Modern technology has grown faster than a pre-teen hitting his grown spurt, and a lot of people of an older generation may find themselves being left in the dust. It seems that if you are younger than 30 you are qualified to work the genius bar at an Apple store, but if you are over 60 then you are still getting used to cordless phones. That isn’t my belief but it is a common joke in pop culture that the baby boomers are struggling with modern smart phones, computers, and the latest gadgets in modern cars. I’ll be honest, for a young guy I have difficulties with modern technology myself. I’m constantly uttering the phrase, “It can do that?” when somebody mentions another useful feature my laptop or iPhone. This, however, can quickly turn into a two-way street when it comes to cars.
Modern cars can be complicated when it comes to figuring out the desktop computer they decided to fit inside the dashboard. Having Bluetooth, GPS, satellite radio, MP3 connectivity, push button ignition, and now even wireless internet have turned modern cars into rolling laptops. It’s no wonder some people have a hard time figuring out how it all works during their daily commute. But if you switch the tables and introduce an 18 year old to a car from a time when a baby boomer was young, let’s say 1965, then you have a similar problem. Old cars are not complicated, but they are a handful to operate.
The most difficult car I ever drove, so far, was my father’s 1964 Chevrolet C-10 step-side pickup truck. It had a modified 327 small block v8, manual steering, 3-speed column shifter, and four wheeled drum brakes. It was the first time I had to change gears with the shifter being up next to the steering wheel. Having to pull it down for first gear and then up, but slightly away from you, to get into second gear and then down again for third. Doing this while pressing down on a clutch pedal that felt like it was spring loaded to shoot back up the second you changed gear. For those who have never driven a car without power steering, picture a scene from any movie that takes place inside a submarine or on a boat. Seeing those huge wheels in the center of a door that they use to lock or unlock a sealed door, in every single one of those movies there will be a scene of a person struggling to turn the wheel because it’s too heavy. The flood water is coming and you see the panic in their eyes as their arm muscles bulge from using every pound of torque they have to turn the wheel as the water gets closer and closer but the wheel won’t move! …yeah, that’s how it feels to turn in a manual steering power car from a dead stop. Want to get ripped arms but don’t have time to lift weights? Just drive a manual steering car for a few weeks and you’ll be sporting Rambo arms in no time.
Never driven a car with drum brakes? Imagine the car is telling you, “are you sure?……….oh alright”, every time you press down on the pedal. The pause between pressing the pedal and actually feeling the car trying to stop is so long that you will want to press down harder, but if you do that the tires will lock up and one of two things will happen: 1) you’ll slide into the object you’re trying to avoid in a cloud of tire smoke. Or, 2) you’ll slide sideways into a different object you weren’t trying to avoid. The only way to drive with drum brakes is to start braking about three blocks away from any location you’ll have to stop at. “But what if I need to perform an emergency stop?” you might be thinking. Well if you need to brake suddenly, you better hope your arms are developed enough to wrestle the car away from any danger because there is no emergency stop! You’ll only be giving yourself a few more seconds to fully grasp the fact that you are about to hit something. The only way to improve the braking is to quickly downshift into second as you bury the brake pedal into the floorboards. Downshifting to use the engine as well as the brakes to stop a car has become a lost art of driving, thanks to ABS and stability control.
Seriously, if I had the Bill Gates’ checkbook I would rent out the parking lot of a football stadium, buy a few classic family sedans from the 50s and 60s and just watch a younger generation try to manhandle these steel beasts around while trying not to pass out from laughing. Just picturing a 1955 Ford Fairlane packed full of teens coming in at speed and then trying to make a turn but locking the brakes and blowing right pass you in a straight line with its front wheels turned completely to the left in a cloud of screeching rubber. Or pulling a muscle trying to turn the wheel while completely a three point turn. I would invite baby boomers to come watch and get some sweet payback at teaching their grandkids how to drive these cars. Granddad could get a chance to use the same sarcastic tone Junior used when he was teaching him about Skype.
Regardless of age, we all struggle with one form of technology or another. Whether it’s knowing how to set up the Bluetooth connectivity on your 2015 Chevy or knowing how to use a three-on-a-tree transmission on a 1955 Chevy, we all started as beginners at one point. I recommend all my young readers to go out and learn how to drive classic cars, because daily commutes turn into motoring adventures every time you set off. Mastering an antique car makes you feel like you can drive anything on wheels, much like when a grandparent gets that sensation of amazement when he is watching his granddaughter talk to him on a phone screen. Different eras bring different thrills, but they all create the same smiles.