Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Driving a 50-Year-Old British Sports Car is the Automotive Equivalent of Sailing." -- Dan K.

I like giving stinkpot drivers hell on this blog because I'm on the cooler side of the boating set. The uncool side merely pushes a throttle stick forward, moves fast at high expense and speed from point A to point B, anchors, does nothing except get drunk and lie around, gets bored, then turns a key to go back home in 10 minutes -- loud-as-shit motor. It's easy and any dummy can do it.

But to sail a boat over 20 feet takes training, time, dedication, practice, lots of mistakes, near death experiences, bruises, blood (really), some muscle-work (feels like going to a gym sometimes), danger, old-school techniques, getting wet, cold, and when it's done, and you're close to mastering it, the best part -- pride. This is something most stinkpotters will never understand (ok, I can't fault them for wanting to lie around and get drunk on a boat, but you see my point: I WORK to get to that. They don't.)

And now that I've obtained a 1960 MGA from my friend Dan while he's working at the US embassy in Rome, I'm realizing that what he said was correct: stinkpots are to sailboats what regular ("reliable") cars are to antique cars.

When in high school I owned an 1966 GTO and a 1972 Cutlass so I remember what owning an old car was like, but it's been over a decade. Man, that smell -- that SMELL -- of an old car brings me back to those days.

And it's not the type of car any ole person can just plop into, turn the key, and go. For this 50-year-old vehicle, you need training -- even for the finicky-ass, mother-fucking stick shift -- and it helps tremendously if you've actually gotten your hands blackened while working on it to the point where the black spots only wear off with time -- often over a week. I have. And I feel like I earned my right to drive this sonuvabitchuvacar.

I always keep in mind that driving and maintaining this relic from the late 1950s takes some Fonzie-style intuition -- the kind of skills where you have to knock the thing just so with your fist or elbow, with the right amount of swagger and confidence, so things work and run correctly. Unfortunately, these are not my strong points; I try, giving it my best, but often fail at this intuition with cars and sailboats and houses all the same. Oh well.

Here are some similarities between owning an old sailboat and owning an antique car: 1) the wife likes it less than I do; 2) the wife sometimes gets worried, too hot, and uncomfortable while riding in it (while I'm having a fucking blast); 3) I need to keep an entire tool set, flashlight, and three fire extinguishers in it at all times; 4) When I get in the cockpit (or driver's seat) to take a trip, I am aware that there is a decent chance that I will have to pay someone to tow me back home; 5) I'm constantly thinking about where that dripping liquid is coming from, what color the liquid is, and how much time I'll have to spend replacing that liquid; 6) I have to put on sunscreen before I go out in it; 7) my full attention is needed to drive it; 8) old guys like it.

As an adjunct to that last point, I'll add one thing that's different from a sailboat, at least as far as public reactions go: black dudes, latino dudes, old white guys, and kids -- in that order -- seem to like the MGA more than any other group, whereas with sailboats, the interest is mainly white folks (male and female) from the ages of 34 to 90.

The BEST was when I drove up to Dad's house in Gaithersburg. My Dad's 80-year-old neighbor came ambling out after I parked the MGA in the driveway. His eyes were wide while he looked at this old-ass car I'd brought over --- running his fingers over the vinyl interior and fenders, talking and asking questions about it. He said he had a car like this in 1957. It made me feel great to then ask, "Wanna go for a ride?"

We drove down Needwood Road past the golf course, past Montgomery County's lush trees under a blue sky with some cotton clouds overhead. I drove this old guy 30 miles-per-hour and we didn't care if the car was old and unreliable. I looked over and the old man had a slight smile on his face, sitting silent. I think I made his day driving around in this 1960 car for 10 minutes. His wife said so. That one trip made all the hassle with this car worth it. I've had instances like that sailing a hundred times.
I call bullshit. I can't tell from the picture exactly, but is that a GPS computer screen in the middle of the dashboard?

If not, well, then the "Calling of BS" will have to go through the proper channels before it is rescinded.

Rescindignation required. That's the (tiny) rearview mirror. Take a closer look in this and this picture.
awesome part about the old timer. Agree with every point you make.
This car really looks great! And it seems that it has awesome features, and it has great quality too. Indeed, cars like these are truly for keeps. I'm planning to buy a new car, and I'm glad that there's this thing like automotive online reputation management team who handles all car inquiries and concerns. Automotive service reminder in the internet that will let me know which car best suits my personality.
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