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Pictures in the Rear View Mirror
Susan Hornfeld : Who's in Second?

Pictures in the Rear View Mirror

Who's in Second?

By Susan Hornfeld

The Sixties Were All About the Car

In the mid- to late-60's every guy I knew was a car guy. And because popular music celebrated the hottest rides, women of the 60's were car hip, too. Now known as muscle cars, the competition between auto makers assured that each newly introduced sports model had more horsepower, more style, and more racing potential than those offered previously. These cars were shiny, sleek, fast, and fast. Yes, I know I said fast twice, but that's because some of these cars were powered by 450 horsepower making them faster than fast.

I didn't own a muscle car in the 60's; my Dad felt that a sedate used Falcon was more appropriate for a daughter. This meant that I was forced to get my hot-car-fix from guys; guys I dated, guys who were just friends, and guys my sister dated. My collection of hot car rides was worth every minute of boring sports talk, incomprehensible technical car talk, awkward good night kisses, and the very costly and protracted bribery of my older sister to gain access to her boyfriend and his car club.

Climbing into the latest car for the first time was nirvana. The seats smelled like leather, the interior sparkled with gleaming silver trim, and the dashboards were like instrument panels on jet fighters. Cruising at night was best, the Rolling Stones pumping out a rock anthem like I Can't Get No, Satisfaction, and the dashboard lights painting the driver's face with color. Pulling away from the house was slow work, no need to alarm the old folks, but once we hit the back roads of rural Roadstown or Deerfield, the speed was cranked up till the needle edged its way into the red.

I loved the sound of the run up to a shift point, the roar of the revving motor when the clutch is depressed, and the whine as the car kicks into gear and climbs for the next. I loved fast cars.

Winter or summer, no matter what the weather, the car had to be open to the wind to maximize the sensation of speed. Curves were "straightened out" by racing down the middle of the road. If it was raining the skill of the driver was determined by his handling of a momentary loss of traction; scoring started with a slip (1), graduated to a skid (2), and ended on a fishtail (3). For that instant that the car is out of control, the moment when you should be the most scared, the word I reached for in my head was "woo-hoo." Looking back I guess I'm lucky to be alive.

Boomer Girl Driven Through Rite of Passage

After all those GTOs, Corvettes, MGBs, Camaros, Thunderbirds, 442s, Jaguar XKEs, Furies, Firebirds, and Trans Ams, it was hard to buckle myself into the Falcon. It isn't as if any of those guys, even boyfriends, would let me drive their cars. So I ambled along, dreaming of the day when I would drive a car that roars, instead of sighing, When my chance finally came, I wasn't really expecting it. I had been at college for three years with no real car to speak of, but as I prepared for student teaching I had to have a ride. Luckily for me I went used-car shopping with my Dad rather than my "safety first" Mom.

My family has always been a Ford family, so the lot he chose had a large selection of used Fords. There were Falcons and Fairmonts, Galaxies and Thunderbirds, and even an Edsel or two. But all I saw was a Mustang, a navy blue, 1964 Mustang. While my Dad kicked the tires on the Falcons, I circled the Mustang. It wasn't much to look at, having had a rough previous life, but it was a Mustang. I stood awestruck.

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