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Paul Huizenga: The War Between Preservation and Enjoyment

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Ever heard of “Cacklefest“? For those not steeped in drag racing history, these events are a gathering of cars from the golden age of hot rodding, where spectators can get a taste of what the sport was like in its early days. Smell and sound, too – the cars are fired up, and the snarling pop of nitromethane-fueled dragsters is what gives the event its name. One thing people won’t experience, though, is any actual drag racing (at least not as the Cacklefests are currently being put on). In fact, a disconnected drivetrain is a requirement, right in the guidelines:

Drivelines must be completely disengaged during any static starts when drive wheels are touching the ground – either by disconnecting coupler, or use of “In and out” device.

Pictured: Not a racecar. At least not any more...

Pictured: Not a racecar. At least not any more…

I will grant that these kinds of events give people motivation to buy, maintain, and show off cars that would otherwise be in museums or exist only in photos. But to me, there’s a deep sadness in seeing these brutal monsters neutered and caged, like the difference between seeing lions on safari versus caged up in a circus, or stuffed full of sawdust in the natural history museum.

Loved to Death

Corvette enthusiasts face a similar dilemma in our particular area of interest. There are a lot of cars out there that only put clicks on the odometer while being pushed on and off the auction house stage, because to actually drive them would diminish their value to the next potential buyer. Corvettes with proud racing pedigrees that will never again clip an apex because they’re irreplaceable and can’t be risked at the track, and rare combinations of options and engines that doomed certain cars from birth to bell-jar imprisonment instead of sunshine and the open road.

Some irreplaceable Corvettes with extensive racing pedigrees do get some exercise every so often...

Some irreplaceable Corvettes with extensive racing pedigrees do get some exercise every so often…

 

A lot of people in this hobby get very angry when a split-window gets carved up and turned into a solid-axle drag car.

Granted, there is a healthy vintage racing scene that lets owners enjoy their cars the way they were built to be enjoyed, and plenty of street Corvette owners who aren’t afraid to take their classics on road trips. And far be it from me to say what other people can or can’t do with their own property. If someone derives maximum enjoyment from their hard-earned dollars by using them to acquire and sequester a Corvette, then that’s what they should be doing, and I don’t think anyone has the right to say otherwise. On the other hand, while a lot of people in this hobby get very angry when a split-window gets carved up and turned into a solid-axle drag car, I don’t mind that either. It’s not like stomping on Fabergé eggs for kicks, or grinding up moon rocks for aquarium gravel. 

In It For The Wrong Reasons

I feel nothing but contempt for speculators, though – late-model collector car history is full of examples where people bought “limited edition” cars (where the word “limited” actually meant “limited to the number the factory can sell”) as investments, only to watch them relentlessly depreciate right alongside the same models that were driven and enjoyed. That kind of joyless, transactional attitude toward cars is something I can live without. Not only that, but the additional price pressure on cars that actually do have some market value drives them out of the reach of enthusiasts who would otherwise buy them.

Both neglect and overprotectiveness are harmful to the hobby.

When I see some classic car with less than 100 miles on the clock, it makes me a little bit melancholy – it’s the “new in box” Star Wars action figure from 1977 that no kid ever got to play with and love.

So I guess you could say I am torn. When I see some classic car with less than 100 miles on the clock, it makes me a little bit melancholy – it’s the “new in box” Star Wars action figure from 1977 that no kid ever got to play with and love. By the same token, I want people 100 or even 1,000 years from now to have Corvettes around to see and appreciate in person. It seems like the best approach may be a mix of preservation and use, like the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome takes with their collection of historic aircraft. It’s one thing to see a 1909 Bleriot in a museum, but another entirely to watch it in flight. Yes, those aircraft might be lost in accidents, and they won’t all be in flyable condition forever. But while they are, we can appreciate them in their “natural habitat,” and I think that Corvettes should be enjoyed in the same way.



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