I Don't Really Own That Ridiculous Muscle Car. Let Me Explain
My older brother in Florida owns a 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby. It has 500 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission. Color: gimme-another-ticket red. When I visited, he let me drive it.
Driving this paragon of the American muscle car gave me new insight into a culture that is foreign to me but makes me smile. I salute Shelby for his unapologetic roar and the pleasure he gives his cult. But boy (and "boy" is the right term), Shelby's sure an inconvenience for one who just wants to get to the Publix. My brother agrees.
No one short of astronauts needs that sort of power, but of course, this is not about need. This is about wanna-have. The new Shelby GT500 can get more than 700 horsepower. "That should keep up with Joneses," writes car columnist Dan Neil, "and keep the Joneses up too."
While steering Shelby on one of those congested six-lane Florida roads, I tried to carefully turn left onto a different six-lane road. A car zoomed around me as though I were driving in reverse. It was another Shelby showing me how it's done. Subtext: I'm unworthy.
As I was parking Shelby in the driveway of my 90-year-old aunt's condo, a guy came sauntering toward me, cigarette hanging from his lips. He said something like, "Girlie, do you know what you're driving?"
I sheepishly denied ownership. "It's my brother's car." The man just shook his head.
When I was parking Shelby in the public lot at the Lake Worth beach, 19-year-old boys swiveled around to see what cool dude had those wheels. Suffice it to say, I did not meet their expectations.
One Saturday night, I drove another elderly relative to downtown Lake Worth for dinner. I stopped in front of the restaurant, putting on the hazard lights while he tried to extricate himself from the passenger seat. A police car, lights flashing, raced up beside me. I, or rather the car, must have looked like "trouble." The officer peered in to see who was at the wheel. He saw me adjusting my glasses as an 82-year-old was struggling to get out. He made a big shrug. I shrugged back.
Aunt Shirley can't bear the car when my brother often drives her on errands. The trunk can't accommodate the walker, so bro must take the top down so he can stuff it in the back "seat." Once Aunt Shirley is in, the top must go back up because the wind messes her hair, which is done twice a month at J.C. Penney. The ritual repeats itself at the destination. All this for a five-minute trip to Walgreens.
After a while, my brother asked me not to drive Shelby. I don't know whether he thinks Shelby is a danger to me or I'm a danger to Shelby. The answer could be hurtful, so I don't want to know it.
However, I'm kind of relieved. When I visit Florida, I now tend to rent gray Hyundais that draw no attention. My car at home is a Honda Accord. I like pep in a car, which the Honda delivers. But in the end, cars are utilities to me.
I kind of like that my brother, always very careful with money, has indulged in an irrational extravagance. For the record, DNA tests show we're related.
Froma Harrop's column is distributed by Creators Syndicate.
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