It all started when I went to drive my 55 Buick Special Riviera 4-door after long months of neglect and discovered that the brakes did not work. [Although all cars require brakes, 55 Buick's need them in a big way.] I took it into the shop to get them fixed and was happily spinning around the town when I thought to myself that the brakes in the Special never were that good to begin with. Especially for such a large vehicle. I believe the Special got the hand-me-down brakes at Buick that year with very little surface area. On top of that, they are not self adjusting brakes, and you have to crawl under the car every couple of months and "crank" the brake spinner so the thing would stop without a parachute.
I had always told people that you needed to file a flight plan with "The Buick" because you had to know what you were going to need to do before you had to do it. For example, a right hand turn consisted of pumping the brakes, slowing to an appropriate speed, spinning the steering wheel clockwise 4 and one half times, checking in with mission control, etc.
Don't get me wrong. I love that car. I have had it for more than 15 years... Longer than my wife, I sometimes remind her. It is just that any amount of money spent on stock components, and The Buick is/was stock, the best you could expect were handling characteristics of a 1955 Buick Special. Certainly, there is some nostalgia associated with that. There's also some level of nostalgia associated with Smallpox epidemics, but you don't see epidemic enthusiasts gatherings at the state fair grounds in the summer.
I started thinking about the other issues I had with The Buick - underpowered, the Dynaflow took too long to "spin-up", the windshield wiper motor was a joke (what happens when you step on the gas with a vacuum powered system?), tires wore in strange patterns (probably due to bearings as every other suspension component was replaced over the years), the oil-bath air filter (and subsequent thin oil film covering the entire engine compartment) and on and on.
How could I modify this car? The car cultured folks always praised my stock Buick. Stock's the way to go 'Bro. Keep the faith. Secret handshake and all that.
This is my car. MY car. The car I want to keep for years and years. Even drive occasionally. Not just occasionally, but often. How about all the time? Why not drive the car you love? Why was I always climbing into my Toyota Camry when I needed to drive from Santa Cruz to San Jose? The answer was plainly that I enjoyed the benefits of life. Sunsets, a good whiskey, old cars, etc. My wife would never get my life insurance because it would be obvious that I had entered a suicide pact with The Buick. You can't drive a car with the handling characteristics of a 1955 Buick through the Santa Cruz mountains and expect to live. Either you'd go off the road or a road rage maniac would shorten your life when their patience ran out when the Dynaflow was winding up on an uphill section of the drive.
I was driving the Toyota for five years and was impressed with my thrift. I could afford a new car. I just couldn't see me driving a new car that became used the minute I drove it off the lot.Here I am driving my Buick without brakes and I realize that brakes or no brakes, this is the car that I would want to be my "last car I will ever own".