Jesus Garcia/ The Paisano
Modern technology has grown faster than a pre-teen hitting a growth spurt, and a lot of older people may feel left behind. It seems that if you are younger than 30, you are qualified to work the genius bar at an Apple store, but if you are over 60, then you are still trying to figure out how to use cordless phones.
I’ll be honest, as a young guy, I have difficulties with modern technology myself. I’m constantly uttering the phrase, “It can do that?” when somebody mentions another useful feature on my laptop or iPhone. This, however, can quickly turn into a two-way street when it comes to cars.
Modern cars can be complicated when it comes to figuring out the modern dashboard. Bluetooth, GPS, satellite radio, MP3 connectivity, push button ignition and now even wireless internet have turned modern cars into rolling laptops. It’s no wonder older people have a hard time figuring out how it all works during their daily commute. If you turn the tables and introduce an 18-year-old to a car from a time when a baby boomer was young, let’s say 1965, then you have a similar problem. Old cars are not complicated, but they are a handful to operate.
The most difficult car I’ve ever driven was my father’s 1964 Chevrolet C-10 step-side pickup truck. It had a modified 327 small block v8, manual steering, 3-speed column shifter and four-wheeled drum brakes. It was the first time I had to change gears with the shifter being next to the steering wheel. I had to pull it down for first gear and then up, and slightly away to second gear and then down again for third. I had to do this while pressing down on a clutch pedal that felt like it was spring-loaded to shoot back up the second it changed gear.
For anyone who has never driven a car without power steering, its as heavy as closing the door to a submarine. Picture a movie where flood water is coming and you see the panic in their eyes as their arm muscles bulge from using every pound of torque they have to turn the wheel as the water gets closer and closer but the wheel won’t move!
That’s how it feels to turn in a manual-steering power car from a dead stop. Want to get ripped arms but don’t have time to lift weights? Just drive a manual steering car for a few weeks, and you’ll be sporting Rambo arms in no time.
Never driven a car with drum brakes? Imagine the car is telling you, “Are you sure? Oh all right,” every time you press down on the pedal. The pause between pressing the pedal and actually feeling the car trying to stop is so long that you will want to press down harder, but if you press harder, the tires will lock up and one of two things will happen: 1) you’ll slide into the object you’re trying to avoid. Or 2) you’ll slide sideways into a different object you weren’t trying to avoid.
The only way to drive with drum brakes is to start braking about three blocks away from any location you have to stop at. “But what if I need to perform an emergency stop?” you might be thinking.
If you need to brake suddenly, you better hope your arms are strong enough to wrestle the car away from danger because there is no emergency stop. The only way to improve the braking is to quickly downshift to second as you bury the brake pedal into the floorboards. Downshifting to use the engine as well as the brakes to stop a car has become a lost art of driving, thanks to ABS and stability control.
If I had Bill Gates’ checkbook I would rent out the parking lot of a football stadium and buy a few classic family sedans just to watch a younger generation try to manhandle these steel beasts. I would invite baby boomers to watch and get some sweet payback at teaching their grandkids how to.
Regardless of age, we all struggle with one form of technology or another. Whether it’s knowing how to set up the Bluetooth connectivity on your 2015 Chevy or knowing how to use a three-on-a-tree transmission on a 1955 Chevy, we all started as beginners at one point.
With classic cars, daily commutes turn into motoring adventures. Mastering an antique car makes you feel like you can drive anything on wheels, much like when a grandparent gets that sensation of amazement when he is watching his granddaughter talk to him on a phone screen. Different eras bring different thrills, but they all create the same smiles.