When was the last time you actually sat in your project? A cruiser, weekend beater, or even something that's yet to move under its own power? Did you enjoy it? Did you feel a sense of satisfaction from it? I only ask because during the past year, I'd actually put aside my own personal projects, focusing on generating edit and knee-deep into photography. It was only recently that I began to realize something's been missing. Ever since I'd benched my cars, I was under a distorted perception of bliss. Why? Financially, my wallet seemed slightly fatter, at least enough to avoid the local sub-satisfactory dive chains for their latest specials. But then it occurred to me, I've been missing the sensation you get from rolling into the throttle of anything with any decent amount of torque. You've felt it, and you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Of course there was a catalyst to those thoughts, and it was the day I met Phil Cooper and his cherry example of a '66 Nova. If the name sounds familiar, that's because he was one of the top competito's during last year's Hot Rod Drag Week, running as quick as 8.63 at 158 mph. Just what's Drag Week, you ask? Imagine a medley of cars from early street machines to newer late-models with powerplants ranging from 300 to nearly 2,000 hp, competing at five different tracks over the course of five days. If you think that's brutal, be advised that they had to be driven under their own power for 1,500 miles, and many of them even towed trailers full of tools, fuel, and spare parts-some may consider it a decathlon to one's own patience, wrenching skills, and the ability to max out their credit cards.
Getting back on track, it was during our photo shoot I had the opportunity to inquire what a guy from Urbana, Illinois, was doing well over 2,000 miles from home-I half expected a clich response about checking out Disneyland when he simply acknowledged his desire to cruise the streets of Southern California. No joke, that's what Phil wanted to do and that's exactly what he was doing. He started by making a quick pit stop in Nevada and then made his way to SoCal, where he spent an entire week cruising.
Now, as crazy as it may sound, imagine a mid-8-second '66 Nova powered by a 457ci small-block, making over 700 hp on nuts alone, rolling on extra-large doughnuts, and letting the wheelie bars hang free while motoring down the 5 freeway. Phil went on to explain that while 9 mpg wasn't the greatest, it sure wouldn't stop him from doing what he set out to do. It gets better; prior to our shoot, Phil took the time to hit up three different car shows and managed to drive away with three separate awards. At the end of our shoot, if I had to pick my favorite quote of the day, it would have to be, "It's good for 8.90s through the air filter and muffler." Yes, this guy is my hero.
Frankly, I can't remember the last time I saw anyone so laid back, all the while having such a good ol' time. Suffice to say, I took home an extremely valuable lesson that afternoon: Remember to have fun. It's pretty easy to get frustrated and let our projects sit idle for months to years on end. We've all done it-but how do you avoid it? Easy, just remember the true nature of our hobby isn't striving to be the fastest or owning the sickest ride possible; all you have to do is get in, sit down, and drive. With that said, if you need to find me, I'll be back in the garage getting ready to have my fun. -Henry D