should drive a 60’s race-car
Wasting a rare 60 degree cloudless December day in St. Louis certainly rises to the level of a misdemeanor. To do so, as a Backdraft owner, is pure felony. Anticipation fills my heart as I wash away the clouds of weekly drudgery and commuting. The approach of noon and the assurance of knowing that all my neighbours are out in their yard, power-tools ablaze, fills me with the courage to awaken the stuporous elapid in her heated pen.
Despite a slight struggle with “winter”-gas (a pox on the house of the inventor of this bane), she thunders into life, with throbbing anger as her electric choke settles her carb in. Many people, myself included, think that “sports-cars” with their special exhausts sound loud. I am pleased to report that there is simply NO point of reference when it comes to the sound of a fully roused 427 ci classic race engine. It is not just loud, but also rich and deep. It permeates the environ, filling the listener with warmth of a bath in warm chocolate sauce on a frozen morning. The sound equivalent of a Chocolate Fudge Sundae. On a Saturday.
Like all good things, driving a Cobra replica, is filled with an elaborate ceremony. 4-point seatbelts. A tiny metal key. Turning the battery contact. And then, the starter button. Followed by the eruption of sounds and smells that embellish the whole experience. Being older and weaker, the wimp in me opted for the power steering and the modern T5 gearbox. While this takes something away from the rawness of the original, it does make backing out of a curved driveway a lot easier.
Starting cold, the car seems a little lumpy at low speeds. Even the initial takeoff on the ramp to the expressway seems to betray greater deliberation. Overall, when fully warmed up the ideal cruise is at around 2200 rpm, when the engine feels most relaxed. 1900 rpm seems to be the harmonic frequency of the engine and results in a fair amount of vibration, particularly in top-gear. For most driving in urban areas, 4th gear is a comfortable top. Going to 5th at below 65 mph is clearly uncomfortable, both for car and driver. Interestingly, the space between 2200 and 3100 rpm is the sweet spot for a drive. Above 3000 rpm the engine gets a bit shouty, but heading towards higher rpm results in a more coherent sound as she seems to settle into her preferred race-car state.
Heading out on a country road, this car is in its element. Sharing Ken Miles’ intials (but alas, none of his skill), I pilot this brooding serpent through a beautifully surfaced and banked country road as the fallow winter landscapes flash by. Yes, the race suspension from a 2010’s BMW M3 is firm but surprisingly unpunishing. For a change, I care little for the racket I make as there is no-one around save the hibernating wildlife.
Heading back to the expressway, the car does not skip a beat in switching back to highway cruiser. Sailing with silent (relatively) menace, every Mustang, Corvette and muscle car d’jour slows to match in awe of her beauty and character. A bevy of waves, “thumbs up”, and honks accompany her as she imperiously strides on her homeward trek.
And what of the driver?
Unlike Bond’s martini, stirred AND shaken.
And who needs a dessert, a drink or a drug, when the high that ensues from driving this is so magical that the whole point of each week is looking forward to this weekend dalliance.