June 2009 On The Floor Editorial - What's Missing?
On The Floor
I'm a little jealous of the muscle car crowd. If you're a muscle car fan then you're familiar with names like Yenko, Harrell, Nicky, Baldwin Motion, Shelby etc. During the 60's, the muscle car crowd had the option of strolling into a new car dealership, asking the salesman to mark off a few overlooked option codes on an order form, and a few weeks later a shiny new Camaro, Chevelle, or Mustang could arrive with big-block power and style to boot. Super Duty Pontiacs, Boss 429 Mustangs, Olds 4-4-2s, Plymouth Hemi 'Cudas, Dodge Super Bees, and Z-28 Camaros ruled the street and the racetrack, trouncing lesser versions of the same body style. Decades later, these same cars command pie-in-the-sky prices at televised auctions from a rabid following of muscle car collectors. Here's a figure that'll make you choke: a 1969 Chevy Camaro R/S ZL1 sold for $800,000 at Dana Mecum's Original Spring Classic Auction in 2008. That car cost less than 7 grand when it was brand new.
Entire car shows are dedicated to the rarest of rare performance cars, like the famed Mopars at the Mansion, which is held at Hugh Hefner's house. Can you imagine getting to hang out with half-naked Playmates just because of the car you own? Muscle car builders have become celebrities on television with fans as fanatical as the ones who would give their left nut to see Angelina Jolie naked. What have we got? Where are the collectible, sought-after examples of sport truck supremacy from days gone by? When is our ticker tape parade gonna happen? Who are the guys we are supposed to be looking up to when building our rides?
I'm not bitching here; it's just a question I've often wondered about our hobby. In fact, I'm actually quite happy that the sport truck world has remained a little low-key because the muscle car world is not a utopian place filled with everlasting burnouts and age-defying trophy girls. Unless you're the guy selling that $800,000 Camaro, it would suck to know that buying or building your favorite childhood car costs more than a house.
At least with sport trucks, the most expensive examples of rare iron are still obtainable. I can find several turbocharged GMC Syclone trucks and Typhoon SUVs for less than $15,000 on the internet right now. Factory big-block-equipped Chevy C10s in restorable shape can easily be had for less than $5,000 too. Even the most potent sport truck ever built, the Dodge SRT-10, can be had for less than the price of a new Duramax-diesel-powered Silverado. Our world might not have the pomp and circumstance of a six-figure auction car, but I guarantee we are having more fun.
What good is a truly hot car if you can't risk putting miles on it, or god forbid, bouncing the engine off the rev limiter launching away from a stoplight just to get the 'ol blood flowin'? I can see the coolness in owning a one-of-five '70 Dodge Challenger R/T in Panther Pink paint with a 440 Six Pack and a four-speed gearbox. In my book though, that car is utterly useless because it's too rare to replace and that's why I dig trucks. Even the most sought after examples of our favorite rides can be replaced, fixed, and live to race or drag again another day.
The only real gripe I have about our hobby is that there isn't enough mystique to go along with the oldest or most unique examples of our "muscle trucks." I know the reason why. Trucks were never intended to drag race. Face it, we just don't have an SS/RS, ZL-1, or Z06 truck with performance, heritage, and rare status to back up any legend we might want to spin about it. Lots of Dodge SRT-10s were built, making them performers, but they also had trailer hitches and are not a rare sight on the street today. Perhaps in 30 years a garage-stored SRT-10 will command big dollars. Who knows?
What other examples of factory performance or dealer-modified hardware do we have to hold in high regard then? During the mid '70s, Dodge knew that guys were fixing up their trucks and so it offered the D100 Series trucks with multiple option packages with names like Warlock and Adventurer Sport and decent running V-8 engines. The '80s saw some Baja 500-inspired versions of trucks like the Ford F-150 and the Nissan Hardbody, but the smog-equipped engines are too weak to even mention. In the mid '90s, we had dealerships in Cali' like Massey Chevrolet that were hot-rodding Silverados with billet wheels, monochromatic paintjobs, rollpans, and performance parts. I still see some of these trucks occasionally driven by landscapers beat down and rough as hell from years of use and abuse. And that's the problem with even the rarest or coolest of pickup trucks-they were built for haulin' so even the most desirable ones, such as the Ford Lightning, were ridden hard and put away wet.
Will the objects of our affection ever achieve rock star status like muscle cars? Probably not and I'm OK with it. As much as I'd enjoy tracking the history of a numbers-matching '93 Chevy C1500 that might have been used as a pace truck for the Indy 500 to retell the story here in the magazine, I'm just as excited to wax poetic about a 'bagged and body-dropped mini-truck that the owner sweated the details in building. Perhaps our scene doesn't need TV stars or inflated prices. After all, the stars are the trucks anyway. See ya next month.