By: Tim Plouff
The physical search started in early January, however, the mental calculations for a new sports car started months, if not a few years, earlier. Fortunate to have owned a 350Z Roadster for ten years, the heart started to wander despite the excellent handling, performance, and reliability of my blue ragtop. Shared adventures with our close friends Nat and Diane Smith and their Miata filled several DVD’s of year-end chronicles.
Deep inside, there was a longing for something more. More power, more space too, but also the seed that some of the best sports cars, the best pony cars (Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang) ever were being built right now and to miss out on this era would be very regrettable. Perhaps criminal even to passionate, but aging, gearheads like us who still enjoy the thrill of driving, traveling without our tops.
Sure, the new electric cars are even quicker. But the visceral thrill of today’s very competent pony cars is undeniable to anyone who appreciates the sound of a V-8 engine racing to redline, the power-slide of a rear-drive chassis straining for grip, plus the excitable styling that is even better than the original pony cars. Add today’s latest comfort, performance, and driving enhancements, and, well, moving up to a late model pony car seemed like a pre-ordained progression for motoring bliss.
To my wife’s chagrin, an Intrepid Blue Mustang GT with very low mileage was soon making the trip north from New Hampshire the same day that Tom Brady was collecting ring number six. Possibly, my experience was more thrilling than his, seeing as how he has five other Super Bowl Rings and I have just one sports car.
After eliminating several of my preferences—used Corvettes were too old to fit the budget, the Hellcat doesn’t come in a convertible, the BMW M2 convertible isn’t imported to America—the evening computer searches had found two Mustang samples that met my specs; black over blue ragtop, 6-speed manual transmission, GT model, great condition. Each was further away than a casual drive, which hasn’t been a problem in the past as two previous vehicles have been acquired via the internet, with nary a hitch—or a regret.
One more search produced an even better third option—at a Chevy store in Portsmouth NH. Close enough to view and close enough to drive, the hook was set. With barely 10,000-miles on the odometer, and the previous owner being a Ford executive, the ’16 GT looked and drove just like the ‘new’ to me sports car that I was seeking.
To my surprise, my every-day mechanic and all-things automotive guru, was on the Turnpike north that winter day, at the same time, in his own ‘new’ Camaro SS convertible. Brett Alexander had been pining for a ragtop ride since last summer—ever since wife Jenn agreed that she could see herself enjoying a Camaro. Finding a Shark Grey SS on-line at the GMC dealer in Arundel, Brett could barely hide his amazement at the asking price for the ’18 Chevy with dual-mode performance exhaust, 8-speed automatic, and low miles.
Re-telling these purchasing tales to Nat opened the door of emotions; really, denied passions. Secretly, Nat had been having the same thoughts about a change. He loved his Miata—for eleven years it had been his spirited driving partner. Yet, he too longed for something new, something different, and something more powerful, comfortable, and more modern. His search began—also for a Camaro SS.
A dream model passed before he could visit. Another Camaro had too many miles. The third option—again—was close to home, the exact 2017 grey and black combo he envisioned at a Rockland GMC dealer.
Diane later told me that Nat admitted when he was younger that he doodled in school, making drawings of Camaro’s. When I produced an official hard-cover biography of the current generation Camaro’s creation, Diane said Nat read it cover to cover the first night.
While Diane has yet to embrace the racy stripes bracing the hood of her new Camaro, her radiant smile while driving tells me that overall, this new convertible will fill a void that none of us realized that we had. Oddly, it happily coincided as both Nat and I sold our previous ragtops to loving new owners with the same contented look that we now savored.
We each had an itch, a desire that needed more than scratching. Strangely, it took the salve of an American V-8 pony car to cure our passion. Our smiles couldn’t be bigger.