Evan J. Smith
May 23, 2014

Next time you slide behind the wheel—stop—pause—and think. Is driving fun for you? The natural answer is yes, unless you’re on some mundane jaunt, or mired in the abyss of rush-hour hell. Having lived in northern New Jersey for a long time (I now live in Tampa, Florida), my old commute was demanding and at times torturous. For too many years I battled gridlock on the New Jersey Turnpike and/or Garden State Parkway during my daily 30-mile (each way) trek. I’m sure many of you feel my pain.

In all fairness, the trip wasn’t always awful—assuming I got out the door before 6:45 a.m. Leaving early, I could skirt the madness (I followed the same route as many heading into Manhattan) and be at my desk by 7:30 a.m. Getting home was not so easy. If I could break free before 4 p.m., I could usually get home without much fuss. Leaving after 4 p.m. it could take an hour, or two, or three, depending on weather conditions and/or a wreck, or just the sheer volume of vehicles occupying the under-designed highways. Did I mention the tolls? Yup, it cost me about $30 a week to traverse the New Jersey highway system! It was highway robbery.

I figure I lost about two hours a day on those roads and I would draw a sigh of relief when I’d make it to work or home without delay. Sitting in traffic is stressful—it beats you down. Anyone who commutes knows this. Over time I grew immune to the loss of my time, but the long hours of painful commuting killed my spirit for driving (amongst other things). It just wasn’t fun anymore. Even driving to the mall or to dinner seemed like a chore.

Thankfully, when MM&FF moved to Tampa, Florida, in 2009, I rejuvenated my love of driving. I now live 10 miles from the office, and on my worst days, the trip takes 30 minutes. I can normally do the drive in 18-22 minutes, depending on how many lights I hit. Seems I hit the commuting lottery.

I wasn’t concerned with lap times—only the sounds, smells, and feel of motoring about—and it was glorious.

Driving is something we should never take for granted. It gives us freedom and control. My commute is especially fun when Roush, Steeda, Shelby, or Ford drops off a Mustang for us to review. For me, the automobile represents freedom to roam wherever I want, when I want, and with the tunes cranking.

Recently, the automotive gratification meter was pegged when I slipped behind the wheel of three highly desirable Fords: a real ’63 Shelby Cobra (the 23rd ever built), a ’65 Shelby GT350, and a ’70 Boss 302—sigh. These three classics (which you can see in action on Mustang-360.com) provided the opportunity to immerse myself in the purity of driving cool cars just for the sake of, well, driving cool cars. I wasn’t concerned with lap times, traffic, or anything other than the sounds, smells, and feel of motoring in a wickedly cool automobile.

So what did I learn? Old cars are raw and have glorious subtleties in the steering, the whine of the transmission gears, and the mechanical goodness of the clutch and shifter. This is in direct contrast to new cars, which are refined, smooth, and trouble-free. Of course, new iron is much safer, offers greatly reduced NVH, and improved economy, but who cares? Drive a car with bias-ply tires, manual brakes and steering, a carburetor, and a four-speed transmission, and you’ll see what I mean. Everyone should experience this, if only for the mechanical feel and sound, and to embrace the overall interaction with the vehicle.

I love cars, Fords especially, and as an enthusiast, it’s my goal to enhance your automotive experience with tech, features, events, videos, and so much more. We love getting behind the wheel and pushing those pedals, both on the street and on the track. I could ramble on and on about driving, but Ford dropped off a 2014 Mustang GT, so I’m shutting down the laptop and heading to Bradenton Motorsports Park for the 20th Annual NMRA Spring Break Shootout.

Where are you going?