Driving historyI'm watching Boyd Coddington berate his crew on American Hot Rod, a show produced by The Discovery Channel. I'm sitting on the bed of a hotel that feels straight out of the Brave New World. Everything is wired-if you touch it, someone will know and ultimately bill you. I've already 'purchased' a $9 bottle of water, so I'm a bit paranoid, sitting in the middle of the bed trying not to 'buy' anything else.
Coddington's crew is restoring a vintage drag racer, a 1934 roadster with a gigantic Hemi engine. The car belongs to the current owner's deceased father and he wants it restored to its former glory.
The story conflict lay in the translation of the word 'restore'. The project supervisor wants to return the car to its original specs, warts and all. Boyd wants to infuse the car with classic Coddington engineering: high-tech, efficient and clean. He is accused of trying to turn it into another 'Boydster.'
The show is well produced and there's a palpable sense of tension as the project deadline approaches. Although the average non-car guy might look at this installment of American Hot Rod as hillbilly hammering, it's an accurate depiction of automotive drama. I really like it.
I can only guess what the owner has spent on this project. Chassis restoration, part sourcing, metal shaping, bodywork, painting, engine building, upholstery, assembly... I figure there's at least a $100k bill on that guy's desk. Probably more.
I keep telling myself that'll be me some day. I'll have the cash to build my dream cars, and build them right-without budgetary constraints. As I sit on this dreadful plastic-wrapped hotel bed, I imagine myself as the lucky customer. Coddington (or whomever) is building my 1968 Jensen Interceptor FF (all-wheel drive). The Jensen will be motivated by an Audi RS4 driveline and engine; the cabin upgraded largely with Audi-specific bits and Alcantara upholstery. The wheels are custom jobs resembling the factory Jensen alloys, only bigger and wider. The guys will start fighting about 'restore' versus 'restify.' I'll tell them to engineer it with the best technology possible, just leave the character alone (no, I would not keep the Lucas lighting... but have the headlamps rebuilt with Hella HID bits).
And when that's done, they can start on my 914, powered by a 911 or WRX turbo engine. And follow that by wrenching on my 1975 BMW 2002 powered by a late-model 2.0T engine.
My show would rule.
I'm often asked what my favorite car is. In truth, I don't know if it exists. My experience with cars like the Jensen or the 2002 have been mixed, some great, some ghastly. Today, I wouldn't tolerate a car without air conditioning or reliable lighting. However, if I had the money I could fix all that in an older car. I could fix anything.
I bring this up because I recently photographed what is arguably the finest restored Lamborghini Miura SV in existence. Lamborghini authority Joseph Sackey, a man Lamborghini consults for its own historical accuracy, supervised the project. Sackey's SV was a genuine 10-point car, right down to the port-of-entry tag on the steering column. I've never seen such a perfect example of automotive history, a 30-year-old car that can still do 170 mph.
The headlamps glowed with the intensity of dying flashlights, the same way all Miuras did. A pair of basic Hella H4s would be the perfect fix. The aircon, well, there are several aftermarket kits that would surely do better than the factory's system. And I'm sure a modern fuel delivery and management system would do wonders for the Miura's driveability. No, I did not suggest this to Mr. Sackey; I'm sure his fury would have been swift and terrible. This Miura was an entirely accurate depiction of 1970s technology, warts and all.
And then Sackey started her up, causing rows of Weber carbs to produce glorious noises, while the headlamps sprang to life with animalistic intensity. Suddenly I felt ashamed for wanting to change anything on this car. It would have been akin to cleaning up a brush stroke on a Rembrandt.
I guess there's a reason why I can't afford historically significant cars: I don't have a sense of responsibility. I'd want to drive them-all the time. And if that meant swapping a few parts to make it feasible, so be it.
If you check out our website there's a nice piece by Mike Febbo (ec's new online ber-geek) on the Miura's photo session. According to the car's owner, it took "significant" resources to make the restoration complete. I get the feeling Coddington's invoice would pale by comparison.
As American Hot Rod comes to a close, I begin flipping through the channels, searching for anything remotely watchable. I'm sure I've 'purchased' a few movies for a mere $12 each.
At this rate I'm never going to get my Jensen.