Reader Question: Fitting the Profile?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Bob asks: I fit the profile, as described in your recent article about “classic” cars and “classic” owners.

I moved to Brazil in 2009 at age 74. Every once in a while there’s a “old car show” in town and, yep, the owners are “classic old-timers.” I always look for my first car, and have found a couple.

I bought my first car just before I got my license in 1952. It was a 1931 Model A Roadster. I bought it off a used-car lot in Atlantic City for $45. Needed new running boards, new rag top, some new tires, engine work, and a paint job. My dad’s mechanic friend made the new running boards and did the engine work. I got a high-school buddy to make a new wooden front piece for the rag top. American tire companies had quit making tires for 19-inch wheels, but I found some in a Pep Boys store, imported from Brazil. I painted the car myself, with a paint brush (did a good job, too). Every once in a while the mechanical brakes needed to be adjusted. I’d take it onto a gravel road, jam on the brakes and inspect the skid marks to see which wheels needed adjustment. Then I’d crawl under the car with a wrench and tune ’em up. Also, the distributer timing would slip out of sync sometimes beyond the range of the lever on the steering column. So, I’d pull over on the side of the road, raise the hood, put the timing pin in the indent on the timing gear, set the rotor to the right place, and go on my way. Was it work to own that car? Yep. Was it fun? Absolutely. Unforgettable.

My big mistake was selling it, to get a 1939 Merc coupe. Had a temporary desire to make a hot rod, but never did. I’ve rued that decision ever since. No other car, since that Model A, was so much fun to drive.

My reply: I’m not quite as “classic” myself – yet – but I grok because my experience was essentially the same. As it was for every generation of Americans up to the Millennial generation, which is the first American generation to have grown up amid computers and cars that are computer-controlled. Those which are not are too “classic” for them – in the same manner that horses and buggies were for your generation.

Some will cite this fact as progress – but there is a critical difference. The cars which replaced horses-and-buggies increased mobility (as it is styled to day) and autonomy – as opposed to the cars of today (and tomorrow) which decrease it and may eliminate it by automating it.

I am sometimes accused of being a Luddite – just as I am sometimes accused of being opposed to electric cars. But these criticisms are of a piece with accusing someone who raises his hand to question race-based hiring practices of being a “racist.”

My worry about technology is that it is becoming the means by which we are being controlled – which is being accomplished by making us almost childishly dependent on tech.

I think human beings need to achieve mastery and independence to be fully human. When tech is used to keep people in a state of perpetual childhood – beholden to (and subservient to) remote tech that they do not and cannot control, it stunts the normal development of children into men and women.

That’s what we’re losing – and that’s what alarms me.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Hell with the cars! Bob, how do you like Brazil? As a future expat myself, Brazil has nopt been on my radar, as it always seemed high-crime and big-government….but I’d imagine it could be far different once ya get away from the cities. Care to enlighten us?

  2. All this classic talk is wanting me to get something with a carburetor. I still want disc and hydraulic brakes though.

    • The best Chevy Nova I had was a 1975 Nova-Custom 4dr with 2bbl 262 V-8 and front disc brakes. That ran way better than the crappy, head-cracking 305 that followed. Unleaded seemed sucky back then, but it sure beat the hell out of this horse-piss-ethanol we have to use now! Rear-fill gas pipe so there was no “which side of the pump do I need” bullshit. The 70 Nova 4 dr I had before was the most fun, though. 250 in-line 6 with 3 speed floor shift, manual steering & brakes. The front drum brakes could be sketchy if I didn’t keep them properly adjusted, but I don’t use brakes all that much anyway, and even less with a Saginaw 3-speed.


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