Cars: “I’ve always been into cars. Cars are part of our genetic makeup. It’s unavoidable.” – Matthew Fox, American actor
Buckskin in color, the 1967 Camaro sat quietly in the stall next to my car, which was in for an oil change.
After studying it from the customer window, I asked the auto service owner if I could take a closer look.
The hood was up because of an engine overheating problem, and no wonder. As muscle cars go, this downsized Chevy bristled with power and was as hot as any. I’m not mechanical – those genes went to my older brother – but I have an appreciation for classic lines and brute horsepower. The Camaro had both. For those who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, raw speed on the informal quarter mile outside of town was even more exciting than the rock ‘n’ roll music that glorified it.
Convertibles have been in a long decline since the Camaro’s glory days, mirroring to some degree sedans themselves. When the ’67 Camaro rolled off the assembly line, it was one of nearly 9 million “cars” sold that year. Today, despite a huge population increase in the U.S., sedan sales have dropped to around 5 million, less than half the number of pickup trucks, which along with SUVs and crossovers dominate the market.
In fact, sales of convertibles declined by 7 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to Edmunds.com. They make up less than 1 percent of the vehicle market.
But I’d like to own one. Better yet, I wish I had today the two that I did own. The first was a 1968 Karmann Ghia, forest green with a black soft top, mechanical, of course. The Ghia was made by Volkswagen and my dad wasn’t crazy about it. I know this because when I took him for a ride, sometime in 1971, he looked as uncomfortable as he would have been in a tuxedo. Part of it was that he was a man of some size and the Ghia was not. And, as one used to pickup trucks, he didn’t like those semis next door to this pint-sized car on the freeway.
The last convertible was a project car, a 1963 Corvette. It was midnight blue with an original 327 engine and a four-speed manual transmission. Its body lines were exquisite; at 70 mph, it purred like a kitten. When called upon, it roared like a lion as the speedometer bounced toward 120.
When the kids neared college age, practicality came calling. But the memory of that glorious convertible machine remains vivid.
July 17, 2019