In 1959, I took delivery of my new Triumph TR3A at the New York Auto Show. It was black, with a black interior and a black hard top. It was, by my reckoning, the prettiest TR ever constructed. I drove it from New York to California, breaking it in, and from Chicago west I followed famous Route 66. Around Gallup, New Mexico, the wind came up, and before long the air was full of sand. Being equipped with side curtains, the Triumph was also full of sand. I made it to Flagstaff that night, utterly parched and exhausted. I checked into a motel, went to the fanciest restaurant in the neighborhood, and ordered--God knows why--a dry Rob Roy. This soaked into the tissues of my mouth before I could swallow it. I ordered another, and then I lost track. I woke at 3:30 in the morning lying face down, fully dressed, on the bed in my motel room. The door was open, and my Triumph was sitting outside the door with its engine running and its headlights on. I had no memory of the evening, nor did I know when I’d returned. I got up, washed my face, and left town, thoroughly ashamed of myself and terminally hung over. The Triumph, it turned out, was very badly sandblasted. Everything that faced forward had to be repainted, replated, or replaced. This was not an unmitigated disaster, however, because it offered me the opportunity to customize the little dear and remove some unwanted trim.
In January 1967, I was visiting the General Motors Desert Proving Ground in Mesa, Arizona. One thing led to another, and some Chevrolet engineers offered to let me drive a prototype Camaro Z28 back to Michigan. I left late in the afternoon and followed U.S. 60 out across the high country--over the Salt River Canyon, across the San Carlos Apache reservation and the Whit Mountain Apache reservation, through Show Low and across to Socorro, New Mexico. That car’s 302 engine was as good a Chevy V-8 as I’d ever driven, and I’d driven about 100 that were really strong. After sundown, I burned a six-hour hole through the darkness along U.S. 60. Headlights would appear in the distance and I’d slow down, only to discover that they were miles away in the desert night. I turned on the dreadful little AM radio and picked up radio stations thousands of miles away, all gabbling nonstop pseudo-reverence about the astronauts--Roger Chaffee, Virgil Grissom, and Edward White II--who’d burned to death that day. But I was safe under a great black glass dome. I was a time traveler. I had found my element, and the Z28 was the perfect tool to exploit it.
Last Month, J.L.K. Davis and I drove a new Range Rover 2400 miles in less than a week--Ann Arbor to Montgomery, Alabama, for some concentrated automotive immersion time (and hunting) with Knox Kershaw (owner of the Duesenberg Special Phil Llewellin wrote about in “The World’s Finest Motor Car,” November 1991); Montgomery to Washington, D.C., to present the All-Stars award for the Land Rover Discovery to the entire staff of that company; then back to Ann Arbor by way of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Next week, we’ll take our Four Seasons (long term) Mazda Millenia to New York and return. That car is about to leave our fleet, and it’s just too good to let it get away without one last long drive. Next month, we’ll take our new long-term Chevrolet Tahoe to Baja California, and after that we’ll run our own ’55 Chrysler 300 in the California Mille. This is shaping up to be another great year, great drive-wise.