It worked. It worked like a magical charm! Give me a moment, I’m tearing up here…First and foremost, big thanks to the salesmen at Ford of Kirkland for letting MotorSpaceNW take a spin in the 2010 Mustang GT. That's one small step for bloggers and one giant leap for MotorSpace.
“Do you have a card?” the Sales Guy asked. I reminded him of the blogger title and he asked for a driver’s license and proof of insurance instead. I handed them over thinking that my three year-old bearded ID picture would be enough to queer the deal, but instead he tossed me the keys to the Mustang GT on display at the dealership’s main entrance and told me to start her up while he checked my credentials.
I felt like I was robbing a bank, naked, and getting away with it.
For the next five minutes I sat in the idling car by myself, listening to the bubbling V8 and pinning the clutch firmly to the floor with the emergency brake pulled taught as I realized it had been close to six years since I had driven a manual; the last one had been the three-speed in my dad’s 1948 Willy’s Jeep.
Luckily it was a hot day and my sweating didn't appear entirely out of the ordinary when the sales guy hopped into the passenger seat. He cranked up the ice-cold air-conditioning without pause and began to happily discuss the GT's various features while I pondered who would cover the damage in case of an accident and tried to memorize the transmission pattern off the top of the gearshift.
Letting the clutch out ever so carefully, we inched out into the lunch hour traffic and were forced to stop immediately, shoehorned in a jammed line of cars.
“You want to take it out on the freeway, right?” Sales Guy asked.
Considering the clutch work involved with our current situation, a trip out on the interstate sounded quite appealing.
“Yes, yes I do,” I responded.
“Go ahead and get on her a little bit then,” Sales Guy said.
We grumbled into the mouth of the next onramp and a near quarter mile of clear roadway came into focus over the muscular hood - All of a sudden it all made sense again. I quit trying to nurse the GT and began mashing my feet, left right, left right, accelerator clutch, accelerator clutch like I was in a grape stomping competition to save my life. The GT loved it and began to roar with fits of ecstasy as the short throws of her 5-speed moved through the motions with wonderful pulls of giddy power. It was all I could do not to squeal like a small girl - thank God for muscle memory.
“Slow down now” Sales Guy commanded.
Uh oh, there was a highway patrol car parked barely one hundred yards ahead of us on the shoulder with a speed gun cocked out his window creating an invisible finish line to the fun. A glance down at the gauges revealed we were barely spinning enough RPM's to stay in fifth gear but already doing close to 75mph in a 60mph zone. Dropping down to 58 as we passed the cop’s beam it was obvious that the GT was designed for trouble, but that only made it all the more fun.
Back at the Ford of Kirkland lot, I backed the GT tenderly into her display position and thanked the sales guy profusely for the ride. He was much obliged, and like the rest of the staff at Ford of Kirkland, a very nice person and very good at his job. After all, Ford of Kirkland is the # 1 volume retail Ford dealership in the state and the same good folks that let MotorSpace test drive five of their new vehicles several weeks beforehand in support of a charity event. (1)
With one notch in my belt and the rediscovered ability to operate a manual transmission I was feelin’ like I could handle another hundred horsepowers or so and sauntered down the road to Rairdon Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep. Out in their front corral sat two of the prettiest bulls you ever did see: the 425hp Dodge Challenger SRT8, one yellow, one red, both with racing stripes.
But there was more trouble to come. I barely made it in the showroom before I realized this was going to be a much different game then Ford of Kirkland had been. A disoriented Vietnam War veteran was ringing a sales bell while telling a story about being called a “baby killer.”
It was an interesting tale, but I couldn’t be sure if he had actually bought a car or was merely being humored by the dealership staff. His slurred speech and disheveled appearance suggested the latter, but I believed him when he said he had in fact SAVED quite a few babies through his military service. I took a liking to his positive attitude.
The next thing I noticed was the top of the sales desk was taller than my eyeballs placing the salesmen who sat at it nearly nine feet above the ground where I stood. Three men starred down at me from their perch like Supreme Court justices holding the keys to the SRT8s. I approached the bench and pleaded my case. They eyed the digital camera and mini-notepad bulging from my jean pockets and immediately my story came under fire.
One of the judges threw down two easy questions I suspected were lengths of rope I might hang myself with:
1. I was the reporter from the local newspaper that had clearance to come by and ask questions about business and cars and such, right?
No, I explained I was a blogger from The Spokesman-Review's MotorSpaceNW, here on assignment to test-drive muscle cars for a comparison story. Ford of Kirkland had already let me drive their new GT.
2. “Oh, the new blue one they just got in?”
No, the one I drove was gold, and parked out by the front entrance. Now I wanted to drive the SRT8.
“Well I don’t have a problem with it,” the headman at the counter concluded. He called down for one of the salesmen to give me a hand, but it turned out to be a guised flanking maneuver.
“So you’re going to actually buy a car today, right?” Sales Guy #2 came out of nowhere and was right in my face, obviously drawing a line in the linoleum.
“No, I’m going to WRITE about how you sell me a car,” I said.
It was an honest answer to a fair question. #2 processed the situation internally... walked in an odd zigzag pattern about the dealership floor… and disappeared completely into the black hole of an office door.
Several moments later he emerged with the keys to a 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8, the red one.
But #2 wasn’t ready to let me behind the wheel of the fiery beast just yet. Instead he unlocked the Challenger's passenger door, took the driver’s seat for himself and explained that “you had better be ready” when you drop the hammer on a 6.1 liter Hemi. It was best I didn't know he was about to illustrate his point.
Several seconds outside of the dealership, without warning, #2 tore through three cataclysmic gears and launched us into another reality.
Instead of a roar, the engine barked the sounds of a hell beast jacked full of PCP with each pop of the clutch. In it’s madness the fiery SRT8 mistook the horizon for a Jesus Bunny scared from the brush by the demon's thunderous rage. We were going to chase it down even if it killed us all.
I squealed like a small girl, and that part of me died forever.
#2 mashed the brakes as the flash of a red traffic light brought us back up to earth. In control again, he veered off into the parking lot of a Comfort Inn to switch seats with me.
Now it was my turn.
I killed it coming out of the parking lot.
Bah! Foiled by another manual! This time by a six-peed pistol grip coated with the salty palm sweat of Lucifer’s tour guide.
But #2 wasn’t surprised or disappointed. In fact he didn’t seem to care at all, not even when I killed it again several blocks later. Instead, he let me motor about the area until I got the hang of it and then suggested that we hop on the freeway for a while. And that I pull a bit more to the left on the gear shift when starting from a stop because it's easier to get moving out of 1st than 3rd.
“On a six speed, everything is tighter to the left than a five speed, you know what I mean?” he asked.
I did. Keeping that in mind, I managed to rip off several quick shifts of my own.
“They’re ya go!” #2 applauded.
He turned out to be an all right guy so it didn't bother me in the slightest we he tried to convince me to trade in my Dodge Dynasty for a new car when we returned to the dealership. Bloggers can't afford such transactions. He understood. I thanked him for the ride and headed out to the nearest Chevy dealership to slay the final dragon on the list: the 2010 Chevy Camaro SS – King of the modern day muscle car.
And that’s where this story ends, because Lee Johnson Chevrolet didn’t have a single SS on the lot that hadn’t already been sold.
“It’s good news for GM” Sales Guy #3 told me.
Well its good news for MotorSpace too, Mister, because that means our muscle car conquest isn’t over just yet.
Mark my words: MotorSpaceNW will test drive the new Camaro SS before the year's through.
And probably some other cars as well. Because apparently that sort of thing is possible for us now.
(“Ford of Kirkland Test Drive Event”)