I come from an age when cars had bucket seats, stick shifts, double-barreled carburetors and no air conditioning.
These were the days when cooling the inside of an automobile robbed horsepower from those mighty mills that hurled us like rockets through the muggy nights of South Carolina summers.
I grew up when cars were more than transportation. They were symbols of a society possessed with power, when speed limits were subtle suggestions, when seat belts were for sissies and nobody ever got arrested for driving under the influence of obsession.
Those were the days when cars had names like GTO, 442, Sport Fury, Mustang, 409, Road Runner, SS 396, Cobra, Camaro, Challenger, Barracuda, Firebird, Trans Am, Superbird, GTX, Charger and Hemi.
It was an era of cheap gas, hood scoops, lake pipes, speed shifting, drag racing, mag wheels and growling, guttural sounds that would wake you up in the middle of the night and make you want to leave home.
Today, people consider doing 80 on the interstate pushing the limits, and they are right. Speed kills. We have the statistics and cemeteries to prove it.
How we survived the 1960s while roaring down those dark, rural, narrow, farm-to-market roads is a miracle that can only be explained by God's soft spot for fools.
But speed was a fact of life and death in those days. It was glorified in the manufacture of muscle cars and elevated to a sport on race tracks around the South, where our heroes spun their way through catastrophic crashes and walked away, lit up a cigarette and kissed the beauty queen.
Such were role models in those devil-may-care days.
A deer's breath
I remember one summer night, high on humidity, when we were driving faster than our headlights could pierce the darkness, when telephone poles flew by like fence posts, the driver had one hand on the gear shift, was using the other to light up a smoke, the speedometer was pegged, and we were still accelerating.
With all the insight of a 16-year-old, I thought I was finally living, when in reality I was a deer's breath from dying.
Having survived such a reckless youth, I now drive with both hands on the wheel, reasonably close to the speed limit, seat belt securely fastened, eyes on my mirrors, scanning all directions for somebody who looks like me when I didn't know better.
But I must admit, when a hot car rumbles by, I still want to roll down the windows, let my hair catch the rushing wind and leave the air-conditioned, airbag world of modern cars in the dust.