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Scottsdale, Arizona Sunset

American Graffiti

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

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Recently, while I was in Arizona, I re-watched American Graffiti.

That movie is still amazing.

I don't know of anything else that shows the pageantry of the automobiles of the era like that movie.

Not long after watching it, I was buzzed by an honest-to-goodness '65 427 Cobra on the freeway in Phoenix while I perused an immaculate '58 two-door Bel Air. Days later, as I was travelling through Modesto (the setting for American Graffiti) I buzzed a '67 Shelby GT-500.

I had lots of other really cool car encounters while I was on the road — including a '70 Yenko Nova and a '69 Shelby GT-350 — but those first two Shelbys stood out the brightest.

When I was a teenager misspending my youth cruising in the Original 351, there was a guy who also roamed the streets in a Mustang, but his was a '71 Boss 351, white and black. I'm not a big fan of that generation of Mustang, but that thing was gorgeous. At the time, I knew that car was special, but I took that experience — and others like it — for granted. I just figured that's how it would always be.

Back then, Muscle Cars were commonplace. Seeing them on the road was an everyday occurrence for me. Don't get me wrong, the majority of the automobiles were crappy '70s, '80s, and '90s cars, but people still regularly drove their classic Muscle Cars.

Even the guy across the street drove his '69 351 Mach 1 Mustang to work every day. It was a gorgeous blue with a flat black hood.

In fact, I routinely ran across a myriad of GM, Ford, and Chrysler Muscle Cars — and even the occasional AMC. And I don't mean 283-powered mid and full-sized, four-door Chevys, but Pontiac GTOs, Javelin AMXs, Big Block Dodges and Plymouths, Stingray Corvettes, and a slough full of hot Camaros, Mustangs, Novas, Chevelles, 442s and the like — even an occasional 426 Hemi.

Today, where I live, there's virtually nothing but the lamest cars made. Even the people that can afford them rarely ever bother to pick up a hot Beamer, Nissan, or Mercedes, they only get the base model or luxury-appointed commuter crap.

I'm not a fan of foreign cars, but I can appreciate an M3, GT-R, or SLS AMG.

Lots of people today are as soulless as a computer or an electric car, it seems.

It makes me sad. But that's okay, I know the car nuts are still out there and I can go places to see hot Muscle Cars roaming the streets, just not my streets.

Not like it used to be.

Not like American Graffiti.


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