Rick Seitz: Choosing Between Old School And New, What’s Cooler?
“So here I am now coming full circle. I’m already starting to sound like my old man, preferring old school muscle over new school technology.”
I’ve mentioned once before that I grew up in a GM household, with classic Chevy muscle cars from the ’69-’70 era (my Dad was very specific) playing a predominant role of what we had in the garage, all of which he still has today. As a result, I adored the cars from that era (still do in fact). But as someone who was born in 1980, I grew up in a completely different time than the old man, so it came natural that I gravitated towards cars like the IROC-Z Camaro, Monte Carlo SS, and others throughout my youth and adolescent years.
Obviously, as time went on and the more extreme stuff came flying out of The General’s doors; the ’90 ZR-1, LT4-powered F-bodies and Vettes, and then ultimately, after the LS-powered monsters of the late ‘90s appeared, all bets were off. Today, it’s somewhat difficult not being a fan of the technology of the 21st century, as we now have 638hp Corvettes, 580hp Camaros, and 6-cylinder engines pumping out well over 300hp from the factory in naturally aspirated form. Those are the lower rated, SAE net numbers, not gross horsepower ratings mind you. Now I can see how things like mass air flow sensors, ECU’s, and fuel injectors may appear big and scary to the graybeards, but at this point, it’s a case of either get with the program or get the hell out of the way.
Times Have Changed
As much as the old timers (my Dad included) wish for the auto manufactures to ditch the electronically controlled engines and go back to the cast iron, carbureted big blocks for motivation, it’s just not going to happen. Sorry. Want a fresh BBC? Then break out the GMPP catalog and order one up, until then, you won’t ever find one underneath the hood of a brand new car again. Hell, if the government officials, tree huggers, and Prius enthusiasts had their way, the simple idea of producing a V8 engine in any form would no longer exist. But I digress.
It’s the same with the cars themselves. Whereas the classics easily have today’s cars beat in the styling and soundtrack department, modern cars literally have them outgunned in every other aspect imaginable. You name it- handling, braking, performance, build quality, safety, comfort, etc., etc., etc.
In the past month or so, I’ve had the opportunity to drive two completely different types of cars, both of which on opposite sides of the spectrum, and the only thing they had in common was that they were factory fresh Chevrolets. The first was the newly reborn Caprice Interceptor that you may read about here, and the other –are you ready? A Volt.
Starting with the Caprice, I have to say that I was impressed. Not so much with its boring and bland Aussie-sourced styling, but with the way it handled and performed around the GM Proving Grounds. Its [underrated] 355hp 6-liter V8 beats the pants off of the LT1-equipped models of the ‘90s, and it’s a shame that civilians have to wait for used versions to hit the police auctions to pick one up, but that’s just the way it is (for now). It was fun, taught, and handled the course with ease, despite its massive size and weight. I left Detroit with a smile on my face that day.
Several weeks later, I got an invite from a local car dealer in my area to stop in and test drive the Volt. Honestly, it was pretty much what I expected; completely silent, well made, and very high-tech. It was sort of like driving around in an iPod. Weirdly, I actually kind of liked it. Not the price, obviously, for the fully-equipped model I drove stickered in at $44k, despite the fact that Mr. Obama and his peeps will give you a tax break of $7500 if you buy one. It was just a cool car in its own way, and I would have to have one in black if I felt so inclined. It was not like any car I have driven before.
After I left the dealership that day and told the very nice salesman that dealt with me I wouldn’t be interested in financing, I climbed back into my now almost 6-year old CTS-V, with its rear wheel drive, 6-speed manual shifted, gasoline powered V8 with a sense that I was behind the wheel of an archaic muscle car. That’s how much of a difference it was comparing those two cars. It was crazy. But come to think of it, I’d pick the antiquated roar and performance of a muscle car over the silence of the Chevy iPod any day.
The Next Ride – The Old Man’s ’70 Chevelle SS396
So here I am now coming full circle. I’m already starting to sound like my old man, preferring old school muscle over new school technology. But before I started feeling nostalgic at the ripe old age of 31, I had to stop over at the old house to get another perspective on things. Conveniently enough my pops had his ’70 Chevelle SS396 (current resto project) sitting out in front of the garage, with the hood popped, while he and one of his buddies were fiddling with the carb and the timing –a remnant of a bygone era in itself.
Once said issues were handled appropriately, Dad tossed me the keys and asked me to take it down the road to see how it ran. Who was I to say no, better still, why would I? My younger brother hopped in the passenger seat next to me (another gearhead who’s in the middle of swapping a cammed LS3 into his ’94 Formula), and we hit it down the road.
The car felt great in terms of power. The rest needed work. It has been forever since I drove something that old, so I’m sure it had to do with a combination of 42 year old technology, and the fact that the classic ‘Velle needed some adjustments in the suspension and brake departments. Whatever, either way I enjoyed it, and I have to hand it to the guys who stay loyal to the cars of that era. Would I choose it over something from the 21st century? Yes and no. But that’s why we have the current crop of pro-touring enthusiasts of today isn’t it?