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Cars & Coffee– A Melting Pot of Subcultures

Under My Nose

I have been seeing articles and photos of Cars & Coffee events for years, and only recently discovered that one was being held six miles from where I live.

I got up that morning, still feeling the vibrations from the tequila shots I enjoyed just a few hours earlier, and made my way to the event. In my mind, I saw Cars and Coffee events as a way for older car enthusiasts to gather with their weekend toys without having to worry about young kids in slammed Subaru’s doing donuts in the parking lot.

Clean Slate for a First Impression

When I arrived, I parked my Mazda in the very back, because I was not there to partake but to merely observe. Plus, I did not have a time to wash the Mazda and I felt guilty about it.

My father taught me long ago that it is always better to listen before speaking. To gather information before making a decision or forming an opinion. I threw away my thoughts of old men and their Porsches holding Starbucks cups and walked to the car show area with a blank slate.

I noticed that all walks of life were at this event. Families, young gear heads, old gear heads, and people who were just enjoying their weekend looking at machines. One thing that I never liked with car shows is that they love putting Hondas with Hondas, Mopars with Mopars, etc. Seeing the same car over and over again with slight differences in color or wheels is boring. A car show is an event where everyone shares a common interest, cars, so why segregate them as if they were gang colors? This cars and coffee event had some Camaros set up in a line, but other than that it was parking lot of variety. It was nice being able to admire a different machine as I made my way through the lot.

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Listen & Observe

Although I may have a cynical opinion on people sometimes, I am always fascinated by them. I walked along taking photos of cars with my ears open, hoping to catch sound bits of people’s conversations. I heard the stereotypical conversations being hosted around cars. Two guys trying to one up each other on who knew more about a blue second gen Camaro. A bored girlfriend waiting with a bored expression on her face while her, I’m assuming, boyfriend talked to the owner of a Nissan GTR. Young teens with learner’s permits in their wallets geeking out over a Green Hellcat Challenger with paper plates. Young people with expensive cameras and drones, taking photos for their own automotive blogs.

I was still feeling dazed from the events of the night before, so I stayed quiet and unnoticed.

The Drag Pack

I was admiring a beater looking El Camino with the words NITRO EXPRESS written across it when I noticed a crowd gathering over a tow truck. A local speed shop was unloading two examples of their craftsmanship. A set of 1970 Dodge Challengers, each modified way beyond factory spec. The Drag pack were parked next to each other as people flocked to them to get a better look at these quarter mile stallions. The owners were bombarded with the same questions over and over again.

“What engine is it?” – It’s a Hemi.

“How fast does it go?” – It’s a 7 second car.

The owners gave off the impression that they were annoyed with the simple questions, but I know that any show off loves the attention they receive. Especially if it’s something they built. They were there to promote their business. A free marketing opportunity.

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Staring down the blower of one of the Challengers gave me the same expression Mad Max had the first time he laid eyes on his Falcon interceptor. That childish look of want as the imagination cycles through scenarios of burnt tires and high rev gear changes.

In-between Lanes

The automotive world is a melting pot where different subcultures come together over one basic common interest. You have tuners, muscle, import, low rider, 4×4, etc. I never fell into one specific subculture for some reason. I prefer classic muscle if I had to pick a favorite, but I am not going to dismiss a beautiful Alfa Romeo just because it doesn’t have a V8. I like the Cars and Coffee events because they are simple. No trophies to win, no best in show award, no forced advertising, and no hooning to spoil everyone’s fun. It is just a place to show off your car and talk with people who share your interest in the hobby. I plan on brining my own toys to this event in the future.

 

Curse of a Speeder

To my friends and family, it is no secret that I like to drive fast occasionally. Some people say I have a problem, others say it is just a side effect of being young, but I see it as a way to forget about the annoyances of everyday life. Every day we are constantly bombarded by the media about horrific events happening around the world, flooded in a tsunami of ignorance on social media by people who are masters at spraying hate and fertilizer out of their mouths, and that’s just checking your phone in the morning. Life is hard, but it is simple, its people that make it complicated. In order to keep one’s sanity, one has to find a way to get away from it all – even if it is just for a few minutes each day.

I confess that I am a speeder, although I do not drive like a madman. Like most people with my, “problem”, I do enjoy painting asphalt with rubber, going sideways, and reaching top end speeds when the conditions are right. The problem with this relaxation technique is that police officers do not find it very amusing and love showing their disapproval in the form of traffic tickets. I could fill a glove box, and I have, with the number of citations, warnings, and court receipts I’ve collected over the years. I am here to talk about the struggle of being a driver with an exuberant driving style.

At this point, some of you might be thinking that I am just an obnoxious punk whose only problem is being too stubborn to slow down and letting his ego fool him into thinking he’s the next Richard Petty. Before you unleash your judgement upon me, please let me point out that I know I am not a professional driver and I know that I can be as stubborn and rebellious as a teenaged mule. However, I do need to point out that because I have a passion for driving and car control, I do feel that I am at least more qualified than the average driver. I’m certainly safer than someone who’s bad habits behind the wheel consist of applying makeup, checking their Twitter feed, or sending Snap Chat videos of them looking into a camera while their favorite song plays on the radio. Those are only a handful of bad habits that I witness on a daily bases when I’m traveling on the Interstates.

When I say I have a passion for driving I mean I love it! To me, driving is a skill that is fun and challenging. Most people can safely drive a car from A to B and not give it a second thought for the rest of the day, but I like knowing what a car can and can’t do as far as braking, steering, and acceleration. It is important to know how a car will behave during an emergency, so yeah sometimes I like to give a car’s ABS system a workout and drive it like I stole it. But, there is nothing more relaxing, in my opinion, than being behind the wheel of a car on a beautiful, low traffic, day with your favorite playlist humming through the stereo. You don’t need to drive fast in order to enjoy driving; sometimes a nice quiet drive is all you need to get your stress out.

The Curse of a Speeder is that once you’ve earned a reputation as a speeder some people will label you as being reckless or a, “Bad Driver”. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never wrecked, practice car control – to most people speed equals danger. The irony of it is that people who text and drive do not, for the most part, get the same stigma. Sure there are campaigns warning us of the dangerous of texting while driving, but we all think, “That won’t happen to me, because I’m careful”. Maybe you have a system of only answering a buzzing phone when you are at a stoplight, or maybe your eyes can part into two different directions like a chameleon. Whatever the system is, the response for someone who texts and drives is usually, “Oh? Haha, I do that to sometimes”. The usual response for someone who speeds is, “Oh. Be careful…”

This year alone I have received two speeding tickets, three months apart, in two different cities. What annoys me is that when the police officers spotted me on their radar, I wasn’t trying to speed I was simply driving. The first time I was caught speeding I was driving home and I knew I was getting on the interstate so muscle memory took over and I sped up before the on-ramp. The second time, I was traveling between cities. I was passing a convoy of five semi-trucks and I sped up because I hate when they bounce peddles and road dirt off my hood and windshield – that landed me speeding ticket number two. If I was doing triple digit speeds or doing donuts in a parking lot than yeah I would have gladly accepted my law breaking punishment, but speeding up a mile before an on-ramp or passing semi-trucks is not what I would consider, “reckless driving”.

Since I am still under 25 years old, taking online defensive driving courses in order to reduce, and dismiss, a traffic citation is an option I always take. The problem is that the course is six hours long, and hilariously outdated. The safely videos shown were filmed in 1994, so you hear instructors recommending you to purchase a vehicle with Anti-Lock Brakes and telling you how to use them. Safety features in cars, and traffic laws in general, have changed a lot in the last two decades, so the course is a joke. It is detention for drivers.

A better system would be a written Driver’s Ed exam that you need to pass in order for it to count as taking a defensive driving course. It wouldn’t take you more than half an hour and at least then a person is forced to review traffic laws before getting a ticket reduced or dismissed.

Auto makers build cars that practically beg us to break the law. The new Ford Focus RS has a Drift Mode button which allows you to slide the compact car around a corner easier. Dodge created the Hellcat Challenger and Charger, normal family sedans that can reach 200 mph. That is like a general store selling high proof whiskey in a dry county. Why make such powerful cars if the average driver has no place to fully enjoy their bang for the buck? Not everyone with a fast car has time to go to a drag strip, which are constantly being closed, or a race track, which don’t always offer track-days here in the U.S. The easier option is street racing and that is about as dangerous as it can get.

So what is a speeder to do? We are entering an era where cars are getting faster and traffic laws are getting stricter. It’s not like in the old days when you could in fact out run the police if your car was hot enough, the days before dash cams and speed cameras. It is a curse to have a need for speed these days, one that can affect your wallet as well as your health.

I think I can speak for most people who can relate to my story that we won’t change, driving is a passion and speed is a byproduct. There are always a few rotten apples that spoil it for all of us by not being able to control their cars or not knowing their own limitations, but we are not a danger to the public nor should not be seen as such. We just like to fully enjoy our cars as the engineers who designed them intended us to. If they built a car that can produce 707 horsepower, why shouldn’t we be allowed to experience every last galloping pony? So whether you are a speeder or see driving as a chore remember to keep your eyes on the road, and both hands on the wheel. Drive safe everyone.

Legacy. (Happy Father’s Day)

Being a dad means following a lot of traditions in life, but those traditions can differ depending on the father those dad’s had. Good or bad, a father will pass on something to their children and I personally pray and hope that every child learns at least one positive thing from their fathers. My dad has taught me more things that you can put on a Swiss Army knife, and there is so much I still need to learn, but the most important thing he has passed on to me is a legacy. My father’s father was also an automotive enthusiast who traded and sold cars on the side to support his wife and seven children. Of all the things my father gained from spending time with my grandfather, the two most important were a set of tools and a passion for cars. A skill and a hobby that he later on used in his own life to support his own young family when I was just a baby. A skill and a hobby that he passed on to me in the form of Hot Wheels and letting me hold the flash light when he worked on the family sedan. I am a third generation Gearhead, and the passion for this hobby seems to increase with each generation.

I often wonder what kind of man I would be if it wasn’t for my father, and the assumptions always lean towards worse. My father is the one who, 23 years ago, tossed a pebble down the snowy mountain which snowballed into who I am today. Those Hot Wheels turned into pedal cars, and they turned into bicycles, then go-karts, and ending with cars and trucks. Along the way he taught me how to keep my cars and trucks on the road, and how to handle a situation if they happened to misbehave and leave me on the side of the road. I never worry if my car breaks down, mostly because I am used to it by now, but mainly because I know that I can take care of myself in these situations. I also take great comfort in knowing that if the trouble is too great for me, my father is just a phone call away where I can ask for his help and wisdom. For that I am blessed.

I like to think that everything in life happens for a reason, it helps to calm me down during stressful times in my life when I feel lost. I know that sometimes we like to stop and look back at our lives and wonder, “what if”, those critical moments in our lives never happened or changed. If my father never introduced me to the automotive hobby, I probably would have never found my second hobby in life which is writing. I say that because anything that I write for fun has an automotive tone or element behind it, and the same goes for anything creative I do in life.

This father’s day I am thankful for the life my father has passed on to me. Biologically I am a man already, but I know I still have decades of knowledge ahead of me before I can even hope to measure up to the legacy of my father and his father. Men who relied on their hands and mind in order to keep food on the table and the house in working order. My father always says that the main goal for any parent is to live to see the day when their children’s success in life outweighs their own, because that means they have done their job right. My little brother and I are currently working on that.

I wish a happy father’s day to dads, step-dads, grandfathers, and moms who play both roles, for thriving to teach and inspire their children to be better than them in life. A loving parent that raises a child, that grows up to become a loving parent is the ultimate legacy.

Leadfoot Traveler: Mexico

Whenever the family is deciding where to travel for a family vacation, the first things that come to my mind are, “What are the roads like? Is it car friendly?” Part of being a Gearhead is having a love for driving, regardless of the car you’re driving as long as the view through the windshield is interesting. I am originally from Mexico, but due to the drug cartel violence of the past decade my family and I have not been able to visit our relatives since 2007. However, last month we were able to drive into Mexico and spend some time with family friends and I got a chance to drive in Mexico for the first time. This is a travel story as seen through the eyes of a Gearhead.

We were all a little nervous when we entered the border city of Reynosa, Mexico. My parents’ hometown, and the city where I was born, had changed immensely since we left for Texas during the early 90’s. I remember visiting Reynosa, and other cities in Mexico during family vacations as a kid and seeing the streets filled with VW Beetles as soon as we crossed the border. For reasons I’ll never understand, border towns on either side of the line are always a bit… rougher than cities that are more inland. Reynosa was no different as some of the roads looked like the surface of the moon, and my Mazda 3 bunny hopped over each and every one of them. If any of you have never visited the beautiful country of Mexico, and plan on doing so, there is one very important rule to learn when driving on Mexican streets and that is… there are no rules. When I say there are no rules I mean that driving around Mexico is a lot like a being in a road race.

Lanes only exist when traffic develops, and that is only for freeways or highways, any other time you can have four car wide traffic squeezed into a two lane road with cars just inches away from each other. Bus drivers think they own the road, much like our 18-wheeler friends on American interstates, only these guys are masters of knowing the dimensions of their vehicles as they cut through a sea of near miss traffic. I have never seen a city bus dive across three lanes of traffic just to cut off a line of cars behind it in order to drop off passengers at a bus stop. Cars don’t even honk, they just serve to avoid it with rally car driver reflexes.

image3 <-A two-lane road.

My second night in Reynosa I was handed the keys to a brand new work truck from my Uncle’s business. A little Nissan pickup truck with a flatbed designed to haul 2,000 pounds. Cute little truck with a manual transmission, four cylinder engine, and just 200 kilometers on the clock. It was nighttime when it was my turn to drive and it started to rain minutes after I was tossed the keys. At night, the lines on the road do not reflect so you have no idea where the lanes on the road are and have to just pick a groove and stick with it. Also, the reflection from the water makes the roads look like mirrors so you are unable to see any potholes until it is too late. The truck had brakes and suspension set up to haul and carry heavy loads so when it’s not loaded the truck feels like a 1944 Willys Jeep. Breathing on the brake pedal causes it to lock up and any bump or pothole sent me flying up into the roof as it bounced along. I’ve always wanted to drive one so I was able to cross it off my bucket list.

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We were going to take a road trip to Monterey on our third day, and my uncle handed me the keys to his 2014 Range Rover so I could follow him in the two car convoy. I’m used to driving vintage cars and dirty farm trucks and now I was behind the wheel of a supercharged, six figured price tag, luxury SUV! I loved driving it, to the point that I saw stopping at a restaurant to eat or going to a mall to shop as a distraction. All I wanted to do was get behind the wheel and keep driving the streets of Monterey with its fast, anything goes, driving style. To survive on the road you need a car that is either very nimble or has quick acceleration to get you out of tight situations and avoid a collision.

image4  <- A joy to drive.

The police gave me cultural shock as well. It is a little disorienting waiting at a stoplight and having a military truck next to you with a Mexican solider riding on the roof holding an M60 machine gun. In Reynosa, the military is the police and they fulfill all the duties as a police officer only with much more firepower and presence. Once you get further inland you start to see Federal police officers cruising around in souped up Ford Taurus and Dodge Chargers. One thing that stood out for me was that they do not have unmarked interceptors, instead each police car rides around with their red and blues flashing. When I asked why, they told me it was to let people know they are around in case they need help. They do not try to hide in the public eye, instead they try to stand out as much as possible so the public can find them in an emergency.

The classic Volkswagen Beetle and Kombi have not be in production since 2003, and used to be the kings of the road in Mexico. With more economic, faster, and comfortable European cars on the market I was worried that they would have been replaced and sent away to the scrap yards to rot. As a kid, I would count the number of Beetles and Kombis I would see as I looked out the window during car rides. Back then, you would see four or five VW’s before seeing any other type of car. Beetles ruled the roads up and the people loved them. I am pleased to say that although there aren’t as many around as there use to be, you can still listen to the “Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak” sound of an air-cooled engine providing a bass to the city’s soundtrack. I spotted a few classics being used as daily drivers, and seeing them on the road brought nostalgic memories of my early days when I was just getting hooked on cars as a little kid. According to my parents, when I was around five years old I wanted to take a ride in one of these funny tear drop shaped cars. My parents pulled over and stopped a VW Beetle taxi cab and asked the driver to drive us around just so I could experience what it was like to ride in a Beetle. VW’s will always have a very special place in my heart.

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My uncle is a very fast driver, and he knows the dimensions of his truck very well so he can maneuver his Dodge Ram as if it was a mini cooper through traffic. Staying on his tale was no easy task as I have to change my driving habits in order to keep up. I broke nearly every traffic law you can think when just trying to keep up with his Hemi powered Truck. I ran through red lights, stops signs, sped through boulevards, changed lanes in an unsafe manner without signaling, driving on the wrong side of the road, and speeding. I gave the Range Rover a thorough test of its ABS, traction control, and engine performance in the process. I concluded that the truck feels extremely confrontable at 110mph, but it lacks stopping power when it comes to throwing the anchor out in an emergency stop, it’s too heavy. Ironically, my first day back in the United States I was pulled over for speeding and given a ticket.

image2 <- A dark highway all to ourselves.

My trip to Mexico was amazing because it was unplanned and those are usually the best kind of vacations. I never expected to drive through the cities my parents grew up in a Range Rover, let alone be allowed to drive it like most of us day dream about. Having a blast on the roads, playing near-miss with motorcycles and city buses while keeping my foot hard on the gas to keep up with a Red Dodge Ram in front of me. I love Mexico, and I love traveling by car, to me it’s the only way to properly enjoy a country you have never been in.

Mad About Furious 7

The Fast and the Furious films has become one of the highest grossing film franchises ever, rubbing shoulders with the film greats like the Star Wars trilogy. I have a lot of issues with these movies, for a variety of different reasons, but since the release of the most recent film, Furious 7, I can no longer bite my tongue. The Fast and the Furious movies suck! This coming from a true gearhead. They took a cookie cutter plot, added some Easter egg colored Imports and made a successful street racing movie that jumpstarted a new trend of idiotic car modifications. Hollywood, no different than any other big business, is greedy so naturally they made a sequel. Six films later, and the F&F movies have jumped the shark and driven so far into fantasy land that I am surprised they don’t just call it what it is, a video game you watch instead of play. Because where else would you see cars jumping out of airplanes, fight with tanks, run 24-speed transmissions, and have drivers walk away without a scratch after jumping out of a speeding car.

As a writer, I find the plot of these movies to be a joke, and as a Gearhead, I get angry when I find out how many valuable and desirable cars they have destroyed in order to film a, “car chase”, that doesn’t come close to the standards of Bullitt or the Original Gone in 60 Seconds film. I am surprised more Gearheads do not feel the same as I do since most of us would cringe in horror if we saw a 1968-70 Dodge Charger get blown up in front of us, yet we pay $15 to see a dozen Chargers be destroyed on a big screen. Open your eyes! These films are NOT directed at Gearheads. The F&F target audience are the same group of people who enjoy Michael Bay films, people that like explosions, shiny things, and boobies. All flash and no substance is their motto.

I’ll prove my point by going through the plot. For those who have seen the movies, you know that the story in part three, F&F Tokyo Drift, ends with Vin Diesel’s character, Dom, in Japan about to race the main character of the movie. That movie was released in 2006, right? Now, the following 3 films in the series are supposedly the events that lead up to Dom being in Japan, and the death of supporting character, Hun. The problem with that is that they apparently do not care or failed to notice that if something takes place in 2006, and they want to tell the story of what happened before that, then you cannot use cars, phones, and technology that came AFTER 2006. I have yet to read an article that had noticed this, and I feel like the F&F movies are proving that most people do not care as long as the cars are shiny and Vin Diesel is punching something.

I could let this slide if the action scenes were good, by good I mean realistic. Although they are before my time, I grew up watching classic films that were made with Gearheads in mind. Films like The Love Bug (1968), Vanishing Point (1971), Two Lane Blacktop (1970), Dirty Marry and Crazy Larry (1974), and even the Dukes of Hazzard series (1979-85). Films before CGI, were if the director wanted a car to jump through a building, they hired a steel nerved stuntman to drive a reinforced Chevy Nova and crashed it though a real building. There was no shaky-cam effects, no rapid jump-cuts between the actor and the chase. Back then, they wanted a viewer to see the chase from a far to fully enjoy the stunt driver’s handy work as they powerslided around a corner or rammed a car off the road. The F&F movies don’t really have car chases, if you think about it, sure they have one or two chase scenes but it is usually filled with the actors “driving” from the safety of a green screen, while the rest of it is a rapid cut of shifting gears, car close ups, and crashes. There is no clear direction as to where the cars are going or what the hell they are doing. It’s all just noise and angry expressions. Yes the F&F movies do have some amazing stunts, and my highest respect to the stunt men and women who preform them, but I don’t think these movies will be remembered 50 years from now for their car chase scenes. Maybe their gear-shifting scenes, since manuals will be a thing of the past by then.

My biggest issue with the franchise is how they used the tragic death of Paul Walker to sell more tickets, and music. Paul Walker was a good actor, genuine Gearhead with a passion for racing, who worked with charity. When I heard that the ending of Furious 7 was a real tear jerker, I looked for it online. SPOLIER ALERT!! Paul Walker’s character, played by his brother with CGI used to make him look like Paul, drives up in a Toyota Supra next to Dom’s Dodge Charger. It is a reference to the first F&F movie ending, where they raced in similar cars. The movie cuts to a montage of Paul Walker’s character through the film series as Vin Diesel narrates saying they will always be brothers. Then cuts back to the two cars driving up and then parting ways as the road splits. I don’t know, but to me that seemed a little half assed. One of the many things people love about the movies is that Dom and Brain love racing each other to see who is the best out of the two, wouldn’t a more touching ending be that Brain finally wins against Dom before going off to be with his family? It would also be reflection of Paul Walker and his own true passion for driving. Then have video clips of Paul Walker and the type of person he was during the ending credits as a farewell montage. Not two weeks after the release of Furious 7, rumors of an 8th film already in the works start to fill the internet. I find that to be in bad taste, because if one of the main stars that made the franchise what it is passes away tragically then that should be the end of the franchise? Makes a person wonder, if it were Vin Diesel would the franchise have ended? It proves that it is no longer about the film’s plot or storyline, just about the money and milking the cow for as long as they can, much like the Transformers franchise.

The Fast and the Furious franchise should not be welcomed by Gearheads, because it is just a money hungry film that would destroy a rare Ferrari GTO without a second thought if it meant people would pay to see it. The cars spend more time flying through the air than on the road, so it is no longer a movie that a Gearhead can enjoy for the realism of driving action, and the story line seems to have been written by a group of seventh graders. People tell me that these films are, “Just for fun, and not to be taken so seriously”, which I understand, but if I wanted to see a movie like that then I would just watch Die Hard, because at least the main character gets hurt in those movies.

Sold on Mecum

I have fond memories of watching Mecum Auto Auctions on television with my father on weekend afternoons; trying to guess the hammering price on what seemed like an endless line of dream cars coming through the auction block. I grew up hearing the adventures my father had when he used to flip cars during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Buying and selling used Cutlasses, Citations, Diplomats, and K cars at car auctions in order to keep food on the table and me in clean diapers. So when I read that Mecum was coming to Texas, I knew that I had to make a father and son trip over to Houston to attend. We didn’t go to buy a Hemi or Yenko tribute car, we just wanted to witness what we had seen on television for so many years. We were not disappointed.

Entering the area, we were greeted by a 1970 Chevelle SS 454 driving past us on its way to the auction block. All 450 horses prancing without a trip or a miss as it hummed slowly across the floor to get in line with the rest of the high dollar machines awaiting to see if they will be going to a new home. It wasn’t until I was walking on the red carpet, standing within touching distance of a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird, with 4-speed, that the magnitude of where I was started to hit me. I’ve been to plenty of car shows before, but this was the first one where every single car I was taking photos of had a for sale sign. It was almost overwhelming, makes you wish you had a clone so one can take photos while the other one simply admires and drools over the cars.

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Drinking a beer with my father as we listened and watched all our favorite cars was truly a Gearhead Hallmark moment, a good concept for an auto-themed greeting card. Listening to all these high dollar collector trailer queens start up, after probably months of being asleep in an air conditioned warehouse, and yawning in the form of puffing white smoke as they stretch their wheels. While others are pushed by volunteers or towed by golf carts to the center stage. A 1970 Hemi Daytona struggling to wake up as it almost stalls twice before getting on the auction block, carbs just need an adjustment. Or a 1969 convertible Chevy Camaro that nearly turns into a fog machine as it revs and shoots out a cloud of blue smoke before going back to sleep knowing it now has a new owner. One aspect I do not like about the collector car industry is that some people only see these cars as investments only. Keeping a car in storage, no matter how dry, well light, or clean it may be, can still hurt these machines if they are not moved or started up regularly. What’s the point of throwing down half a million on a Hemi if you don’t take it out on Sunday afternoons and show off a little?

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There were a few cars I really wanted to bid on at Mecum, like a Buick Grand National movie car that was driven by Vin Diesel in the Fast n Furious franchise. Not because I am a fan of the actor or movies, I just really like Grand Nationals. Since I was broke I sat with my father in the stands to watch the auction take place. You could feel the energy and excitement among the crowd. We all felt excited, and perhaps a tad bit jealous, of the bidders going wild every time the reserve went off on a car. Chanting, “RESERVE… IS… OFF!” like we were on a game show, because we are excited for the owner who is hopefully making a profit on his/her car while at the same time happy for the lucky buyer who will be taking it home. When you start seeing six or seven figures on the board for a car with no reserve, you can’t help but get a small rush from the people in a bidding war. “Sold, sold, sold, sold!” as the hammer drops, creating a new payday, a new owner, and probably a future pissed off wife or girlfriend.

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After hours of fun, and a few more beers, we were looking at the last cars on the floor that we hadn’t seen when I noticed someone that looked all too familiar. It was Mr. Rutledge Wood, some of you know him from NASCAR but I first heard of this man from his time on Top Gear US. I got to shake his hand and snap a quick photo with him, making him the first automotive celebrity I get the opportunity to meet. Mr. Wood has what I consider to be the dream, getting paid to work in the media and talk about cars for a living. I am pleased to say that Mr. Wood is a total gentlemen in taking a moment to talk to us and pose for pictures. Hopefully my career will cross paths with him again in the future.

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Overall, my father and I had a great time at Mecum Auto Auctions in Houston, Texas. We plan on coming here again, only this time we’ll make sure our pockets are stuffed full of cash so we can join in on the fun as registered bidders.

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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.