STAGE 2: Dad's night out
A sexy sports car is just the trick for escaping the responsibilities of one's thirties.
Jay Caldwell: Divides his time among his business, his family, and his 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle convertible. Ford Mustang GT: The pony car has grown up but can still lay down the rubber, thanks to its fabulous 5.0-liter V-8. Nissan 370Z: The Z is celebrating its fortieth birthday but doesn't rest on its laurels.
If you've read thirty-two-year-old Ezra Dyer's column this month, you're fully aware of how the thirties can change the priorities of even the most devout car nut. (If you haven't, he's on page 26. Go ahead, we'll wait.) The house, the kids, the job. They don't seem to leave much time for indulging in cool cars. This, however, is precisely why vehicles like the Ford Mustang GT and the Nissan 370Z thrive. Priced beyond the means of all but the most spoiled of youths, they serve as perfect getaway vehicles from the crushing responsibilities of adulthood.
The desire for just such an escape takes us to Detroit's annual Woodward Dream Cruise in a grabber blue Mustang GT premium and a fortieth-anniversary-edition Nissan 370Z. With us is a real, live thirty-eight-year-old, Jay Caldwell of Shelby Township, Michigan. As the owner of both a local Meineke Car Care and a pristinely restored 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle convertible, Caldwell certainly fits the bill as a car guy. But he's also a busy family man with a two-year-old daughter and a car-crazy nine-year-old son. Racing? Forget it. "I'm too old for that. I'd rather go out for ice cream with my kids," he says with a laugh.
Good thing. Because not much racing is happening as we pull onto Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, just north of Detroit. Instead, clumps of Corvettes, Chargers, and Trans Ams are creeping along at no more than 20 mph, the air shimmering with big-block heat and unfiltered exhaust fumes. Even among this impressive crowd, our two rides stand out. The 370Z's distinctly modern and, yes, Japanese lines provide a refreshing contrast to the vintage American muscle car overload around us. Even our model, which marks four decades since the 240Z's arrival on our shores with special gray paint and unique interior touches, has few overtly retro touches. "The Z has a ton of history, but it doesn't try to relive the old days," comments Caldwell. And yet he's also drawn to the Mustang, which recalls the 1960s with every crease in its sheetmetal. He particularly admires Ford's attention to detail, such as the sequential rear turn signals. The 5.0 badges don't hurt, either, and drivers of lesser Mustangs nod in deference as we pass.