Local View Column: One last ride before the snow flies
“Stunning!” That's what the very attractive matron in the jet-black BMW convertible said when she pulled up next to me at a stoplight. I was flattered initially but then was deflated when she added, "What year is that?" Alas, I knew it was all about my 1967 turquoise-blue Mustang convertible.
We are at that time of year again when classic cars are hidden away in garages until spring. At the height of summer, classic-car enthusiasts come together at town festivals throughout the state. Every little town parade features classic cars. Then there are informal gatherings. Duluth has a "Wednesday Night Car Club" that meets at different places around town; Clyde Iron Works is a favorite venue, but parking has become an issue with 300 cars sometimes showing up.
In Grand Rapids, the Northern Cruisers Car Club advertises "DQ old car night every Thursday." And for the $20 registration fee you get a goodie bag, a dash plaque (OK, I have many) and trophies in all classes (goodness, there are 25!). More formal venues are the Duluth Annual Classic Car Revue in July and the Minnesota State Fair, where several thousand classic cars could be displayed.
What's the attraction? I guess people who always wanted a car like these classics can now afford them, when, as teenagers, they could not. Another is the naive belief that the classic car harkens back to a simpler, idyllic time. But when you look back at the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was hardly idyllic. War was raging in Vietnam, anti-draft protests and riots were being held throughout the country, and President Richard Nixon was being impeached.
Most of all, I think, we all have a need to be different and noticed. Comedian Jay Leno has 150 classic cars and created a TV show so his collection could be noticed.
Besides, most new cars look pretty much the same. Distinctive, two-toned cars are a thing of the distant past. Thirty years from now I just don't see two good-ol’ boys fawning over their 2019 Telsas, asking, “What you got under the hood?” or answering, “Got me a three-phase, four-pole AC induction with copper rotor.”
Classic-car shows are bonding events, places where college-educated yuppies meet tough Iron Rangers and talk the afternoon away about where to buy an alternator for a 1967 Mustang and how to find and fix old-car rattles.
When I start driving my classic Mustang, a day doesn't go by when someone is not flashing their lights, flashing thumbs-up, honking, or just yelling at me. I could be a mass murderer or a terrorist, but when I drive up to a gas station, people always say, “What year is that? I once had one, and it was a nice car."
In a political year, I get calls from politicians running for office who want to use my car for a parade. Similarly, new restaurant owners ask me, “Will you park your car out in front for a week so people will better notice us?”
During the spring, summer, and autumn, I drive my convertible on back roads, as it's too noisy out on the freeways. On cool evenings I'll turn the heater on. When it gets too cold, I back it into the garage, just as all the geese and other birdies are flying south.
But I always get one final lick in and drive up the North Shore to Grand Marais just as all the leaves are turning. Don't forget to wave when you see me.
John Freivalds of Wayzata, Minn., is the author of six books and is the honorary consul of Latvia in Minnesota. His website is jfapress.com.