Wednesday, January 11, 2017
The gift? A car rental, and by that I don't mean some nondescript sedan. I get to rent something fun, something rather less practical than my minivan or the hyper-efficient transport pod we use to negotiate our urban jungle.
So from the Avis lot at the airport, I picked up a bright yellow 2016 Camaro SS, which I used to drive my older son back to college after his winter break.
It's a gorgeous car, wildly styled yet pleasing to my eye. As a lover of all things automotive, it's something more. It is the high water mark of the internal combustion engine, and perhaps one of the best American cars ever made. The seats? Comfortable, although the rear seats are fit only for legless toddlers. The motor? That big vee eight is immensely powerful, putting out over four hundred and fifty horsepower through a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic. Acceleration, once you get the great fat rear tires to hook up, rests in the roller-coaster happy place between exhilarating and terrifying. And yet it's not sloppy, not all about burnouts and straight lines. It handles exceptionally well, and...if driven calmly...can also deliver nearly thirty miles to the gallon.
All this, for a price that puts it into the potential reach of an average working American. Perhaps even the Americans who assemble the 2016 Camaro at a factory in Lansing, Michigan.
And here, a truth that speaks to the glory of American car culture:
This car would most likely not exist in its current form without Barack Obama.
Left to their druthers, the market-anarchist Ayn Rand ideologues who now control Congress would have allowed General Motors to fail, back when everything went to heck in a handbasket 10 years ago. Chevrolet would still exist, no doubt, in some form, as the pieces of GM were sold off to those who wield global capital. Would it have been discernably American? Probably not.
But wiser heads prevailed, folks who realized that the marketplace takes no pride in American greatness.
And let it be said, without question, that the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is a great car. Better, against almost every measure, than any American muscle car ever made.
My journey back after dropping off my son took me along some of the most beautiful highways in America, the wide-open stretches of I-81 that lead through the Shenandoah Valley. I had an old folk-country music mix on the stereo, Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson and John Denver and bluegrass gospel, interspersed with the sweet rich basso of that 6.2 liter eight. The night sky was clear and speckled with stars.
It felt good. Great, even. It's never been greater.