Muscle Car Review - - Contents - Drew Hardin mcreview@sbc­global.net

The other day my daugh­ter took a pic­ture of my wife and me with her phone. As many phones do, it made a noise that I’ve been hear­ing most of my adult life but didn’t think about un­til that mo­ment. I asked her, “Do you know what that sound is?” “It’s a cam­era,” she an­swered.

“Well, it’s a cam­era with a mo­tor drive.”

“What’s that?” she asked, more out of po­lite­ness than ac­tual in­ter­est, her at­ten­tion on the phone.

So I tried to ex­plain, as briefly as pos­si­ble. She’s in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy, which helped, but I don’t think she’s ever ex­posed a frame of ac­tual film ex­cept for when we handed dis­pos­able cam­eras to her and her friends to shoot sou­venirs of a trip to a lo­cal theme park years ago.

For a few min­utes I went back in time to when I had first at­tached a mo­tor­ized drive to one of my 35mm cam­eras. My col­lege room­mate and I were both bud­ding pho­tog­ra­phers and were build­ing our own kits, his Nikon, mine Canon. He got a drive first, and we were fas­ci­nated by the click-buzz, click-buzz that the mo­tor drive made. Now he could cap­ture dra­matic ac­tion pho­tos, freed from hav­ing to ad­vance the film a frame at a time in the heat of what­ever mo­ment he was try­ing to com­mit to film.

My first sin­gle-lens re­flex cam­era was such a ba­sic model it wouldn’t ac­cept a mo­tor drive. So I built my gear in other ways, adding a wide-an­gle and a tele­photo lens to the “nor­mal” lens that came with my cam­era for the ven­er­a­ble three-lens sys­tem. (In those days zoom lenses were con­sid­ered in­fe­rior in their im­age qual­ity.) When I started work­ing in mag­a­zines I saved my money so I could up­grade my cam­era body and fi­nally get a mo­tor. But the body took such a bite out of my bud­get that all I could af­ford was a power winder—ba­si­cally a semi­au­to­matic ver­sion of a mo­tor drive. It would take a while be­fore I could fi­nally ful­fill my mo­tor-drive dreams.

When I started at Petersen Pub­lish­ing in 1986 and for years af­ter, I car­ried two cam­eras to ev­ery event and photo shoot, one loaded with color film, the other black-and-white. In those days only a few of the mag­a­zine’s pages were printed in color, so it didn’t make eco­nomic sense to shoot every­thing on color trans­parency film, which was more ex­pen­sive to buy and process. With a cam­era loaded with each, you could make photo edit­ing de­ci­sions in the mo­ment, sav­ing the Fuji color film for beauty shots while the b/w Ko­dak Tri-X did the heavy lift­ing.

Dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy—and print­ing— changed all that.

I was slow to switch to a dig­i­tal cam­era, just like it took me a while to own a cel­lu­lar phone. (I just didn’t get why any­one would want a cam­era in their phone, for Pete’s sake.) My first dig­i­tal cam­era was an awk­ward thing, a Nikon that swiveled in the mid­dle. Soon af­ter, I bought a dig­i­tal SLR, which was much more like my film SLR ex­cept for, well, the film. And even though a mo­tor drive was to­tally un­nec­es­sary, I bought a bat­tery holder shaped like a mo­tor drive, be­cause I was used to the way it filled my hand.

Over time even that went away. My dig­i­tal SLRs got smaller and lighter, as did their lenses. I learned there was a name for my old lenses: legacy glass, a nod to both their age and con­struc­tion.

These days a lot of the pho­tos we take could be done with cell­phone cam­eras. Lens qual­ity and im­age file sizes in those pock­et­size com­put­ers are light years ahead of the dig­i­tal cam­eras of even a few years ago. I have oc­ca­sion­ally sub­mit­ted a cell­phone photo for this mag­a­zine, but it’s rare. I’m far more com­fort­able pro­duc­ing my medi­ocre pho­tog­ra­phy with an ac­tual cam­era in my hand.

You may won­der what the point of all this cam­era talk is in a mus­cle car mag­a­zine. Just this: When I heard the term legacy glass, it sounded to me like the nos­tal­gic win­dow through which we view our hobby cars. To­day’s cars, just like to­day’s cam­eras, do just about every­thing bet­ter and more ef­fi­ciently, if what you’re look­ing for is trans­porta­tion or a means to record events. But the pri­mal na­ture of yes­ter­day’s cars, like yes­ter­day’s cam­eras, of­fers a more en­gag­ing and there­fore sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The jour­ney is as im­por­tant as the des­ti­na­tion, if not more so. I love row­ing gears, like I loved hear­ing the mo­tor drive’s click-buzz as a race car thun­dered into frame, swept past, and was gone.

“Why would any­one want a cam­era in their phone, for Pete’s sake?”

n Eric Rick­man, one of Petersen Pub­lish­ing’s most pro­lific pho­tog­ra­phers, demon­strates what legacy glass looked like in a 1958 photo taken for a Hot Rod mag­a­zine sub­scrip­tion ad.

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