting cars, restoring them, and sharing your masterpiece with others is a celebrated tradition. There’s a “cruise-in” going on somewhere about every weekend of the summer, with everything from pristine, period-perfect Model As to chromed-out, shined-up 1970s Mustangs lining up to be admired.At one such event, my friend’s father, Doug, displayed his 1970 Camaro. He’d spent months rebuilding and refurbishing every inch of this vehicle, and it felt like we had time-traveled and Doug had just driven the thing fresh off the lot with zero miles on the odometer.

Doug also displayed a book documenting the process he went through rebuilding the Camaro’s rusty frame, hand-sewing the seat cushions, rebuilding the engine and fine-tuning it back to factory standards. This car is his pride and joy and evokes memories of a similar make and model he had when he was courting his then-girlfriend, now-wife of forty-five years. Doug told me cars were everything to him and his friends. As soon as you saw a type and color of car, you knew who was in it. (These days, I can’t tell most cars apart.) The kids would spend all Friday night partying, driving to the racetrack and to the drive-in movies. The next day was spent cleaning and fixing their cars.

“Then we’d do it all over again, every weekend.”

How long will car culture and the creativity and memories it’s generated — like those of Doug — live on? While cars were fundamental in forming the character of the last several generations, homogenized modern cars — 96 percent of them automatics — have made driving mundane. An entire culture is fading away because of it.

David Amati, director of development of the Pittsburgh Automobile Dealers Association, told WTAE.com that being an auto mechanic is now considered to be “old-school” and the industry is suffering a huge shortage. Kids don’t even care about driving anymore, let alone fixing cars. It used to be that the day you turned sixteen, you went straight to the DMV to get your license and say so long! to rides from mom. No more. Federal Highway Administration data from 2018 showed that the number of sixteen-year-olds with a driver’s license had decreased from 46 percent to 25 percent since 1983.

Perhaps it’s because I live near a lot of Amish people and I see them every day working on old buildings in my little Pennsylvania town, but I am ever more inclined to blame the downfall of our civilization on technology. Sure, computers can make things more efficient, but they also tend to do a lot of the “thinking” and doing for us, stripping people of the ability — and desire — to create, tinker, and do more than be entertained by a screen.

Doug’s son Dougie, a mechanic of thirty years, agrees. He grew up in an era when muscle cars were king, and he now works on machines that rely on electronic control units and software. Dougie distinctly remembers learning to drive: it was on his dad’s ’66 Ford F-100, with three on the tree.

“It was older cars everybody had when I was a kid, and they kept ‘em running,” Dougie recalls. “Everybody knew everything about them, and they were easy to work on.”

The first car Dougie bought was a ’78 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. It cost him $100. With his dad Doug’s help, Dougie rebuilt the car’s engine and transmission and repainted the body.

He remembers having to tear the engine apart once in the school parking lot, “pull the intake off of it, fix a lifter, and put it back together to make it run.”

Talking to Dougie and his parents, who live on a secluded road surrounded by farms and old strip mines, nearly every family memory involves a motor: “melting tires” by drag racing on the flat strip of road in front of the house, blowing out and rebuilding an engine, getting stuck and unstuck.

Dougie and his dad have worked together fixing cars, trucks, ATVs — anything with wheels — their entire lives. Modern cars may be more reliable, Dougie says, but when they do break, they’re harder to fix.

“The newer they get, everything is in a tighter space, and it’s a pain to work on — they don’t give you any room,” says Dougie. “They try to make everything so you have to take it back to a dealer. They don’t want backyard mechanics working on things.”

New cars are also nearly impossible to modify.

“Back in the Sixties and Seventies, there were so many different options for a car, but today you basically have every vehicle with the same thing. There’s nothing to change out. Back then, say you bought a ’69 Camaro off the floor, it had a 327 in it, an automatic, you could take it home, pull it out, put a 454 with a four-speed in it, have it running by the end of the weekend. You can’t do that with today’s cars. With newer ones, like this [new Ford F-350], you have to take the cab off of it to change the turbo or fix anything.”

Cars build character, and car culture in America has been essential to our nation’s identity. Along with the growing price point separating “people carriers” from sportier rides, Dougie again cites technology as a problem.

“Trying to get kids off of their phones and getting them interested in cars to keep [car culture] alive — if you don’t it’s just going to fade away to electric vehicles,” he says.

Something tells me members of Gen Z won’t be waxing nostalgic about the glory days of driving their first Kia Rio to the Apple Store. Nor will they be searching the scrap yards to find the original knob with which they controlled their infotainment system while blasting “Wait for U.” And who’s going to write “Giddy Up, Giddy Up, Giddy Up, Toyota Camry”? Or make a movie about an iconic Hyundai Elantra?
 

Cheapsunglasses

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I’m definitely an outcast in my generation. But I’m glad to be one. I’m glad I know the joys of actually driving a car, especially the joys of a manual transmission (that’s right older folks, a “millennial” that drives a stick…and knows cursive!) I’m glad I know how to fix stuff, and the joys and rewards of your labor. There’s a small group in my generation that care, and we try our best to keep this hobby going, even though we don’t get the spotlight because of the overwhelming numbers of idiots in our generation, we’re here.
:thumbsup:
 

71_Duster

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Born in 82 so depending on whos chart you look at I end up as a millennial. Dad was a mechanic and I followed his footsteps.

But as for current car culture it's alive but in different more affordable cars the tuner guys have their thing going like them or not I can still respect it. (There are some really nicely built and fast tuners out there)
For the older cars its the prices and availability that kill a lot of interest. Starting out in this hobby at 17 I found a LOT of old guys who hoarded parts and wouldn't sell anything or wanted top dollar. Once you got a car together and went to car shows it was more of an old boys club and if you didn't have the perfectly restored nice paint etc no one cared or was interested.

Once I got out of the whole car show trap and just enjoyed my car I had a lot more fun with like minded people.
 
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Cheapsunglasses

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Born in 82 so depending on whos chart you look at
96, you’re right, I’d have to say it’s the later millennials if anything. But I would have to say our generation isn’t as bad as the next one. (If you’re a member of the next generation and on this forum, I’m not mad at you, it’s the other “they/thems” :lol: )
 

MarPar

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I’m definitely an outcast in my generation. But I’m glad to be one. I’m glad I know the joys of actually driving a car, especially the joys of a manual transmission (that’s right older folks, a “millennial” that drives a stick…and knows cursive!) I’m glad I know how to fix stuff, and the joys and rewards of your labor. There’s a small group in my generation that care, and we try our best to keep this hobby going, even though we don’t get the spotlight because of the overwhelming numbers of idiots in our generation, we’re here.
:thumbsup:

:thumbsup:

1657853559596.png


:poke:
:rofl:
 

1STMP

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I offered to teach my grandson to drive.
His eagerness to learn, instead of the
enthusiastic response I gave my dad,
seemed lackluster. He's more into his
computer. Which seems very odd to me,
as my son is happily helping with my
current build.
 

Hey-O

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Time, money, or just different generational interests. If we wanted to buy a winged car, we bought one when they were cheaper, say 1980's, what will the price be when they get ready to buy. How many of us have gone out and bought one for a 150 thousand. Time waits for no one.
 

Moms68

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Born in 82 so depending on whos chart you look at I end up as a millennial. Dad was a mechanic and I followed his footsteps.

But as for current car culture it's alive but in different more affordable cars the tuner guys have their thing going like them or not I can still respect it. (There are some really nicely built and fast tuners out there)
For the older cars its the prices and availability that kill a lot of interest. Starting out in this hobby at 17 I found a LOT of old guys who hoarded parts and wouldn't sell anything or wanted top dollar. Once you got a car together and went to car shows it was more of an old boys club and if you didn't have the perfectly restored nice paint etc no one cared or was interested.

Once I got out of the whole car show trap and just enjoyed my car I had a lot more fun with like minded people.
Couldn't agree more with this response. Hats off to you sir!!
 

Hemirunner

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The American car culture is alive and well. Look on social media and see what’s going on. Lots of young guns doing very cool stuff!
 

Garceau

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Homogenized modern vehicles have made driving mundane

July 12, 2022

Today’s youth get a bad rap for being boring: they don’t join clubs, volunteer, pursue hobbies, or invent anything. Their sartorial style is a sad mishmash of tired trends, their movies unimaginative remakes (there are nine Spider-Man movies now), and their music is largely stoned hip-hop artists talk-singing to the same hypnotic beat.

There are many forces at work in the dulling of the current generation, but one of the simplest reasons youngins may not feel inclined to go anywhere or do anything is because getting there is such an exercise in meh. When was the last time you sat in the driver’s seat of a new car, gripped the steering wheel and felt one iota of excitement?Where I live, collecting cars, restoring them, and sharing your masterpiece with others is a celebrated tradition. There’s a “cruise-in” going on somewhere about every weekend of the summer, with everything from pristine, period-perfect Model As to chromed-out, shined-up 1970s Mustangs lining up to be admired.At one such event, my friend’s father, Doug, displayed his 1970 Camaro. He’d spent months rebuilding and refurbishing every inch of this vehicle, and it felt like we had time-traveled and Doug had just driven the thing fresh off the lot with zero miles on the odometer.

Doug also displayed a book documenting the process he went through rebuilding the Camaro’s rusty frame, hand-sewing the seat cushions, rebuilding the engine and fine-tuning it back to factory standards. This car is his pride and joy and evokes memories of a similar make and model he had when he was courting his then-girlfriend, now-wife of forty-five years. Doug told me cars were everything to him and his friends. As soon as you saw a type and color of car, you knew who was in it. (These days, I can’t tell most cars apart.) The kids would spend all Friday night partying, driving to the racetrack and to the drive-in movies. The next day was spent cleaning and fixing their cars.

“Then we’d do it all over again, every weekend.”

How long will car culture and the creativity and memories it’s generated — like those of Doug — live on? While cars were fundamental in forming the character of the last several generations, homogenized modern cars — 96 percent of them automatics — have made driving mundane. An entire culture is fading away because of it.

David Amati, director of development of the Pittsburgh Automobile Dealers Association, told WTAE.com that being an auto mechanic is now considered to be “old-school” and the industry is suffering a huge shortage. Kids don’t even care about driving anymore, let alone fixing cars. It used to be that the day you turned sixteen, you went straight to the DMV to get your license and say so long! to rides from mom. No more. Federal Highway Administration data from 2018 showed that the number of sixteen-year-olds with a driver’s license had decreased from 46 percent to 25 percent since 1983.

Perhaps it’s because I live near a lot of Amish people and I see them every day working on old buildings in my little Pennsylvania town, but I am ever more inclined to blame the downfall of our civilization on technology. Sure, computers can make things more efficient, but they also tend to do a lot of the “thinking” and doing for us, stripping people of the ability — and desire — to create, tinker, and do more than be entertained by a screen.

Doug’s son Dougie, a mechanic of thirty years, agrees. He grew up in an era when muscle cars were king, and he now works on machines that rely on electronic control units and software. Dougie distinctly remembers learning to drive: it was on his dad’s ’66 Ford F-100, with three on the tree.

“It was older cars everybody had when I was a kid, and they kept ‘em running,” Dougie recalls. “Everybody knew everything about them, and they were easy to work on.”

The first car Dougie bought was a ’78 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. It cost him $100. With his dad Doug’s help, Dougie rebuilt the car’s engine and transmission and repainted the body.

He remembers having to tear the engine apart once in the school parking lot, “pull the intake off of it, fix a lifter, and put it back together to make it run.”

Talking to Dougie and his parents, who live on a secluded road surrounded by farms and old strip mines, nearly every family memory involves a motor: “melting tires” by drag racing on the flat strip of road in front of the house, blowing out and rebuilding an engine, getting stuck and unstuck.

Dougie and his dad have worked together fixing cars, trucks, ATVs — anything with wheels — their entire lives. Modern cars may be more reliable, Dougie says, but when they do break, they’re harder to fix.

“The newer they get, everything is in a tighter space, and it’s a pain to work on — they don’t give you any room,” says Dougie. “They try to make everything so you have to take it back to a dealer. They don’t want backyard mechanics working on things.”

New cars are also nearly impossible to modify.

“Back in the Sixties and Seventies, there were so many different options for a car, but today you basically have every vehicle with the same thing. There’s nothing to change out. Back then, say you bought a ’69 Camaro off the floor, it had a 327 in it, an automatic, you could take it home, pull it out, put a 454 with a four-speed in it, have it running by the end of the weekend. You can’t do that with today’s cars. With newer ones, like this [new Ford F-350], you have to take the cab off of it to change the turbo or fix anything.”

Cars build character, and car culture in America has been essential to our nation’s identity. Along with the growing price point separating “people carriers” from sportier rides, Dougie again cites technology as a problem.

“Trying to get kids off of their phones and getting them interested in cars to keep [car culture] alive — if you don’t it’s just going to fade away to electric vehicles,” he says.

Something tells me members of Gen Z won’t be waxing nostalgic about the glory days of driving their first Kia Rio to the Apple Store. Nor will they be searching the scrap yards to find the original knob with which they controlled their infotainment system while blasting “Wait for U.” And who’s going to write “Giddy Up, Giddy Up, Giddy Up, Toyota Camry”? Or make a movie about an iconic Hyundai Elantra?

Some interesting points - but I suppose at some point the previous generation felt the same about my generation. Maybe the "greatest generation" scoffed at the boomers for spending all their time and energy on cars, partying all weekend, and going to the drag strip rather than saving money and preparing for retirement (not saying that wasnt happening, just the perception)

I think its pretty common for each generation to look upon the youth from a different perspective and apply our expectations or likeness to them. Which may or may not be valid. There is a lot of talk about new cars being cookie cutters or lack of imagination (that has come up a few times on a few threads here just recently - I think some of the car show discussions) but lets be real. Quite a few of the late 60s cars from all makes look very similar (again evident by people calling out the wrong car as discussed in the same threads). Because we were intuned to them on a different level, we know the difference. Just like I am sure kids these days know the differences in their vehicles. Heck quite a few of the 4 and 6 cylinder modern cars can run circles around our old muscle cars in pretty much factory trim or a simple ECU reprogramming.

I wasnt around but I wonder if the late 40s to early 50s car culture, which was quite different than the mid 60s and up, talked smack about the cars we all love now. Talked smack about that generation - how those muscle cars didnt have the character of their cars etc.

When I was in H.S I didnt take much for shop/auto classes, I just didnt need to and really didnt have a reason or desire too. My brother did. Our auto teacher whom would have grown up in the era of the 60s really didnt have any desire to modify a car, make it faster, and kind of scoffed at my brother and I for having drag cars. His thought process was the vehicle was designed for a reason and commuter was the reason. I never did hear if he changed his mind after my brother on the NHRA High School class at Indy and got 10k of craftsman tools donated to the shop class in 1994.....

But my next statement may catch some heat, or raise some eyebrows - but as a kid of a "car guy" (my mom too) going to car shows and the old man always working on cars every waking moment to flip or fix. I didnt always have a love for the same things as I do now. I am sure during my youth some other things caught my eye and distracted me from time to time. But my statement is -

I also have NO kids at 47 years old.

The kids haven't changed any more than any of us changed from our parents generation. The parents changed. My generation of parents has spoiled kids to the moon and back. New Iphones, a really nice car to drive everywhere, endless sports camps, endless technical gadgets etc. We have created younger kids with a different mindset, for the most - everything has been provided for them (I wonder if this is an issue in some of the industries that are struggling for motivated workers) we have showered these kids with everything they ever wanted all while complaining how broke we are and the economy is horrible.....

Of course there is always an exception to every rule, and I am sure many on this board did raise kids around cars that can turn a wrench, do their brakes/oil/etc. But many on this board learned to do that out of necessity - it was the part of owning a car, you learned to fix it. It was a bigger part of owning a car you bought and paid for making almost nothing doing whatever it took to get that car (not having one automatically and expected to be bought for you)

Maybe I was lucky to grow up with just enough to get by, I had everything i needed but not everything I wanted. I learned if I wanted that 72 dart, I worked for it. I scrounged together everything I could making 3.65 an hour to get that car running very low 11s by the time I was done with high school. I was also very fortunate enough to have an old man that seemed to make something outta nothing.

My younger brother has 4 kids from one just turning 8, to his oldest 22. With the 2 youngest being girls. All 4 of them have been in Jr. Dragsters since they were old enough. They have trophy rooms bigger than most of us combined. All of them kids can wrench on cars beyond what their age is. But they dont all have the same passion for it in the same way. My oldest nephew works in retail, and is considering going to school to be a nurse - he isnt the first one to jump in and get dirty, bust his knuckles, and tig weld up his cage.... but he will bust your butt on the drag strip on both ends of the track. That kid has so many wins from the time he hopped in a Jr. Dragster to the time he got his 70 dart going. He just wins. My next nephew, quiet kid that will spend hours in the garage tinkering on mini bikes, his Jr. Dragsters, their lil red express truck etc.... he just graduated high school and went to work with my brother in their race car shop. He is similar to my brother in that regard. But he too has a list of wins and both the boys are on first name basis with a lot of the big name Pro-mod guys as well as the NHRA top fuel guys (both kids have been on some of the different drag racing shows) heck Antron used to help stage these kids at national events. But Reilly got my old daytona, they fixed it up, got it going with a new gen hemi and his first event in a door car..... first event. Kid goes 6 rounds for the win. The two youngest, both girls came into drag racing a little later. They were always at the track helping out but both waiting a year or two after their eligible age to hop in a car.... the youngest is in her first year, and loves it. The oldest niece is really finding her groove and starting to really get good at the 13 year age and is in Bristol this week for a big junior race.

Thankfully my brother whom is like my dad pretty much makes something out of nothing. He buys older Jr Chassis and updates them and flips them. He keeps pretty busy doing some work on others cars as he is retired military. The kids havent been given everything and most of their winnings go back into the cars, but he gives them a cut from each and all of their earnings. These kids have won a LOT in juniors. A lot of money.

But the point above is all kids react differently even under the same circumstances.

Maybe we are becoming the old cranks we rolled our eyes at as teenagers :)
 

padam

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Some interesting points - but I suppose at some point the previous generation felt the same about my generation. Maybe the "greatest generation" scoffed at the boomers for spending all their time and energy on cars, partying all weekend, and going to the drag strip rather than saving money and preparing for retirement (not saying that wasnt happening, just the perception)

I think its pretty common for each generation to look upon the youth from a different perspective and apply our expectations or likeness to them. Which may or may not be valid. There is a lot of talk about new cars being cookie cutters or lack of imagination (that has come up a few times on a few threads here just recently - I think some of the car show discussions) but lets be real. Quite a few of the late 60s cars from all makes look very similar (again evident by people calling out the wrong car as discussed in the same threads). Because we were intuned to them on a different level, we know the difference. Just like I am sure kids these days know the differences in their vehicles. Heck quite a few of the 4 and 6 cylinder modern cars can run circles around our old muscle cars in pretty much factory trim or a simple ECU reprogramming.

I wasnt around but I wonder if the late 40s to early 50s car culture, which was quite different than the mid 60s and up, talked smack about the cars we all love now. Talked smack about that generation - how those muscle cars didnt have the character of their cars etc.

When I was in H.S I didnt take much for shop/auto classes, I just didnt need to and really didnt have a reason or desire too. My brother did. Our auto teacher whom would have grown up in the era of the 60s really didnt have any desire to modify a car, make it faster, and kind of scoffed at my brother and I for having drag cars. His thought process was the vehicle was designed for a reason and commuter was the reason. I never did hear if he changed his mind after my brother on the NHRA High School class at Indy and got 10k of craftsman tools donated to the shop class in 1994.....

But my next statement may catch some heat, or raise some eyebrows - but as a kid of a "car guy" (my mom too) going to car shows and the old man always working on cars every waking moment to flip or fix. I didnt always have a love for the same things as I do now. I am sure during my youth some other things caught my eye and distracted me from time to time. But my statement is -

I also have NO kids at 47 years old.

The kids haven't changed any more than any of us changed from our parents generation. The parents changed. My generation of parents has spoiled kids to the moon and back. New Iphones, a really nice car to drive everywhere, endless sports camps, endless technical gadgets etc. We have created younger kids with a different mindset, for the most - everything has been provided for them (I wonder if this is an issue in some of the industries that are struggling for motivated workers) we have showered these kids with everything they ever wanted all while complaining how broke we are and the economy is horrible.....

Of course there is always an exception to every rule, and I am sure many on this board did raise kids around cars that can turn a wrench, do their brakes/oil/etc. But many on this board learned to do that out of necessity - it was the part of owning a car, you learned to fix it. It was a bigger part of owning a car you bought and paid for making almost nothing doing whatever it took to get that car (not having one automatically and expected to be bought for you)

Maybe I was lucky to grow up with just enough to get by, I had everything i needed but not everything I wanted. I learned if I wanted that 72 dart, I worked for it. I scrounged together everything I could making 3.65 an hour to get that car running very low 11s by the time I was done with high school. I was also very fortunate enough to have an old man that seemed to make something outta nothing.

My younger brother has 4 kids from one just turning 8, to his oldest 22. With the 2 youngest being girls. All 4 of them have been in Jr. Dragsters since they were old enough. They have trophy rooms bigger than most of us combined. All of them kids can wrench on cars beyond what their age is. But they dont all have the same passion for it in the same way. My oldest nephew works in retail, and is considering going to school to be a nurse - he isnt the first one to jump in and get dirty, bust his knuckles, and tig weld up his cage.... but he will bust your butt on the drag strip on both ends of the track. That kid has so many wins from the time he hopped in a Jr. Dragster to the time he got his 70 dart going. He just wins. My next nephew, quiet kid that will spend hours in the garage tinkering on mini bikes, his Jr. Dragsters, their lil red express truck etc.... he just graduated high school and went to work with my brother in their race car shop. He is similar to my brother in that regard. But he too has a list of wins and both the boys are on first name basis with a lot of the big name Pro-mod guys as well as the NHRA top fuel guys (both kids have been on some of the different drag racing shows) heck Antron used to help stage these kids at national events. But Reilly got my old daytona, they fixed it up, got it going with a new gen hemi and his first event in a door car..... first event. Kid goes 6 rounds for the win. The two youngest, both girls came into drag racing a little later. They were always at the track helping out but both waiting a year or two after their eligible age to hop in a car.... the youngest is in her first year, and loves it. The oldest niece is really finding her groove and starting to really get good at the 13 year age and is in Bristol this week for a big junior race.

Thankfully my brother whom is like my dad pretty much makes something out of nothing. He buys older Jr Chassis and updates them and flips them. He keeps pretty busy doing some work on others cars as he is retired military. The kids havent been given everything and most of their winnings go back into the cars, but he gives them a cut from each and all of their earnings. These kids have won a LOT in juniors. A lot of money.

But the point above is all kids react differently even under the same circumstances.

Maybe we are becoming the old cranks we rolled our eyes at as teenagers :)
I remember being out at a normal Friday or Saturday night street cruise in Akron, probably around 1981.
I was already in love with Mopar muscle cars and I had my 68 Roadrunner out ($250 car.)
There was a Superbird parked with us and I was just in awe, acting like the 18 year old dumbass I was (compared to the 58 year old dumbass I am), talking shit about how it was the fastest thing around.
Well one older gentleman with a street rod tried to explain a little about power to weight ratio, claiming his car would beat it.
I thought he was completely nuts, but it planted a seed and I would later learn about such things.
I wonder what he thought of my generation of car guys.
 

#41

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In 1909 there were certainly two old codgers sitting in their horse-drawn buggies having a similar conversation about "those whipper-snappers and their fascination with the automobile".... who will never be able to appreciate having a relationship with a horse, the feel of the saddle, and brushing down ol' Bess in the cool evening air.
 

sam dupont

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I offered to teach my grandson to drive.
His eagerness to learn, instead of the
enthusiastic response I gave my dad,
seemed lackluster. He's more into his
computer. Which seems very odd to me,
as my son is happily helping with my
current build.
Get him a CD racers use for practicing a road course at Riverside. The one I saw for Watkins Glen was very realistic, and that was 10 years ago. Probably 3-D now. The owner raced his DB2000 there, but hailed from Deadwood, SD.
Tell him: Learn the Riverside course and how to drive it, and we'll go there with a rent a racer.
 
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