Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: When We Were Young & Crazy…

I was going to head this column, “Getting There is Half the Fun,” but the above seemed more appropriate after I thought about it. Back in the ’60s, I owned a 1965 Corvair. Loved it.

(By the way, Ralph Nader can take a long walk on a short pier. Funny he never mentioned that the problem with the rear suspension was corrected in the 1963 model.)

I really didn’t want one, though, until they changed the styling for the ’65 edition. My first one was destroyed in an intersection collision in Louisville when a drunk driving a big Pontiac ran a red light and hit me square in the driver’s door, knocking me head on into a utility pole. I emerged without a scratch, asking how the other guy was because I wanted to kill him. That was my first new car and it didn’t have 1,500 miles on it before it was wrecked.

But the insurance company provided me with another one, and that became my favorite car of all those I have owned. I drove it back and forth to Florida a few times, and it was on one of those trips that some very innovative mechanics made extensive modifications to it.

Suffice it to say after that, I had all kinds of fun driving around the Derby City actually hoping to run up alongside a 327 Corvette at a traffic light. Rap the pedal a couple of times (some sharp mufflers were part of those modifications) and the driver in the other lane looked like he couldn’t believe his luck. When the light changed, he’d be making smoke with his rear tires while I was putting my slightly less horsepower on the ground. They always tried at least once more before pulling off.

The best memory of that car, however, comes from a trip to Nashville for an ARCA race in 1966. My brother and I left Louisville early on Sunday morning and headed south. Most of the trip was run at just over the speed limit, until somewhere just north of the Tennessee line, a friend of ours with a brand new Cadillac went by so fast I thought we had stopped.

At that point, my saner side prevailed. However, when he was about a quarter-mile ahead of us, another friend in a 1964 Ford that I knew contained a 427 went by at about the same speed, waving for us to “C’mon, join the fun.”

So off we went. It was three cars running in the space of about half a mile and my speedometer was hovering around 110.

No more had we joined up than we topped a slight rise, and there sat a Tennessee State trooper in the right shoulder. The other two cars had already blasted by him, and I decided it was too late to slow down and went right on by, hoping for the best.

But careful observation in the rearview mirror revealed that he wasn’t coming after us. I decided that he had to be either reading or sleeping; why else would he not give chase?

After the race that day, we were returning to the car, parked in the infield at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, when one of the state troopers who was apparently assigned to the race walked up to us.

“Is this your car?” he asked.

When I told him it was, he said, “Were you by any chance coming down I-65 north of here this morning?”

“Uh, yeah. Why?”

“OK, I’m not gonna give you a ticket, but I want you to tell me the truth. How fast were you going?”

“Well, the speedometer showed about 110.”

“Thanks for being honest,” he said, and then explained.

“First, this Cadillac goes by and the radar shows 110, and I got ready to chase. Before I could put the cruiser in gear, a Ford goes by at the same speed. I picked up the microphone to radio ahead and before I could say anything, here comes a Corvair and the radar jumps up to 110 again. I decided there was something wrong with the radar.”

He then said he would now be informing all his compatriots that the blue Corvair with the Kentucky plates was indeed capable of that speed.

Let’s just say the trip back to Louisville was done at the legal limit.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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