Ten o’clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina.
Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua aqua, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, cloud lavender, assassin pink, rake-a-cheek raspberry. Nude strand coral, honest thrill orange, and baby fawn lust…”
That’s the opening paragraph of Tom Wolfe’s immortal story, “The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!”, first published in Esquire during 1965.
The cars Wolfe described — the Plymouths, DeSotos, Dodges, Chryslers, Fords, Mercurys, Chevrolets, Buicks, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles have mostly vanished.
And what has replaced those seductive tu-tone beauties, cars so beautiful that they awoke the aesthetic impulse in the meanest hillbilly heart?
Driving through Motor City the other day, I thought about the triple-black ’58 Chevy Impala convertible in which, during June of 1959, I’d driven from Connecticut to Colorado, top down, AM Radio blaring, drinking … well, let’s not get too detailed! Me and the Impala … there’s nothing like your first love. What could replace it — surely none of today’s boringmobiles!
But then, I happened to go to last Friday’s wine festival, a nonprofit bash for the Fine Arts Center. It was sponsored in part by one of our distinguished auto dealers — and there, in all of its glory, sat a new Porsche Carrera convertible. Mistaking me for someone who could actually afford such a car, the dealership guy invited me to sit in the driver’s seat.
Big mistake! As Tom Hoff once told me “John, the Porsche Carrera is like crack cocaine for middle-aged guys.” Hoff’s a retired L.A. cop — he’s seen how addiction of all kinds destroy individuals, families and communities.
But I don’t care! I want my Carrera! Or my Audi R-8! But right now, just temporariliy, I’ll settle for a eight-year-old dented SUV. Or a ’58 Impala …
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