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I left my hubcap in San Francisco . . .

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Steve's Pony Car

For those who think a gee-whiz car is one running on a massive array of nine-volt batteries, move on. There’s nothing for you here. Personally, I got over electric cars when Mom threw away my slot-car set. If they ever develop an electric passenger plane, I’ll look up to see that.

But for those of us who got our driver’s licenses in the mid-1960s, this is for you. It’s also for those who weren’t lucky enough to live in the days of the American muscle car and 19-cent-a-gallon gas! You missed it, Grasshopper!!!

Bad Charger

The 1968 movie Bullitt starred Steve McQueen as a rogue cop. At least, that’s what the marquee on the Naples theater said. But the real stars of the show were a dark-green ’68 Mustang GT 390 and a shiny-black Dodge Charger R/T 440. The chase is shown here in three parts. Please view them full-screen with the volume way up. I want you to hear every double-clutching sound and see it all.

I’ve seen websites that show the San Francisco locations of this chase, and some of them are miles apart from what the movie shows. But it’s a movie, okay?!?!? And did this thing MOVE! Parts of this movie were a drag; I didn’t like seeing the Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s Robert Vaughan as a bad guy, for one thing. But the chase made up for it. Enjoy, my little motor-heads!

We start with the prelude, and the chase begins in the second YouTube clip. Sorry about the ads before the scenes, so stop your whining.

Several years after this movie, not being a Ford fan, I bought a brand-new Charger with a 440. As I’ve mentioned here before, it was a dog; a real bow-wow. So it goes. I wasn’t in San Francisco anyway.

1974-dodge-charger-special-edition

BONUS!  In 2006, Ford created a wonderful Mustang commercial, riffing off Field of Dreams, starring Steve McQueen, who had died in 1980. McQueen’s wearing what he wore in the Bullet chase and it’s just a brilliant ad.

The Best-Looking Car I Never Had

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Jaguar XKEOne of the unintended consequences of the gasoline shortages of the early 1970s was that cars with big engines could be had cheap. For those who weren’t around in those days, gas in most localities could only be purchased on the odd/even system based on your auto tag numbers, and that’s if it was available at all.

Dash looked like an airplane cockpit!

In Naples, a few of us found a way to avoid the lines and didn’t suffer too badly. But across the U.S., folks might spend an entire day in line to get five dollars worth of gas, only to be refused at the end of their tedious wait.

In 1974, I had moved to Tampa and had just met my future wife, Patty. A block or so north of where I worked was a used-car lot that sold high-end cars. Having saved up a few thousand dollars and ready to buy a car, I stopped there and fell in love with a 1967 burgundy Jaguar XKE convertible with the enormous gas-guzzling V-12 engine. Hey; this gas crisis can’t last forever, can it?!?!?!

V12 Jaguar E Type

What a plant!!!

What a plant!!!

I took Patty by the lot to show it to her, and she immediately balked, saying she wouldn’t be seen in such an ugly car. I was astonished; the Jag was gorgeous but so was Patty and I made the obvious choice.

Still needing a car, I bought one of the worst ones I ever owned; a brand-new Dodge Charger Special Edition. What a lousy car that was; a real POS. It also had a huge engine (a hemi, for you motor-heads), but it ate fan belts three at a time, constantly overheated and to top it all off, wasn’t very quick. I drove that bomb for two years, buying fan belts every month (you had to replace all three if one failed) and thinking of that Jag engine that had metal chains instead of rubber belts.

Here’s exactly what my Charger looked like:

Yuch!

Yuch!

A couple of weeks after buying the Charger, Patty, her younger brother Billy and I were going somewhere and an XKE Jag went by us. Patty remarked, “What a beautiful car!”

WHAT?!?!?!? I slammed on the brakes so hard the Charger did a 180 on Busch Boulevard, and asked, “What did you say?!?!” She meekly replied, “I said ‘What a pretty car.’ ”

I was frosted. “Just two weeks ago you stopped me from buying one of those because you said it was so ugly!!!”

Patty burst into tears and said, “You are such a terrible driver; if you drove a car like that Jaguar you’d kill yourself in a week.”

As we sat in that horrible Dodge Charger facing the wrong way on Busch Boulevard,  traffic beeping and honking as it passed us, I had to admit that Patty was correct.

I still wish I had bought that Jag, though!

Jaguar XKE Comin' At Ya