Saturday, February 21, 2015

And so it begins ... again.

Life is funny strange sometimes, especially my life.  You get to a point where you think you have what you want, you get your life set up so it is just ticking along smoothly and at the right pace and then ... bam!  Someone comes and knocks it all down and you have to start stacking your blocks back up all over again.

That's what happened to me in the last year.

I got my life just like I wanted it, even thought I was going to get ahead for a while ... like really ahead and ... nope, time to start over and try again.  Here's the story.

Sometime about a year ago I decided that I really didn't like my '99 Lincoln Towncar, realizing that I really wasn't a four door car kind of guy.  I'm also not a truck guy or a luxury car guy or the kind of guy that likes to drive mediocre, boring cars ... especially any kind of car that everyone else drives.  I hate seeing myself coming and going in traffic ten times each way on my way to work or where ever it is that I'm going to.

My Towncar had 170,000 miles on it and was pretty much reliable to a fault.  It had all power, air conditioning, it rode well (though I hated its tendency to follow ruts in the highway), got high teens / low 20's in fuel economy and it had a satellite XM radio.  It kept me dry in the rain, warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  It rode like a hover panzer and it was comfortable.

It was also ... boring.

Mind numbingly boring.

A Lincoln Towncar is a great A-B car.  It gets you from point A to point B, just like a Plymouth Neon Espresso will ... but with a lot more style and you can keep your dignity when you drive the Lincoln.  Not so with the Plymouth Neon (not that I'd know, I have a set of testicles, big ones, so owning a Neon is kind of beyond me).  The Towncar is a really nice car if you like really nice cars.

I don't like really nice cars.

I like really fast cars.

I wanted something with more excitement, something that I would wake up to in the morning and look forward to getting behind the wheel of because I like driving and driving is a large part of my work week with a 70 plus mile round trip commute each and every day.

I like driving.

No, I love driving.

I've been driving since I was 13 years old (I was big for my age) and I got my driver's license in 1984 at the young age of 15 (back when 15 year olds could get their driver's licenses).  I love cars but not just any cars ... I love sports cars and not just any sports cars but I'm kind of partial to the sports cars of the 1980's.  I've owned a lot of 1980's metal in my life, everything from Mazda RX-7s (I'm partial to the first gen GSL models), Toyota Supra Turbos, Pontiac Firebird Formulas, Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams, Chevy IROC-Z Camaros, turbo Dodge Daytonas and two C4 Corvettes (both red stick cars).  I have to say that looking at the Towncar it was a radical departure from what I was used to and although I tolerated it for a long time (years), the need to drive something more exciting kept gnawing at me in the way that a five pound tumor will gnaw at you if you ignore it for too long.

Flash back to almost a year ago today.  I decided that I was going to find something more exciting than the '99 Lincoln so I began throwing ideas out there to myself.  I already had a 1986 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in my garage that I'd spent the better part of nearly a decade restoring to factory showroom stock condition and I had a 2004 Honda CBR600RR sport bike in the garage as well ... but sometimes weather doesn't favor riding a motorcycle 70 plus miles a day and when you spend a lot of time restoring a classic Pontiac that might be the only one in the state left you tend to not want to put it on the road everyday as well.  That was where the old Lincoln came in and pulled duty but I was tired of the Lincoln and wanted something ... faster, sportier, something with two doors less than the Lincoln ... something with T-tops.

I thought about finding another 1987 to 1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula but couldn't find one.  I looked at a lot of cars, maybe even a classic Monte Carlo SS with T-tops (my wife hates those cars ...) but I went back to remember how much fun that I had with my 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z back when I was in college.  That car had been a blast to own and drive.  Good performance, good fuel economy, classic looks ...  So I spent a few months tracking down a 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby with T-tops and the awesome 2.2 liter Turbo II engine with the heavy duty 5 speed Getrag geared transmission.

I bought the '89 Daytona in June of 2014 and sold the Towncar in July of 2014.

Man, I loved that Daytona.  

It turned heads.  

It was fun to drive.  

It ran like a raped ape and it got me 35 miles per gallon on the highway.  

It was everything that I wanted in a daily driver and more ...

... and then five months to the day that I bought it some 24 year old kid, not paying attention, slammed into the back of me at a red light in Hattiesburg.

The wreck.  

I was sitting still.  

The kid, in a Chevy Colorado pickup truck, hit me from behind.

I never saw it coming.

I don't remember anything of the wreck ... except waking up in the median of the highway, facing the wrong direction, with my '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby crushed up all around me, with EMT and rescue personnel reaching into what was left of my car, cutting the roof off to get me out, loading me onto a backboard and transporting me by ambulance to the local trauma center where I spent four days in the hospital and three weeks at home recovering.

In the blink of an eye ... my '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby was gone through no fault of my own.

Now it's been three and a half months since the accident.  I spent a lot of that time trying to find a replacement for the Daytona.  It wasn't easy.  Daytonas are rare cars and finding one a year ago was luck ... finding a replacement would be impossible and that proved out fairly quickly.  Daytonas, especially in the shape that mine was, aren't found very often, if at all.

I thought about what kind of car I wanted to have as a daily driver ... and the more I thought about it the more I leaned back towards another C4 Corvette.  I started out wanting a 1986 Corvette, Z51, 4+3 speed Doug Nash transmission, red in color with a red, tan or black interior.  I searched high and low for one of those but never could really find one I liked.  I wanted the '86 TA to have a '86 Vette, kind of two cars from the same year of my high school teenage life.

My first C4 was bought in 1992 and it was a 1988 Z51 coupe, 4+3 speed, red with a tan interior.  I loved that Vette but sold it to get something more practical.  My mistake and I've regretted it ever since.  My second C4 was back in 2008 and it was a '91 Z07 with six speed, red on tan again.  I didn't like the gear ratios of the 6 speed ... it had four forward gears, double overdrive (5th and 6th) and 3.45 cogs in the Dana 44 rear pumpkin.  Getting zero to sixty was steep and took three gear rows to do it.  Even though it got 30 miles per gallon on the highway (amazing for a 250 horsepower V8) it just didn't feel "right" and I sold it to put my time, money and effort into restoring my '86 TA.

Now, after a lot of bullshit of dealing with people on the Internet who think that because they have something that I want to buy that they can make me jump through hoops to hand them my hard earned money I finally found the Vette I was looking for ... a white on tan '91 with the FX3 suspension option and ... gasp ... a four speed automatic transmission.

My first automatic Corvette but I felt it was time and in all of the magazine articles and road tests the automatic Vettes were about a half second quicker to sixty and in the quarter mile than the stick cars were so ...

... So I found a '91 Corvette, my first white Corvette (tan interior), my first automatic transmission Corvette and for those of you who know how weird my life gets sometimes this Corvette is a North Carolina car as well.  In fact, it comes from an area 30 miles northwest of where I bought my '86 TA just 9 years ago.  

What are the odds?

So, I've got a 1991 Corvette because I'm eccentric, I love driving, I don't like driving what other people have and I like 1980's sports cars.  That's strange, you may say, since you're driving a 1991 Corvette in and of itself clearly a sports car of the '90's.

Yes ... and no.

1991 was the best year, IMHO, of the fourth generation Chevy Corvette.  The C4 Corvette was a decidedly 1980's icon with its video game dash and its exotic material construction.  A Corvette turns heads like a poll dancing nun and it would hang (or out perform) the best that Europe and Italy had to offer at the time (still does today).  The 1991 Corvette has several features which made me favor it ... sure the 1985 to 1989 Corvette has some classic '80's styling but the 1991 got all of everything of the C4 "just right".

The 1990 redesigned interior which created a distinct driver and passenger "pod" area similar to the very early Corvettes.  It even had a glove box (again) and the Atari dash was gone now in favor of a digital speedometer and analog gauges (I like swinging needles on clocks to tell me what I'm doing).  

In 1991 the C4 got its first (and only) redesign combining a new front cap and rear cap and it looked fantastic so IMHO, the 1991 Vette was what the 1984 Vette should have looked like (and been like) all along ... you just had to wait 7 model years to get it.

1991 was the best of the L98 powered C4 Corvettes ... and the last because in 1992 Chevy started dropping the LT1 powered 2nd Gen small block V8 between the front fenders and ... I've never been a fan of the LT1 because parts don't interchange and for one really big reason after that ... Optispark.


So I've got a 1991 Corvette ... again.  

White with a tan interior.

Something about ... white ... and that tan interior.  I like that combination and the glass roof as well.  My '88 had a glass roof (smoke), my '91 had a body color roof and I found that I missed the glass roof greatly when driving or cruising and I look forward to having a glass roof again over my head.

Targa top!

All C4 Vettes had targa tops which is like T-tops only better since it is one piece and there's no center bar to get in the way.  I'll admit that I have a T-top fetish for my sports cars.  
Call it partial claustrophobia but I can't stand a solid roof car.  I feel ... confined.  I know, cutting out huge sections of the roof decreases structural rigidity especially in cornering and handling but I don't take my sports cars to the track every weekend and I've often thought of the people who drive solid roof '80's cars as either just not lucky enough to own a T-top car or kidding their selves that they are that good at driving that they actually need a solid roof car to get the most out of their skills at driving.  

T-tops are cool.  If you think otherwise, YCGFY.  

In fact, I just like to cruise in these cars and when you cruise there is nothing like taking a large part of the roof off, lowering the windows and just ... driving.  The roar of the engine in front of you, the cry of the wind over the aerodynamic body ... bliss.  If you've never cruised around the city or roared down the highway in a car with T-tops or a targa top you've missed something in your life ... your really have.

Here's a shot of the interior with the "pod" type seating.  I like how the driver is semi-encapsulated in the driver's seat with all the controls relegated to within arm and finger reach.  The steering wheel is super thick ... I like thick steering wheels that you can grip and grab when you're driving hard.  The passenger only has access to their power seat functions and their power window and door lock controls without "crossing over" the divider on the right side of the center console.  A few years later that divider vanished from the design and it was a pity since I really liked how the '90 redesign of the interior kind of put everything there for the driver and relegated the passenger almost to an after-thought ... like an extra piece of luggage.

So, for $7900 I got a 250 horsepower tuned port fuel injected 350 cid small block Chevy V8 that will do zero to 60 in under six seconds, quarter mile in mid 13's and a top speed of 157 mph while getting mid to high 20's on fuel economy.  It has two seats that are fully adjustable with inflatable supports.  High end AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette.  Power steering.  Power windows.  Power door locks.  Power seats.  Air conditioning.  Four speed automatic transmission.  Heavy duty Dana 36 Positraction limited slip rear end with 3.07 high speed rear gears.  Targa top.  Dual electric cooling fans.  Engine oil cooler.  Finned power steering cooler.  Four wheel disc brakes with ABS.  Air bag.  Leather interior.  Thick padded steering wheel.  Perimeter frame impact cage.  Big glove box.  Adjustable FX3 suspension system and hardware.  17 x 9.5" aluminum wheels and accompanying rubber.  Alarm system.  Variable wipers.  Rear window defogger.  Lift back hatch.  Flip up headlights.  Driving lights.  Cruise control.  

All of that for $7900 is a bargain.  You can't find all of that in some econoboxes priced twice that much.  A C4 Vette is a really good deal right now and mine came with a high rating of prior ownership; no wrecks, no damage, no major ownership issues.

So, with paperwork flying back and forth between me and the seller, and with me still recovering from my injuries (long, slow road there) I think a '91 Vette, automatic, with sport adjustable seats (lumbar, etc.) is going to be a good replacement for the Daytona I lost.  I won't say "great" replacement because the only great replacement for my Daytona would be another Daytona but the Corvette is what I'm looking for and it's on the way.

Oh, I'll miss dancing on pedals and rowing through gears but right now I'm doing good to sit for long in any vehicle behind the driver's seat so not having to constantly move my feet and arm to change gears might be a blessing right now.

I can't wait for the call from the transport company.  I would have loved to have flown over to North Carolina, bought the Vette and driven it back 800 miles to Columbia but my doctor wouldn't clear me for that and so I guess this is an adventure of a different sort.  I've never NOT bought a car on the Internet and gone and gotten it myself.  Now I'm waiting on someone to bring it to me from another state.

Kind of like waiting on a mail-order bride.

Give it two or three weeks and I'll be back in the saddle again giving the new '91 Vette a really good shakedown on a daily basis.

I'm not sure how the fuel economy of the four speed automatic is going to be but since I drive mostly highway during my commute and I tap the cruise at 55mph in a 65mph zone I'm hoping for mid to high 20's.  It won't be as miserly sipping gas as the Dodge Daytona was but for a big cubic inch 350 small block Chevy that can run 157 mph on the top end, stock, high 20's for gas mileage might just be as incredible as the rest of owning the Vette is.

Stay tuned.