May 22, 2009

Classic Car Merlin

Merlin and Classic CarMerlin appreciates a classy ride. Every May American Graffiti rolls into downtown San Rafael for the May Madness Classic Car Parade and Rockin' Street Dance. All afternoon muscle and pony cars line the main drag, spilling into side streets, all spit, polish, and shine. Mustang, Cougar, Barracuda, Road Runner, Charger, Challenger, GTX, GTO, Firebird, Thunderbolt, Thunderbird, Falcon, Skylark, Stingray, Triumph. Innovations in independence. The promise of power, in style. Open possibilities, cruising into the future with the radio bleating.

Yellow THX 138 Hot RodKey scenes of George Lucas’ 1973 American Graffiti movie were filmed here on 4th Street and Marin County is the home of Lucas, Skywalker Sound, and Industrial Light and Magic, minus the bits translocated to San Francisco's Presidio. Car movie stars park in front of the restored Art Deco Rafael Theater.

HoodJet I tell Merlin when I was a pup, we changed our own oil and re-built engines after school. Everybody drove courteously and gas cost 25¢ a gallon. I learned to drive in our family Ford Galaxie 500. As teens, we cruised Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan's Highway One, V8s roaring, rattling the windows of M1Porsche and Lotus dealers who refused us a test drive no matter how much we dressed up and talked like we, or our parents, could afford a Porsche or Lotus. The Woodward Dream Cruise, held every August, is the world’s largest one day automotive event, although cars and cruising are an all summer sport. Woodward Ave’s northern terminus is Wide Track Drive in Pontiac, an important destination on Merlin’s 2007 California to Michigan Road Trip. In 1909, Woodward Avenue between Six Mile and Seven Mile Roads became the first mile of road in the world to be paved with concrete. People have been driving classic cars on it ever since.

Rocket88Merlin looks dubious when I show him the flying car of the future past, a dazzling 1955 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. License to drive forever, the frontier of going. Merlin sniffs for the dog biscuit compartment, wondering how many we’d need for a trip to the moon.

My mom babysat a few times for John DeLorean, developer of the Pontiac GTO and Firebird, and famously, the DeLorean DMC-12 with it’s amazing gull-wing doors. HoodGraceAppropriately featured in the Back to the Future movies as the hero’s flying car time machine, Mr. DeLorean probably liked the idea of an engine powerful enough to run on anything, like banana peels. One time my mom asked him if his kids had their daily vitamin and Mr. DeLorean looked blank for a second then decisively handed each one four Flintstones Chewable Vitamins, one for that day plus three missed ones. More power!

HoodGraceMerlin eyes the rides for road trip-ability. He appreciates a spacious cargo hold and big windows. Perhaps a convertible. Merlin’s choice? Original Pony car, the Mustang, red with white leather seats- WOOF!

Merlin RollsThe weekend after May Madness was the Marin Sonoma Concours d’Elegance. Merlin discovered a vintage Rolls Royce. WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!