As we drove onto the interstate, Jon gave me some details on the car. Rescued from the junkyard, its previous owner had never finished it and, as recounted in the Ride of the Month story, Jon and Melanie had opted to simply get it back on the road, battle scars and all. Since winter, however, the body panels and had been straightened and repainted (the couple owns an automotive business, King's Auto Restoration in Englewood), and the engine had gotten a mild cam, some transmission changes, and a set of BFGoodrich drag radials.
"Get used to it a little," he said with a grin. "Then drive it like you stole it!"
Monday morning traffic was heavy on the highway from Denver, so other than a couple of quick, full-throttle bursts, it was pretty hard to let the engine wind up. We exited the interstate, drove past the entrance to Bandimere Speedway, through the basically deserted town of Morrison, Colorado, and headed for the hills.
Except these weren't hills, they were mountains-real ones. The road was in good shape, but had turns and bends galore. Given the steering and brakes, not to mention the rocks and cliffs with a little foggy mist thrown in for good measure, I kept a tight grip on the steering wheel and stayed pretty near the legal limit as we went up in altitude. Body roll was minimal since I wasn't pushing it hard, and the car was well-behaved when running on just the center carb at 3,000 rpm. The rare air in Denver is said to account for an 18-percent loss in power. When a half-mile stretch of pavement opened up, I finally got a chance to wring it out, based more on Jon's laughing at my driving fear than anything else. After all, he'd told me point-blank the only thing limiting the car's ability was the size of the man's testicles who was driving it. At the first depression of the throttle, you can feel the engine labor for a moment, begging for fuel. Then those outboard carbs kick in. And even with the drag tires, the rear wheels were breaking loose at 50 mph. If it was losing power in the heights, you couldn't tell. The rpm level climbed in earnest, the front danced around a little, and with no traffic in sight, the centerline seemed to be as good as anything to use as a guide. Another 30-mph curve was coming, though, so easing off the gas and pumping the brakes brought the car back down to a more reasonable speed. Jon took another drag on his smoke and muttered, "Oh, man."
We went up a couple more miles, then turned around for the trip back. I was a little embarrassed; hey, the guy had told me to drive it like I had stolen it, and I was acting like my grandma. I wound it out a little more on the way back, nothing serious, and before we got back to the highway again, Jon said, "Turn in here."
The place is a spectacular park, where huge, building-sized boulders jut out of the landscape like something off one of Roger Dean's Yes albums from the '70s. At 8 a.m., the place was deserted, and we wound our way through a series of very narrow, one-lane roads that lead to a natural amphitheater in the center of the park. The mist was lifting, though droplets of moisture remained on the car and the windshield. Jon and I had both shot in-car photos using a digital camera on the earlier uphill jaunt, and now I wanted him to do some sideways acceleration displays on one of the S-curves. He obliged twice, with the car oversteering severely as the tires hopelessly grappled for traction on the damp uphill road. Great stuff for the camera, though. He pulled up after the second one and opened the passenger-side door.
"Get in, I'll show you how to drive this thing!" he said.
Blasts down the dragstrip or flat out on three-lane highways were one thing; careening down one-lane roads in a boulder-strewn park was another. Still, saying no was out of the question; my valor was at stake!