During my senior year in high school, my psychology professor (Mr. Yacavetta, an incredibly effective teacher) had everyone in class create a "20 Things I Want to Do Before I Die" list. At the time it felt like just another page we had to create as part of our "psychology notebook," an ultimately in-depth personal log that was assembled over the course of the semester. Looking back I realize that the process was quite rewarding, both because it forced me to ponder what I valued at that point in my life, and because it provided an interesting mental snapshot of myself as an optimistic, college-bound 18-year-old in 1988.
I still have that psychology notebook, and among my lifelong "to do" list activities was "own a Plymouth Superbird and drive it on the German autobahns." That simple description was actually a shortened version of my ultimate teenage driving fantasy. What I really wanted to do was drive said muscle car under conditions where I could truly utilize its high-speed capabilities, which I imagined to be the autobahn. Beyond the speed potential, I loved the idea of watching Europeans convulse at the sight of a behemoth American muscle car, complete with pointed nose and 3-foot rear wing. In my head I saw myself cruising up next to a (then new) Porsche 928 at around 120 mph, giving the guy ample time to freak out about the Superbird's size and appearance, and then blasting away from him on my way to a solid 150-plus mph.
The Superbird ownership never happened (though I came very close in the fall of 2001), but the idea of having a lifelong automotive "to do" list continues for me. Before I die, there are only a few key cars/motorcycles that I'd genuinely like to own. The Superbird remains among the top five car choices for me, while the motorcycle list is even shorter, which brings up the concept of "how much is too much" in terms of specialty vehicle ownership.
As you may already know, automotive enthusiasts come in many flavors. Some of them get excited about anything with wheels and an internal combustion engine. Others are highly focused. They pick an era or a genre or a country of origin (or a combination thereof) and completely immerse themselves in it, with little-to-no regard for vehicles that fall outside their single-minded realm of interest.
As a certified car/motorcycle nut, I tend to land on the focused side of the spectrum. Over the past decade I've developed a greater knowledge of, and an appreciation for, an increasingly wide range of two- and four-wheeled conveyances. But as it is with most of us, the vehicles that tugged at my heartstrings as a teenager still generate the strongest pull on me. Those vehicles were (and are) classic American performance cars and classic British bikes, with a narrower focus on Dodge/Plymouth muscle cars and BSA/Triumph motorcycles. Not surprisingly, the specific time periods I care about pretty much overlap for both sets of vehicles. For Mopars, it's 1966 through 1974. For BSA/Triumph motorcycles, it's 1968 through 1975.
Does that mean I want one example of each model made during each of these time periods? No, even that approach is too widespread. While I like 1968 Chargers and 1970 GTXs and 1971 'Cudas, I have refined my desire for Mopars down to the aforementioned Plymouth Superbird. While basically just a Road Runner with a nose job and rear wing, the Superbird is, in my humble opinion, the über Mopar Muscle Car. If I ever get one, the rest will suddenly become also-rans and I'll have no further desire to own them. Yes, that includes my current 1970 Plymouth GTX, a car I've had since 1986. I'd probably keep the GTX for sentimental reasons — and because it's still third or fourth on my ultimate Mopar list. But between the Superbird and GTX I'd be done — over — finished with Mopar shopping. Hemi 'Cudas? Challenger T/As? Yes, very cool, but not as cool as a Plymouth Superbird.
Same thing holds true for BSA/Triumph models. Two months ago I purchased a 1975 Triumph Trident off eBay. Like the '70 GTX, I consider the '75 Trident among the top three or four classic motorcycles ever made. There aren't many models I'd rather have, though number one on my list of classic Brit Bikes is the 1973 Triumph Hurricane. Basically a Trident with sweeping bodywork and exotic exhaust pipes, the Hurricane was the product of Craig Vetter and Don Brown. It was designed as a BSA throughout its development and preproduction phase of 1969-1972. But by 1973 BSA no longer existed, and the limited-production Hurricane (less than 1,200 were produced) had to wear a Triumph badge, though many consider it "the last BSA" because of its lineage. You can read all about its creator and development at Craig Vetter's Web site.
As you might have guessed by now, I just bought a 1973 Triumph Hurricane, again off eBay. This one is a museum-quality example with 2,300 miles on the odometer. I'm not even sure if I can, or should, ride it, though my wife has yet to approve the bedroom display idea. But I am sure of one thing — I'm done with classic British motorcycles. I now own the coolest one ever produced — at least in my totally biased opinion.
What about my 1975 Trident T160? Well, that one I can ride, and I just got it back after some minor refurbishment by the local Triumph expert. It is running perfectly (at least today it is). So, as with the GTX-to-Superbird relationship, the Trident makes for a fully functional, slightly mundane (by comparison) counterpart to the Hurricane, though both spring from the same corporate DNA.
Yes, it was a rather expensive purchase, but on the personal "Karl Brauer's vehicles to own before death" list the Hurricane is a major coup. If I ever get the Superbird, I'll be pretty much done with pre-2005 vehicles, leaving only one other post-2004 vehicle to snag before my own humble automotive collection is complete.
Then it's back to comic book collecting (another passion from my teenage years). Anyone out there have a mint copy of X-Men #94 at a reasonable price?