The other day, walking my dogs in the morning, someone was taking their early 1970’s Monte Carlo out for a drive. Ah, the sound, the rumble, the rough idle of a carbureted 454CID engine in a sedan was enough to make me wax poetically.
There is something about late 60’s and early 70’s heavy metal (American muscle cars) that just goes to the core of my being. The mechanical advance and points/condenser ignitions that were hard to time and tune, requiring frequent adjustment. Having to jet the carburetor to run clean (if you made it right at cursing speed, it would be rich off idle). Putting it an aggressive cam to improve the horsepower at the upper range made it a struggle to get it to idle right. It just brings a tear to my eye to remember those days.
I spent a reasonable part of my youth working on cars and motorcycles. I still have (most) of my tools. I have rebuilt engines (my Honda Civic CVCC 1975 vintage, and several motorcycles), repaired transmissions, converted to electronic ignition, and at every step was a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I accomplished something.
Cars today are much less open to the home mechanic, and the speedshops of yesteryear (Speed Merchants in Santa Clara is where I used to hang out) have much less to offer the current cars. It takes a lot more effort to “tune” todays high reving 4 and 6 cylinder engines (there isn’t much more performance you can wring out of the 2.2l engine in my Honda S2000 without going to forced induction.)
But every time I see, and more importantly hear a muscle car of yesteryear, I must pause to look on with reverence. Some day they will all be gone, hidden in collections or not driven at all. A sad passing of an era.
(For the record, the Monte Carlo barely qualifies as a muscle car. It was far more refined than the firebird, camaro, or even the malibu of that era. But it did have a great big motor, and all that goes with it.)