Never Stop Driving #63: Celebrating cars and driving

The Corvette Z06 is every bit a supercar. Larry Webster

The wild and wooly Corvette Z06 I drove last week is every bit as bonkers as I suspected it would be after I investigated its new high-revving engine earlier this year. The LT6 howls like a Ferrari engine to a lofty 8600-rpm redline yet also has the instant throttle response of a big, low-revving V-8. Those two characteristics are almost never in the same powertrain. The Z06 is a mechanical triumph, a machine built for joy.

I drove the Z06 about 30 miles on Carmel Valley Road, briefly escaping the annual frenzy of car shows and auctions on California’s Monterey Peninsula. I’ve been on that route numerous times and its combination of curves and uneven pavement reward supple suspension. The Z06 proved wonderfully competent, but I yearned for a racetrack where I could truly unleash it and hear that naturally aspirated small-block repeatedly scream to redline. Corvettes used to have some performance warts—say, the steering was numb or the suspension felt unsettled—that car reviewers would excuse with “Yeah, but it’s half the price.” This ultimate Corvette requires no excuses.

Eighteen hours before my Corvette adventure, I attended the surprise reveal of a new and unconventional supercar, the Mustang GTD. I applaud Ford’s expansion of the Mustang brand with racing versions like the Dark Horse and now the wild GTD, which will have over 800 horsepower. The GTD’s trick rear suspension uses two springs, one softer than the other,  positioned in line on a stout damper assembly. The promise is a reasonable ride on the street and, conversely, the ability to create a track monster with the push of a button, which engages a hydraulic collar that compresses the soft spring and lowers the car. Kudos to the Mustang team—new mechanical technology is rare these days. Ford says the GTD, which is at least a year away, will cost about $300,000, a shocking figure considering that the Z06 I drove ran $144,000.

Judging by what I saw in California, Ford won’t have trouble moving a small number of GTDs. During Monterey Car Week, six- and seven-figure cars filled the roads like pickups do everywhere else. There was a car show on every street corner. On the Hagerty Insider website we tracked the numerous Monterey auctions. Results were solid, reflecting the mild cooling we’ve reported. Some 1200 cars sold, more than 150 for over $1 million. Incredible. Dave Kinney and I dissect Monterey results in our biweekly podcast, which we now also publish on YouTube with photos. From my perspective, those high collector car values mean more jobs for the craftspeople who can restore and keep these valuable machines on the road.

McPherson College, which offers a four-year degree in automotive restoration, entered a car in the Pebble Beach Concours that was restored by students. The McPherson Mercedes looked spotless and took second in its class (Hagerty’s Kyle Smith, a McPherson alum, wrote about it here).

I also went for a ride in a 1956 Bentley owned by David Wilke of Sydney, Australia. Wilke loves the car because of its connection to his father, its original owner. I could relate since I once tracked down the 1955 Ford Country Squire my Dad owned. The Bentley is Wilke’s only classic car and he was all smiles as we drove south on Highway One.

A special ride in an heirloom Bentley Larry Webster

Meanwhile, back in Detroit, the Dream Cruise descended on Woodward Avenue and my colleague Eric Weiner was cruising the strip in one of the last Dodge Chargers. It’s a bummer that the Dream Cruise occurs during the same week as Monterey because I wish I could attend both.

The drama over robotaxis in San Francisco continues. A Cruise robotaxi drove into fresh concrete and another hit a fire truck. Cruise then announced, at the behest of the local DMV, that it was reducing the number of robotaxis in the city by half. The furor over this new technology is a bit unfair because humans do all sorts of dumb and dangerous things in cars. I’ve heard from San Francisco residents that robotaxis are quiet inhabitants that don’t recklessly speed through neighborhoods like many human-driven taxis do. Perhaps I’m being naïve, but I don’t think this technology will one day prevent me from driving myself. People still ride horses, don’t they?

Last week, at the height of late summer, automotive enthusiasm was in evidence in California, Detroit, and across the country at every economic level. I don’t see this passion receding, but instead growing. I’d like to think we have a part in the growth thanks to the digital content we produce. Jason Cammisa’s most recent film, for example, has over one million views in under a week. I’d wager that a significant percentage of that audience is new or simply curious about cars. We purposely reach out to casual car folks to introduce them to the wonders of the car community. We hardcore car nuts need to practice this. Teach your neighbor how to drive a stick shift. Let folks sit in your car. And if you’d like to support us as we work to spread the message, kindly join the Hagerty Drivers Club.

When I returned home, a leaking water pump that sidelined my 1986 Mustang GT jolted me back to reality. That inconvenient problem, however, did not depress the optimism I feel after spending time with passionate people. We live in a world surrounded by this passion. Embrace and enjoy it. We’re a lucky group.

Have a great weekend!

P.S.: Your feedback is very welcome. Comment below!

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    Another nice letter Larry. I’m glad you put the link for Kyle’s article on the McP college students wonderful work and achievement at Pebble.
    Thanks,Leo Bunker

    Larry, “shockingly” is a bit presumptuous given that you haven’t driven the GTD yet. My guess is that it’ll obliterate the ZO6 in any condition and on any track. With a sub-7 minute lap at the Nürburgring, it was engineered to compete with the likes of the Porsche GT3R, etc. Hey, Jim Farley has thrown down the gauntlet by challenging any other corporate CEO and their best comparative to a race on any track, so they must feel that they have something pretty special…and I believe that they do.

    Larry, I don’t think the furor over this is about us losing our ability to drive.
    I believe its about the technologies ability to function. Where I work, we supply industrial automation (robots, etc.) and we are well aware of glitches.
    Even just a 4 way stop is too much for this software to digest. How can we expect this to be integrated into our steets.

    link to autopilot crashes

    Right. Larry says, “The furor over this new technology is a bit unfair because humans do all sorts of dumb and dangerous things in cars.” Well we expect people to do dumb things all the time – to err is human – people are flawed – nobody’s perfect – etc. But one of the things that we have been preached to is that the machines “will be safer”, and thus, we DON’T expect them to be doing dumb and dangerous stuff. If all we’re doing is switching from dangerous people driving to dangerous machines driving, where exactly is the “pro” in all this autonomous drivel?

    Relatively few people still ride horses. They do so at considerable expense, and in very limited areas. That’s not exactly a future to look forward to for cars. The ultimate goal for some is to eliminate vehicles driven by people. I’m glad I won’t be around when that finally happens. Cars will just be an amusement park ride or part of a nostalgia experience like those in Greenfield Village. Very few people know how to drive a manual transmission car now. They’ll be gone soon. The same thing will happen to vehicles being driven by people, if some people have their way. Make it too costly and/or too difficult to do and it ends. No more need to ban it.

    My only concern is when I ask the driverless car to let me out, “Hal, open the door”. Hal “Rick, I can’t do that”. Will AI kill us? I hope not, but there are a lot of things lately that I thought would never happen in this country.

    Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk (all fairly smart guys) all expressed concerns about the possibility that AI could develop to the point that humans could not control it, with Hawking theorizing that this could “spell the end of the human race”.

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