Thursday, March 29, 2012

LIVE: Mecum Auto Auction, Kansas City

Everyman's hotrod... the Plymouth Duster
Just finished the first of three days broadcasting the Mecum Auto Auction live from Kansas City. We had a few Mopars on the block tonight that reminded me of a conversation I had recently. 

I was talking to a well-known car collector in the Chicago area and he was explaining the reasons he had switched from collecting Mopar products to General Motors products. He said that the GM vehicles drove better, felt more solid and were better quality cars while the Mopars "drove like a tin can." 

He was correct in many respects. In the 1980's I drove daily back and forth to high school and basketball practice in a 1970 Dodge Super Bee. Painted in pearl white with a four-speed transmission and a 440 V8 engine, it was a real head turner. Stomp the gas pedal and it felt like you were being shot out of a cannon. The thing was insanely fast. I've driven racecars that didn't have that kind of acceleration. 

It looked great and was faster than the proverbial speeding bullet, but something just didn't "feel" right. The exhaust smell worked its way into the cockpit. It didn't absorb bumps very well. It rattled in places where it shouldn't. So yeah, I get what my car collecting friend in Chicago was saying. 

But still, I'm a defender of the great Mopar muscle cars of the 1960's and early 70's. The Chrysler corporation hung on longer than the other marques by offering genuine muscle cars in their lineup as late as 1974-75. And to some extent, their cheap feel was a deliberate effort to move downmarket and make authentic muscle cars available to a new generation of less affluent buyers. 

The fast and gorgeous Plymouth Road Runner is a good example. In reality it was little more than a stripped down version of the more luxurious GTX, which in itself was a fine automobile worthy of comparison to similar GM and Ford models. But Plymouth's stated goal was to offer a 14-second car to the average working man for less than 3 grand, and they got the job done with the Road Runner. 

I respect that. 

Yes, I suppose they drove like tin cans. But you won't catch me knocking Mopar muscle cars anytime soon. I am in favor of anything that puts real performance in the hands of the average guy, and the Chrysler Corporation of the 1950's, 60's and 70's did exactly that. 

After tonight's show the on-air crew went down to the 12 Baltimore Bar & Cafe in downtown Kansas City for a late dinner and I just got back. The filet medallions were fantastic. Walking back to my hotel, I regretted not bringing some of my books on old western gunfighters... they would have had several stories of western shootouts in Kansas City, probably very close to where I'm staying. I'll have to remember that when we return in December. 

Tomorrow's show starts at 3 pm Central. Hope to see you then. 

Stephen Cox
Co-host, Mecum Auto Auctions on Velocity Channel
Driver, #21 Packs Racing/Boschett/McGunegill Engines Chevy 


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