The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

9 February 2006

Speed thrills

I suspect one learns patience in a Corvette: being able to do well over the speed limit, well over twice the speed limit in some instances, and yet knowing that doing so will bring down the wrath of the gendarmes, would seem to make one a trifle cautious.

And I figure the guy behind me this morning on the southbound onramp to I-35 from I-44 east, who was keeping his distance, had already planned out his next few seconds: follow the ramp at 40-45 mph, behind that bog-slow sedan in front of him, and then dart leftwards into the I-35 traffic flow and make up the lost time. A reasonable plan, if I say so myself.

What he didn't figure is that I routinely take this ramp at 60, and while he was throttling back, I was applying what power I had, which admittedly wasn't a great deal, and tightening the curve. By the time Merge or Else came up, I'd left him five or six car-lengths behind, and what's more, I'd left him an opening more than sufficient to allow him into the flow.

Of course, I had the advantage of being in front and being able to see what was coming. But this little transaction tends to reinforce one of my cherished beliefs: it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slowly. And while I know better than to dice with Corvettes on the straightaways, I don't do at all badly on the twisty bits. (This, of course, is another justification for the World Tours: there's a dearth of twisty bits on the Oklahoma City waffle-iron street grid.)

Posted at 7:23 AM to Driver's Seat


It never ceases to amaze me the people that see me driving that '67 Fury and think it's old so therefore it must be slow. HA HA Surprise! I love leaving people in the dust.

Posted by: Diane at 9:15 AM on 9 February 2006

Well, it's a Fury, fergoshsakes; it's not like you were driving a Plymouth Meek.

Of course, in later years, the Fury did become fairly meek, but that was hardly a problem in 1967.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:20 AM on 9 February 2006

I had a 78 Datsun B210 that could do twice the speed limit.... of course I'm talking about school Zones & Nichols Hills.

I once got a ticket for doing 80 in it & I informed the cop that he must have been pushing because my car wouldn't top 75 if you dropped it out of an airplane.

I got the ticket and a rather nasty snarl.

Posted by: Dwayne "the canoe guy" at 10:15 AM on 9 February 2006

You always talk like the 626's are "slow". Mine runs just fine. In fact people who are with me often say they thought it has a 6 instead of a 4.

Posted by: ms7168 at 10:47 AM on 9 February 2006

My first car was a Vega -- one of those with the aluminum block 4-cyl. The fact it was 2.3 litres wouldn't have impressed anyone who looked at the car itself, and when I first got it if I took it up to 55 my best friend and oftentimes passenger in those days would quote the opening sequence of "The Six Million Dollar Man": She's breaking up! She's breaking up!

After somebody totalled my Mom's five-years-newer Vega in our driveway (don't ask, your imagination is almost certainly on target), I traded the bald little tires on mine for the recently purchased almost-new tires that were on hers.

Shortly after that I got mine up to 70 without noticing. The guy I'd bought the thing from had saved a few bucks by not having the tires balanced.

Of course, the freedom of vibration-free high-speed driving may have contributed a few years later to the blown head gasket...

Posted by: McGehee at 12:58 PM on 9 February 2006

The four-cylinder 626 was, for most of its latter-day existence, the mid-sized sedan with the least acceleration; Mazda claimed 0-60 in 12.5 seconds with the automatic, which is way below the class average, and I've never beaten 11.

That said, the 626 had a 150-to-400-pound weight advantage over its competitors, and as always with Mazda engines, the little DOHC four is rev-happy. (Although beyond 6000 rpm — redline is 6500 — the power drops off markedly and the engine is basically processing gasoline into noise.)

My leadfoot daughter, in fact, on her first ride in this little darb, asked point-blank: "Didn't you say this thing was slow?"

Posted by: CGHill at 1:14 PM on 9 February 2006

"....the power drops off markedly and the engine is basically processing gasoline into noise."

That's a line that would do Peter Egan (the brilliant author of Road & Track's "Side Glances" column) proud.

Posted by: John Salmon at 8:44 PM on 9 February 2006

It wouldn't surprise me if he'd actually said it first; Egan is one of a handful of people I unconsciously (sometimes even consciously) try to emulate and/or rip off.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:48 PM on 9 February 2006

McGeehee, I sure wish you still had (and wanted to get rid of) that Vega. I've got a 350 Chevy that's longing for a new home. With a kit and a bit of elbow grease, that would be one HOT little car. :)

Posted by: unimpressed at 7:40 PM on 10 February 2006

Sorry, McGehee.....my fingers got a bit carried away without me noticing.....

Posted by: unimpressed at 7:41 PM on 10 February 2006

I used to fantasize about putting a bigger engine in it, until someone pointed out that the Vega didn't have a frame but was a fairly flimsy unibody shell. He said others who had put big-block engines in their Vegas had ended up twisting the body and, I guess, the car would point in a direction slightly different from the actual direction of travel.

Posted by: McGehee at 6:55 AM on 11 February 2006

...I should have included that he said the big engines simply produce too much torque for the body, but you might have gotten that anyway. ;-)

Posted by: McGehee at 6:57 AM on 11 February 2006