I drive a 1963 Ford Falcon Futura. It isn’t a hot rod, or some tricked out sleeper. It’s pretty much bone stock. It has the original 170 cubic inch straight six motor matched to the factory cruise-o-matic two speed transmission. For those of you who are still paying attention but have no idea what any of that means, it simply means my car isn’t going to win any races and tops out on the freeway around 75 miles per hour. While I could certainly put some money into making the sort of upgrades that could really punch the power output of this 58-year-old car, I love it just the way it is.
She is my daily driver. For all my normal travel around town my Falcon takes good care of me. And while I certainly enjoy the looks from other drivers when I pass on the street or the nods from the old guys at the gas station who always try and guess what year it is, driving this car exclusively for the last few years has given me something else. It has given me a connection with the road. Now that may sound a bit weird, but I haven’t had this sort of connection to the road since my high school days, back when all my friends and I drove older cars. Classic Mustangs, Broncos, El Caminos and Camaros filled the little parking lot behind auto shop class. We turned wrenches and learned a simple mastery over the machines we drove.
See, when you get into my car and start it up, there is nothing around you asking you for certain points of performance before it will give you permission to drive. There is no seat belt light, no emissions check, no instantaneous system analysis that goes on in the background. It just starts up. There are very few options at your fingertips. There aren’t buttons for cruise control or Bluetooth connections for your phone to worry about. Shoot, this car doesn’t even have backup lights and has only one speed on the windshield wipers.
What all of this means is that there is nothing inside the car that demands much attention from you. You can focus on the road you’re driving on. And since there is no computer that is controlling an active traction system, no autopilot or warnings sounds for suddenly crossing lanes, no power steering, no power brakes, no power anything, things get really focused. It is all your responsibility, your care and attention matter with no back up system if you fail.
So, what is the point of all this? Well, I think that my car serves me as much more than a simple transportation vehicle. It reminds me of the world outside of my own head. I’m not stuck in front of yet another screen. The real world is felt in the vibrations of the old suspension system and the simple act of driving becomes a liberating endeavor. I am the one in control, from beginning to end. There is nothing but mechanical extensions of my actions to the asphalt below as I cruise down the road.
In our day, our cars are becoming more and more like the rest of our technological advances. They become givers of ease and conveniences where we are slowly being carried along for the ride instead of being in control. We jump through the hoops and perform the task necessary to get the permission to do what we want. Most of the time we aren’t even sure what it is we control and what is controlled on its own. But we are happy with the stimulation and entertainment that floods our senses, so we cheerily go along waiting for the day we all have self-driving cars, and we can spend the whole trip locked in a world that has nothing to do with the road we drive down.
Yes, that old Falcon Futura gives far more than she takes. She gives a remembrance of freedom, a taste of liberty and control in this mad world. At least down the next stretch of road.