LAUREN BRANT: Cruising in the ’64 Vette, learning to drive a Muncie
SCOTTSBLUFF — As the 31st annual Sugar Valley Rally approaches at the end of this month, preparation to cruise in my dad’s 1964 Chevy Corvette Stingray brings back memories of our times driving the car. While neither of us have participated in a rally before, it is sure to be an adventure and one of our fondest memories in the car.
Reflecting on our experiences with the Corvette brings about memories of our Saturday car shows and Sunday night cruises to Sonic for ice cream, but the most memorable was learning to drive the Muncie on the side of a mountain.
My parents and I had recently moved to Canon City, Colorado, and with my interest in hunting dropping, my dad decided to find a new hobby — cars.
Two houses up from ours, the owner of a fawn-colored 1964 Chevy Corvette placed a for sale sign in the car’s window. With a newly built garage empty, my dad purchased the Corvette as his first antique in his collection. After the money was transferred and with the title in hand, we rolled down the street and into the garage.
My dad and I would spend evenings driving up and down the streets in our neighborhood of Dawson Ranch, but we quickly learned before we left, I would need to braid my hair, otherwise it would be in knots from the wind by the time we came home.
One day, we were driving up the upper loop of the neighborhood when my dad suddenly stopped the car and pulled the emergency break. As he got out of the car, he looked at me and asked, “Do you want to drive?”
I had no idea how to drive a stick, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard.
With one foot on the clutch and the other on the brake, I released the emergency brake and began to push the gas. The car started jerking back and forth until it suddenly died and we started rolling backward. I slammed on the brakes and looked at my dad in terror. I dumped the clutch and had killed the engine from a lack of gas.
Turning the key in the ignition, I tried again and every time my dad and I jerked back and forth in the seat as we made our way backwards down the hill. After multiple failed attempts, we switched seats and my dad drove to the top of the hill.
Since shifting into gear going down hill was more forgiving, my dad let me take over driving down so I could get a feel for the clutch. As I started to gain some confidence, I came to a stop sign. While the Corvette jerked a couple times as I accelerated through the intersection, it was not half as bad as my attempt going up the hill.
After driving around the bottom loop of the neighborhood, I headed back up to the house. Just before we reached the driveway, my dad waved me on to keep going up the street. He wanted me to make it up the hill where we started. I was confident this time would be easier, since I had momentum on my side, but then my dad told me to stop about the same spot we were at before. As I looked into the rear view mirror at the road veering off around a house, I was determined not to go backwards.
Moving the Muncie 4-speed into first gear, I pushed on the gas pedal while slowly releasing the clutch. As the car started to buck, my dad told me to give it more gas. The shaking stopped and the car began moving uphill. My dad and I looked at each other smiling as we cruised up the hill and I had figured out the feathering of the clutch and gas pedals in the Vette.