Editor-In-Chief's Note: I'm sure you have noticed of late that the car dialogue has shifted. Yes, among enthusiast True Believers the conversation is still about the array of incredible performance cars available today, and in that regard we're living in a golden era to be sure. But the rest of the discussion centers around autonomous vehicles - see the latest announcements from Ford - and the slow but steady decline of "The Car Thing." I believe we're at a tipping point here, and the future is going to be less than thrilling for a lot of us when it comes to the automobile. Manufacturers - take the intro of the new BMW 7 Series, for instance - routinely talk more about the gee-whiz electronics involved than the actual driving characteristics of the machines in question. And it's only just beginning. I thought it would be a good time to re-run Dr. Bud's column of a couple of months ago - "The 'Car Thing' at a Crossroads" - for a bit of sobering perspective. -PMD
Most of our readers out there in WebVille can relate. Whether it's hot-rodders, low riders or canyon carvers in California; big horsepower, heavy metal beasts prowling the Carolinas fortified by stock car dreams; sports cars cutting loose in Kettle Moraine country up in Elkhart Lake; or the latest and greatest factory hot-rods from the Motor City; no matter what part of the country or what frame of reference you come from, if you've been part of the car thing, you've brought your own touchstones and milestones with you up until this point, car stories to tell and memories etched in your forevers. It's part of what makes this car thing indelible in our hearts and minds.
As for Peter, he's only scratched the surface of his experiences over the fifteen and a half years of creating this site, believe me he has more of where those stories came from. Much more. One of my all-time favorite stories from Peter's early "car thing" years and one he has only mentioned sporadically was his infamous late afternoon run from East Lansing to Ann Arbor back in '76, in a '75 Porsche 911S.
A drive that normally would take 50 minutes, if not more, Peter cranked his 911 up "with the sun blazing low behind me for the most advantageous conditions, giving me that I-can-see-them-before-they-can-see-me old-school fighter pilot, dog-fighting visibility..." Meaning, he could see way down the road out in front of him, getting the jump on the cops before they could see him. Remember this was back in the day when the state or local municipalities didn't dole out radar guns like popcorn, so you actually had a chance on the open road.
At any rate, as Peter related, he was on the boil from the get-go, rarely going under a 100 mph in the low traffic conditions and spending most of the time in the 125-140 mph range and in some stretches, "with my foot buried flat on the throttle. It was just one of those once in a lifetime runs," as he likes to say, and he still grins about it to this day. At one key point, he had to get off of the eastbound I-96 freeway, exiting to the southbound Michigan 23. Since he was making quite a few runs to Ann Arbor back in those days to visit "a friend." He continued, "If I set the car just right, I could go through that ramp at 115 mph, but that was on the razor edge. It was a downhill, right-hand sweeper and you better be right, because the exit on to 23 was hairy."
As he committed to the sweeper, pointing the 911 to the apex, "I see a hitchhiker standing right at the apex with his thumb out," as he tells it. "I couldn't believe it. And I only had a split-second to determine whether the guy was too close to the edge of the pavement, or I was going to have to do a course correction to miss him, knowing that if I did have to alter my line or get off the throttle, it would have resulted in ass-first disaster."
So, he kept his foot in it. "I see this young thin guy frozen in place with his eyes as big as saucers. I can still see his face to this day, warped in pure terror. I probably went by him with my right-hand mirror missing his outstretched thumb with a foot to spare. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw the guy was spun around from the whoosh of me blasting by. I can't imagine what he was thinking."
He made it from his apartment in East Lansing to his destination in downtown Ann Arbor in 32 minutes, door-to-door.
As I said, everyone has their car stories. The "car thing" is a powerful force running through the veins of life for most of us.
But as I said last week, I am worried. This "car thing" has become tainted. It's not just the danger of the older generation riding off into the sunset leaving a vacuum of disinterest in their wake, or that too many - but not all - of the younger generation coming up couldn't be bothered with any of it, it's what's going on in the "car thing" right now.
And what I mean by that specifically is what's going on at these car auctions. We here at AE have blasted these greed-fests repeatedly as gross exercises in excess punctuated by a complete cessation of common sense.
What has put Peter and me over the edge of late are the absolutely ridiculous prices being bandied about for older Porsche 911s. $125,000 and up for a clean 911 with documentation? And much, much more for a documented RS? Absolutely absurd. I can't imagine the people buying these cars give a rat's ass about what these cars mean, or the uniqueness associated with the way they drive, or why they're desirable in the first place.
And it's not just old 911s either, the whole auto auction scene is certifiable, with people spending money with little rhyme or reason. Stupid money. Make that beyond stupid money. And it has nothing to do with the "car thing" either. Cars put away in hermetically sealed environments for their next appearance on the auction block is a complete travesty and the height of absurdity.
This isn't what it's supposed to be all about, folks. The "car thing" isn't about how much a car might be worth, or how much you're sure to make on it. It's about how it makes you feel when you're behind the wheel. It's about how it makes you feel when you walk up to it, or walk away from it. Or even when you wash it by hand.
It's about what it does for your soul, the shared experiences, the fleeting moments in time when the moment is everything you wanted it to be and it becomes etched in your memory forever.
And, of course, it's about the journey itself.
I know this is just a pathetic cry in the wilderness, and that the greed and money will overrun the car thing until further notice, but it would be nice to see enthusiasts start to push back a little.
Okay, make that a lot. It's bad enough that the car culture is being assaulted from all sides by various splinter groups and politicians trying to eradicate the "car thing" once and for all.
But it's even worse that the "car thing" is being undone from within.
Adios until the next time.
A Bud's Life
Part social commentary, part car-culture love letter, part romantic page-turner, and part lusty, dramatic, and at times uproariously comical guy-lit, A Bud’s Life is a wildly entertaining, surprisingly thought-provoking and at times emotionally gut-wrenching read about a decade in the life of a truly singular character, Dr. Bud E. Bryan.
"Me? I have been accused of being immature, narcissistic, stupid, a rake, a womanizer, a bad guy, childish. You name it, I've been called it. But you know what? I'm adopting the Popeye Defense because I am what I am. And Jolene fell in love with me for who I am. People have given me reams of shit over my "immaturity" and lecture me that I should just be happy being home and to shut up, but fuck 'em all. They don't know me; they only think they know me. Some of this stuff just falls on my head and I can't control it. But I get called out for it just the same. Other stuff, well, what can I say? I love tequila and fast cars and racing. I love music. I love football. And I love women. Especially fiery women. Always have. Always will too. I love the way they look, the way they move, the way they talk, the way they smell. I love their minds, I love their tantrums, I love the fact that they're different from men and I want it to stay that way. And I love getting lost in them, too, every damn inch of them. It makes the whole damn world go around. I have past entanglements, I admit. And Nadine is a recurring issue. But Jolene knew all of that before she hooked up with me. Hell, she nursed me back to health after Nadine shot me. But I still go home to her and I'm still with her, goddamnit. But am I going to stop loving everything about women or noticing hot women? Not likely. Just as I'm never going to tire of watching Jolene walking around our house only with a towel wrapped around her knowing we're about to get it on. It is what it is, and I'm not about to change. And my contention is that Jolene doesn't really want me to change either, because then I would be a guy she doesn't know and won't want to be with. Oh, and one more thing. I think the whole idea of counseling is crap. This whole country has gone to hell in a handbasket because of the psycho-babble bullshit that's infected every facet of society. No accountability? No one's fault? I say bullshit to that. As for me, I take full responsibility for who I am. And I'm not apologizing for nothin'." - Dr. Bud E. Bryan
Well, it has finally happened! We are pleased to announce the publication of A Bud's Life: One Man's Journey Through Life Unbridled. Dr. Bud's Kindle eBook is available now on Amazon. -WG