Feeling Fast

Being a young Gearhead with a fleet of vintage cars (I did not mean for that to sound like I was showing-off) means that I sometimes get lectured by gearheads of an older generation on the dangers of driving fast or car control. All I can do is sit there and nod in agreement, because I am still at an age where if I respond with, “yes, I know already”, I will sound like a cocky young punk who will eventually learn the hard way. But, I’ve collected my fair share of city miles as gearhead when it comes to driving. I’ve totaled a car, crashed a car, been wrecked into, experienced a car that is out of control, break downs, left stranded on a dark highway, pushed a car home, dealt with police on multiple occasions, and even partaken in a casual streetlight drag race. So I’ve been around the block, and left the tire marks to prove it.

About a week ago, my uncle Mike got to test drive my 1969 Camaro. Unlike myself, he is from a generation when my Camaro was just another everyday daily driver, so I had no problem tossing him the keys to my time machine. The test drive was like a flashback to the 1970’s for him, back to his youth, and he drove my poor Camaro as such. Afterwards, he mentioned to me that I should probably sell my Camaro and invest in a muscle car I really wanted. Reading in between the lines made me realize what he was actually telling me. What he was really telling me was that this hot Camaro was too much car for me and that I should get rid of it before they use it as my coffin. I know he wasn’t saying I didn’t know how to drive, or insulting my ability, he is just looking out for my own safety. That being said, I was still a little annoyed, because I am not a teenager anymore. If I was 16 years old and had this Camaro I would completely understand, but I’m a month away from being a college graduate! That experience got my thinking of physical and emotional feeling of going fast. People that have only one class of vehicle, only trucks or only new cars, all their lives won’t understand when I say that 100 mph can feel a lot faster or a lot slower depending on what you are driving.

For example, when I am driving my mom’s brand new 2015 luxury sedan or my slightly used 2013 econobox down an interstate and I decide to push the needle past 100mph, I feel totally relaxed. Why? Because thanks to modern technology most new cars feel like their only doing 70mph when they are in fact traveling well over 100. Not to mention all the latest death-proof safety devices such as traction control and stability control that are designed to keep us between the ditches. So at 120mph, my little econobox has reached its limited top speed and I could drive it with one hand knowing that if the car were to suddenly get loose there is a good chance I’ll get up in a field, but with all four wheels still on the ground. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is not a safe speed, and I do not condone speeding on public roads, but I’m saying that modern cars can feel safe even at high speeds. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a different story.

If I switch keys and get behind the wheel of my truck, which is limited to 101mph, the speed feels utterly different. Now I have no choice but to keep both hands on the wheel and become aware of any extra play in the steering wheel as the truck hops along the interstate, swaying over every imperfection on the tarmac. Eventually you get used to the sensation that the truck is floating, but not before you tighten your seatbelt and hope the suspension doesn’t travel so far up that the rushing air lifts the rear tires up. Because if they do lift, and lose traction, then you’re going to need a faster set of hangs, and a new pair of shorts, to counter steer your way to safety.

Finally, we get inside the Camaro, and to be completely honest I do not know what the top speed of that car is because I have never pushed it beyond 90mph. Reasons being because well… it scares the living crap out of me. As the Camaro angrily fights the law of physics to reach 90mph, the cold sweat on my palms weld my hands to the steering wheel as I basically hang on for dear life. At that point I am not driving, I am just aiming the car in the direction I wish to go and praying it wants to go that way too. All while knowing that if this car decides to misbehave, as old cars often do, that I will be crashing through the gates of heaven, upside down, in a 360 spin before I even have a chance to downshift. Feeling the vibrations at the wheel as the car brawls it way through the air, all the 1960’s technology shaking and rattling inside the interior makes the car feel like it’s about to break the sound barrier. Exciting, yes, but the sense of the grim reaper riding shotgun is right behind it.

I know most of you who will read this will know exactly what I am talking about and think that I am just a broken record, but not everyone has the luxury, or desire, to max out every car they come across. Regardless of what your views on speed are, whether you think it kills, is a drug, a cure for a bad day, or you just do because you enjoy it, speed feels different. Three different cars speeding at the same rate of time and distance will have totally different sensations and emotions. It’s one of the many occasions where a car can have a direct impact on your emotional state.

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