How Giving Up My Muscle Car Made Life Better

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A couple of summers ago, I wrote, about my latest project (a 1966 Plymouth Fury III) four our sister site, HotRodHotline.com.

The Fury was my first attempt at “low-and-slow” and was acquired largely as a knee-jerk reaction to my girlfriend having been in a very bad car accident early that spring.

Everything “fast” was sold so that she’d feel more comfortable with my car hobby/addiction and since pretty much everything I owned up until that point had some type of snorting, angry V8 underhood, I wanted to find something I thought she’d be more comfortable riding around in on the weekends. Turns out a giant tin can with only lap belts, drum brakes, no climate-control system, and questionable handling doesn’t really qualify as the kind of car that tickles the fancy of a woman that’s recently needed to be extricated from her car by a bunch of guys in rescue gear wielding the “Jaws-of-Life”.

After getting the Fury out of winter hibernation, I took a hard look at the fact that in two summers with the big Plymouth, my girlfriend had ridden in the car four times and driven it once.  That single pass behind the wheel pretty much killed any possibility of her ever getting in the car again. So with this summer logging in as the third in a row without a truly quick car (her Honda Accord should not be the fastest horse in the stable), a little bit of distance between the accident and today, and my 40th birthday approaching at the end of the year, I decided I should do what any red-blooded, soon-to-be-officially-middle-aged American male in my position would do: Buy a muscle or sports car and get back to the stuff I like!

The question of what to buy was difficult, however.  I’ve already owned several GM F and G-bodies, a Corvette, two Mustangs, a street/strip Nova, and an oddball assortment of other toys over the years.  Given my girlfriend’s very fair discomfort with old safety technology I started hitting the local dealerships and looking at cars like the new 5.0 Mustang, Challenger R/T, Camaro SS, and the Nissan 370Z.  About a week-and-a-half ago I pulled the trigger, sold the Fury, and bought a used…Miata.

Wait, WHAT?

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I still can’t believe I typed that correctly…but it IS correct. I bought a Miata from a very enthusiastic gentleman and his wife, both just on the other side of middle-age, who were finding it difficult to get in and out of the car so they had recently upgraded to a more comfortable BMW 330 convertible.

Why, WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS FAST did I buy a tiny, underpowered roller skate?  It’s quite simple, really:

1) I just wrote a check for a large sum to a roofing company to replace the winter-ravaged roof on the house and paying cash for a used car made a little more sense than taking a large loan on brand-new modern muscle.

2) For the first time in a long time, I took her on some test drives to make sure she would actually want to spend time in the car and I learned something significant; if I really want her to spend time in the car with me, she needs to like the car too. Who knew?

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With that in mind we opted for her to drive the Miata first, and with encouragement from the gentleman that owned it to “really get on it” during the test drive, we were on our way. Thirty seconds into the test drive I was sitting in the passenger seat and looking at the first real smile on her face behind the wheel of anything in a long time. As she rowed through the gears on an old farm road I knew I was buying the car before I even got behind the wheel.  While it really can’t even be called quick in a straight line, never mind fast,  the Miata officially qualifies as a slow car that’s fun to drive fast, sort of like my old 1971 VW Beetle.  It’s simple, VERY GOOD at the one thing it’s designed to do-corner-and has the bonus of being far more economical to drive back and forth 40 minutes each way to work than my Z71 Silverado.

We’ve had the car for a month now and have already been out back-road bombing together more times than in two whole summers with the Fury. I guess what they say really is true: “happy (almost) wife, happy life,” and I might even have enough cash left over from the sale of the Fury to buy that ’63 Nova project I’ve had my eye on since last fall…

  • Red Neck Express

    As I read this, I realize that having a 30s-60s car on the fringe of an ever expanding major metropolitan area without little things like climate control and basic safety equipment is borderline insane. I discovered the safety issue about 20 years ago with my old Pickup Truck (hardly a muscle car, but with a V-8 and a decent set of gears it was as quick as most 1980s muscle cars) wouldn’t stop safely (in a reasonable distance, repeatedly, and in a straight line). As it was “something different” at a time before the internet, a disc brake conversion wasn’t going to happen. It slowly oxidized away, until it reached a point where it I couldn’t afford to bring it back again.

    It’s the same thing with my Fury III Convertible. Although factory option disc brakes can be swapped over to this car, this time around, the lack of AC will keep my wife from riding with me. However, she was ,more than happy to drive our Shelby Lancer in the 1990s (with a 5-speed – even though our young children would tell her that she didn’t drive it as well as Daddy did!).

    So (note to self), next car gets the amenities that make it comfortable and safe, unless I want my driving time to be time for me to by myself, rather than having conversations with her.

    • Bob

      It’s no problem at all to add state of the art brakes, A/C and other late model options to an earlier cars. A Miata really give me a brake ! Any 93 up Camaro Z28 will completely overrun that turd and have all the modern amenities you want.
      As for the guy with the 71 bug. I owned lots of bugs in the late 60’s through the 70’s. I used to buy them cheap repair and sell them. Bugs were nothing more than the most basic mode of transportation. I did have one 67 Ghia I liked and drove daily for years. But it was hardly stock with a 009 dist, Bugpack intake, Weber carb, high ratio roller rockers, 1776 big bore kit, 205VR Verdesten tires sway bars etc.

      But I’ve always preferred 60 and 70 chevies. I’ve owned 58,60 ,61, 69 and 87 Corvettes, 67 RS Camaro, 69 RS/SS 396/375 Camaro, real 69 Z28 Camaro and a 69 Z28 clone restomod Camaro,71 and 72 and El Caminos and my latest a 67 El Camino with a 468/625hp, full race Hughes turbo 350, 3:55 posi, I 3/8″ sway bar front and 1″ rear bar, Edelbrock control arms ,Nitto 2.75×60 x15 drag radials. and A/C

      • Jim Sweener

        Bob, I understand your thinking, but I’ve already owned a bunch of Camaros, Firebirds, a Nova, a Corvette, etc. Even the 71 Bug, which I had a brake conversion and some other upgrades on, really didn’t do the trick for her. I liked those cars. She did not. The point here was in finding something we could have fun in together, and the Miata fit the bill nicely. Besides, now that we have something SHE likes too, as long as I don’t sell it, I can buy and build something for ME next year.

    • Jim Sweener

      I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that thinks this way. I was reluctant at first to let go, but we’ve really had far more fun TOGETHER in the Miata than I had alone in the Fury.

  • For us it wasn’t just one muscle car. it was several and different times in our life and all those times, We tried hard making it work.. joining the clubs, going to car show the whole deal.. even attempting our own car club. but after loosing three of cars to fire damage or flood damage.. something was telling me that the muscle car scene was not in the cards for us.

    I’ll never be able to give up the desire to customize anything we drive.. and our current project wouldn’t be any different. I think over all it’s an economy based passion.. and when the economy is good, your hobby thrives.. but as of late.. the economy hasn’t been what we expected. Life gives one choices.. and often the choice we make may not be what we want.. but it is a choice and we must live with it.

    Roller skate to some, Midlife crises to others.. For us and maybe you, it’s more like putting the fun back drive and into our lives which is well deserved. These small cars and vans are fun drive and without a lot of down time..

    • Cobranut

      You included VANS in your “fun to drive statement”??? REALLY??? ROTFLMAO

      • My statement above is correct. This van IS fun to drive. We love it. Has the Mazda 2.5L I4 engine and very comfort seats. Plus sleeping arrangements for 2 in the cargo area. Don’t knock it, till you try it.. Keep your muscle car for the shows.. but use the Van to get away.

  • Cobranut

    Why not have the best of both worlds, a stout V8 in the Miata?
    That’s what I’m doing, 600+ hp ought to make it fast AND fun.

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