Life’s too short for bor­ing sheet metal

The Outpost - - Shootin’ The Breeze - By David J. Horn

My co­work­ers often ask me what it was like to grow up in the olden days of the ‘60s and ‘70s, be­fore the in­ter­net and cell phones. Es­pe­cially for young adults at the time, those “pre-leash” days in the 100% ac­tual world were re­ally a dif­fer­ent era. Your ticket to new ex­pe­ri­ences was not star­ing into a lit­tle plas­tic box. Your ticket to en­joy­ing good times with your friends, to do­ing fun things in fun places…was parked in your drive­way.

Grow­ing up, my fam­ily was a “Chevy” fam­ily. Our neigh­bors wouldn’t drive any­thing but a Ford. Sev­eral of my friends drove Mopars. One of the big­gest events in the life of a kid, was get­ting their first car. My first car was a blue 1968 Chev­elle. We kept our cars im­mac­u­late, con­stantly wash­ing them, vac­u­um­ing the in­te­rior, and tun­ing the en­gine. No mat­ter what kind of car we drove, they were our worlds, and we made them to be the best that they could be.

As a lit­tle kid, my real in­ter­est in cars started with my Un­cle Mike. My Un­cle Mike was just out of the Navy, and just like James Dean, he was the def­i­ni­tion of “cool.” He had a cool job work­ing as a mechanic in the big city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and he drove a to­tally cool car…a 1958 Corvette. While the streets were full of fast cars in those days, with the cool styling of their fiber­glass bod­ies and their big engines, Corvettes were just dif­fer­ent in a spe­cial and ex­cit­ing way. One of our fa­vorite TV shows was Route 66, with its ‘61 Corvette. For a kid grow­ing up on a farm out in the sticks, it was the stuff that dreams were made of.

In the 1960s, Corvettes evolved into the St­ingrays that in­cluded the 1963 Split-Win­dow Coupe, and later, the Mako Shark body style. Around that time, my Un­cle Mike traded in the ‘59 for a 1969 Corvette that sported the big-block en­gine and a 4-speed trans­mis­sion. Wher­ever that car went, it to­tally owned the road.

As the years went by, my Un­cle Mike left the area, mov­ing to Den­ver. I left too, tak­ing an engineering job in Min­neapo­lis. Driv­ing a Chevy Nova SS by then, I lived in an apart­ment build­ing that had an un­der­ground park­ing garage. One day I got a new neigh­bor, who in the park­ing stall next to my Nova, parked his 1976 Corvette. All those mem­o­ries of my Un­cle Mike’s Corvette started coming back.

Now, by 1976, Corvettes had changed a lot from 1969. And even though it didn’t have the horse­power that the ‘69 Vette had, back in the day, it was still one cool car.

It was in March 1979, that I fi­nally had enough money saved up for a down pay­ment on what was then the new ‘79 Corvette. And so be­gan a 40-year odyssey of park­ing my daily driver out on the drive­way in the rain and snow (and now, blaz­ing sun), so I could keep the Corvette in the garage. Next to the wife’s car, of course.

There were the incredibly fun years of driv­ing that car as a young sin­gle guy. There were the years driv­ing around as I dated my future wife. There were the cross-coun­try trips where ev­ery cu­bic inch of the stor­age space be­hind those two seats was stuffed with camp­ing gear. There were the years with a child’s car seat in the only pas­sen­ger seat, as I strug­gled to keep the car while the kids were grow­ing up. There were the years us­ing the car in lo­cal pa­rades ei­ther to carry dig­ni­taries, or pull Boy Scout Floats. There was teach­ing my kids to drive in the Corvette, so they would al­ways re­mem­ber that par­tic­u­lar car as the first car that they ever drove. There was my son, after grow­ing up in the car, bor­row­ing it to take his date to their se­nior prom.

So, here it is, 2019. And while I have a lot more life in the rear view mir­ror than out the wind­shield, the old ‘79 Vette and I are still to­gether. Ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing, I drive it over to a lo­cal cof­fee shop on 4th Av­enue and 24th Street to talk about cars with sev­eral other Corvette own­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral folks that also work out here at YPG. In ad­di­tion to road trips and cruis­ing around town, we also en­joy tak­ing part in the Yuma pa­rades.

And to all you folks out there driv­ing to­day’s Mus­tangs, Ca­maros, Chal­lengers, 300s, and any other car for­eign or do­mes­tic that you’re proud of, I just want to let you know that the same lit­tle cof­fee shop where our Vette club meets on Satur­days, also hosts a meet­ing for all car folks ev­ery Sun­day. Whether your car is stock, has head­ers or a juice-can muf­fler, or you drive a new elec­tric car that doesn’t even have a muf­fler, you’ll find a whole bunch of folks out there that share your en­thu­si­asm for your ride.

Yep, life’s too short for bor­ing sheet metal. By the way, back to my Un­cle Mike. He just turned 80 years old. He’s still liv­ing in Den­ver, where both he and his son Wade, are still cruis­ing around town in their Corvettes.

The proud orig­i­nal owner of a 1979 Corvette, David Horn gives the ve­hi­cle exercise at events such as the Sil­ver Spur Rodeo Pa­rade. (Photo by Mark Schauer)

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