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History After A Few Drinks

I had bought a 1937 Ford when I was thirteen for $300.00, spent three years restoring it and had it in pretty good shape. Sold it and a shotgun (Browning Sweet 16 my Dad had given me), Gramps made up the difference and I went down and bought me a '65 Comet Cyclone, 4-speed, 289 ci, 4-barrel. 'You know, besides the car, I'd sure like to have that Sweet 16 back'.

Spent a little time and the rest of my money and started running G/Stock (Formula 3, I think) AHRA on a 1/8th mile strip at Catawissa (Pacific), Missouri. Done pretty good too. I got my drivers license in 1965 and 'Dyno Don' Nicholson was my guy. I'd seen him run his '65 Comet Cyclone and there was nothing tougher. He's one of the most famous drivers of the sixties and early seventies. In 1966 Nicholson debuted the first flip-top funny car ever built. The one-piece body was based around a '66 Comet and mounted on a tube-frame chassis. Nicholson called simply, "a killer car". The car was different from everything that had come to that point because there were no doors. The driver entered and exited the car by moving out of the space created when the body was flipped up.

Nicholson ('Dyno Don') showed up with his new 1966 Cyclone for a match race with Wayne County Speed Shop. He had sold his '65 Comet to a fellow that was there that night to run it. Can't remember his name, but he had run before, just not something like Don's '65. He staged by himself and lit it up! Got out of it! Lit it up again! Got out of it again! Musta been kinda embarrased so he lit her up one more time! Got out of it, and I mean 'got out of it' and started looking for a new buyer. I wish I could tell you that I was the guy who bought it. It would have been somethin'. I couldn't and I didn't. But I did, as soon as I could, trade the '65 for a '66 Cyclone Convertable, 4-speed, 390 ci, 4-barrel.

Say “the sixties” and sappy nostalgia seems to follow reflexively. Well, Age of Aquarius, baloney. Greening of America, hooey. Got to get back to the garden, gimme a giant break. Talk about false dawns. The sixties heralded a rebirth of truth and beauty and freedom, a cosmic liberation. How come their only lasting monuments are the drug culture (thanks, kids), a lot of sheepish job-seekers with embarrassing gaps in their resumes, and a spiritual hangover that thirty years later not even extra-strength Motrin can cure?

The sixties was one spontaneous, protracted narcissistic binge with all the intellectual clarity of a spoiled brat’s tantrum. Peer deep into the purple haze. The sixties smelled bad, looked bad, made sloth a religion and ignorance a virtue. Professor Timothy Leary and his fellow prophets proved to be clowns. Sixties culture, not surprisingly, is deader than ancient Sanskrit today. (Could you sit through a revival of Oh! Calcutta!?) The sixties always felt vaguely sleazy and sinister—even when you thought you were grooving. The one profound thing about the period is the mystery of why a society so advanced so willingly fell under the spell of this mush-headed vision of life as children’s holiday. But don’t ask me. By the time I got to Woodstock, I was itching for a bath.

Before Fillmore West and Tiny Tim and the Mansons was the period 1960-65, the other sixties—the Kennedy era of idealism and good feeling—no less real for all the subsequent disillusionment. It was the origins of a genuinely idealistic national program that would end with a man on the moon. A golden era of constructivism and progress, those deceptively bland years of the beehive hairdo and the twist and “Bonanza,” a re-ignition of national will and confidence after the slumberous Eisenhower years. High noon in America, just before the murky twilight of those other sixties descended upon the land. We’ve never felt so good about ourselves since. The Baby Boomers changed everything (or at least they think they did), so why not politics? The next time you hear a presidential candidate discussing his or her choice of underwear, you know who to blame.

It strikes me that the doom-laden insecurity about the future is precisely what many people loathe about nostalgic types -. that stifling sense that nothing will match up to an imagined and irretrievable past. There is no way forward, only back -. except that you can't really go back either. Great. And yet nostalgia (literally the longing to return home), which we might define as "history after a few drinks".

I have always been a little skeptical of psychological and sociological evaluations of people and events. I believe things are usually what they appear to be, so it is fruitless to look for "hidden meanings." But to some social scientists, things are never what they seem to be. They believe that some awful truth lies hidden beneath the surface and must be uncovered regardless of how unpleasant it may be. They subject those who criticize their program to creative, manipulative language that insinuates that dissidents are either biased or have some other mental defect.

A recent case in point is the novel use of the word: "Nostalgia." The expression implies that our memories of the past are false; clouded with a wistful longing for a time that really never was. Because people are threatened by social innovations, they yearn to return to a comfortable yet fictionalized past. This yearning for the past is caused by a complex psychological mechanism: Nostalgia.

Social science faculties at many colleges include former graduates who stayed on to become assistant professors without any detour into the real world outside the walls of academia. This is like obtaining a driver's license by taking the written test only and skipping the driving test.

Nostalgia might shade our memories of the past but it certainly cannot make the sum total of our recollections wrong. Opposition to much of so-called "modernity" is actually based on common sense and the nostalgia ploy is nothing more than a devious technique to stifle dissent. In any event, social scientists now have a new term to manipulate us with -. "nostalgia," an expression that will probably take its place in the vernacular alongside sexism, racism, and homophobia.

And then there were the motorcars - ah, the cars of the Twenties! There were nearly all the makes we know today, plus a fascinating score or so that have, alas, disappeared except from antique car rallies: the Essex, the Franklin, the Kissel, the Cord, the Maxwell, the Marmon, the Oakland, the Stutz. Many of them had rumble seats, and romance and the automobile would thenceforth remain devotedly if sometimes illicitly joined together. Clearly, a car was more than transportation.

Classic Muscle Cars are typically defined as high-performance vehicles with powerful engines, most made between 1964 and 1975. Learn about more than 100 of our favorites, including Chevelles, Chargers, Mustangs, Road Runners and GTOs.

Some say the GTO was the first musclecar, but we'll opt to hang the credit on earlier Mopars (Max Wedges predated the Goat by a couple years). Regardless of your loyalty today, perhaps you're old enough to remember that when these showroom rods were new, they were musclecars, they were clearly not hot rods.

Automotive high performance came out of hiding in 1960, signaling the dawn of the classic age of muscle cars. V-8s had been bulking up, so "big-blocks" were a must on and off the track. Chrysler Corporation had a fleet of V-8s with wedge-shaped combustion chambers with up to 413 cubic inch displacement and over 400 bhp via "Cross Ram Induction." Hemis were in limbo as expensive to build, but wedge-powered Chryslers, Plymouths, and Dodges were usually in the hunt among stockers and dragsters.

The beginning of the Sixties was a significant time in the roots of street machines. While the 1950s had produced a mass of great sheetmetal, the Sixties would deliver the muscle to go with it. Engine sizes ballooned with the 409 in Chevrolets, the 413 in Chryslers, and the 427 and 428 in Fords. Mix in the newer, lower look and crisper styling and you have the perfect base for a street machine.

Few cars have been better timed than the Pontiac GTO. Though not a brand-new idea, it tapped into the spirit of mid-'60s America and would be the standard for every muscle car imitator that followed. From the get-go, there was little doubt the GTO would be imitated.

The muscle car craze continued in 1966, 1967, and 1968. Model-year 1966 ushered in rapid, redesigned midsize Fords and Mercurys; a burly midsize Dodge fastback, the Coronet-based Charger; a quartet of smoothly restyled GM intermediates; and even a "rent-a-racer" Mustang, the Hertz-vended Shelby GT-350H.

If there were signs in 1969 and 1970 that the classic age of muscle cars was nearing an end, you couldn't tell by perusing American automobile showrooms. Dealerships were bursting with ever-more-powerful and outrageous high-performance machines -- muscle cars were at their pinnacle.

I can remember when a car was something you had to have. It wasn't an option; it was a neccessity. Muscle was the main factor. Growing up you worshipped the guy who could afford it and was able to pull the left front wheel off the ground on the street. I knew every car in town, who owned it, how fast it would go and was considered a motorhead. Muscle was my favorite ride even though I was never able to pull the left front wheel.

On Pine Street in Rolla there were drags (sort of) that took place every year and guys either ran each other or just burned the rear tires. They drew cheers and jeers from the crowd gathered depending on what they did. People would hook up their machines, for there wasn't a street machine that didn't double as a dragster on the weekend.

A bunch of UMR Students generally watched and became an overwhelming force for the two cops on duty to handle. They weren't neccessarily in the control of the RPD (unless they were off campus) but were in the scope of the Campus Police. They would usually be broken up by someone on the St. Pat's Board (they had special jackets) because they had lots of power.



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