Ventura Highway

Sometimes an interesting travel experience can be had on foot not far from home. Yesterday was a beautiful summer day, maybe 80 degrees with just a few clouds against a bright blue sky. In taking an afternoon walk around my neighborhood I saw this lovingly cared for late ‘60s Pontiac Ventura parked on the street. Looking at the car from across the street in front of this perfectly manicured yard and neat little twin house, it all just made a pretty picture that for me reached back into a distant past of perfect suburbia full of Detroit steel. Not necessarily my past mind you, but a real past for many I’m sure and one that I could still feel on this summer day.

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The picture I saw before me really struck a chord and reminded me of a big coffee-table book I have on the work of artist Robert Bechtle. He creates hardly believable photo-realistic paintings of ordinary cars on sun-washed California streets and in driveways. Just these great captures of some old station wagon or sedan outside a suburban rancher or a hilly San Francisco street– not movie stars in Ferraris. I don’t have any pictures of his work but here is a link to The Gladstone Gallery, which you can use to have a look at some of it.

I don’t know much about the Pontiac Ventura but I believe this one to be a ’69 or thereabouts. I took another walk today and noted that it had been put in the driveway and covered up. Speaking of General Motors, and a car I know a little more about, I had a 1969 Corvette for some time, maybe 7 or 8 years. There’s an old joke about the expense of boat ownership – “A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money,” and that can apply on a lesser scale to owning an old Corvette or I imagine any number of old sports cars. Mine was not a great specimen, to be sure. I bought it for $6800, proceeded to put about $12,000 into it, and finally sold it for $6,500 after the motor blew! It went to some young guy who had his own Corvette dreams so good for him. It was really cool though on the occasions when it started and ran (always a pleasant surprise.) It had a 300 HP 350 small block with a Rochester Quadrajet and true dual exhausts (headers and side pipes when I first got it, but the folks at the inspection station did not like those pipes!) It had a chrome Hurst shifter with a big white 8-ball for the Muncie Rock Crusher 4-speed on the floor.   Man, stepping on that clutch was a workout for the left leg!

The great thing about that car was what happened when you pointed down the road and stomped on the gas. (The Loud Pedal as my father called it on occasion.) There was a fantastic roar from the dual exhausts and a huge hand seemed to push through the leather bucket into your lower back as you tried to control it all going down the road. I had that thing over 100 mph several times and it was exhilarating but did it ever shake! It was a rush but I always felt that if I had just hit a potato chip on the road the whole thing would have disintegrated like a NASA space probe re-entering Earth’s atmosphere at the wrong angle! Ah, yes and then there were all those times when I turned the key and no sound came forth save for the key-ring jangling against the column! The Plastic Bullet, The Shake and Rattle King, Plastic Fantastic –gotta love those old Corvettes. Below is a picture of my 1969 Corvette Stingray.

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Sorry if you were expecting something about the famous Ventura Freeway that runs East-West north of L.A.   Actually, The Working Stiff has blasted down that road to Pasadena once upon a time at questionable speeds in a convertible ‘Stang, but that’s another story!


The Working Stiff

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