2009 makeovers of the Camaro and SRX could cause riots on the road
As we zero in on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots when gays and lesbians decided to fight back, it’s instructive to think of how far we’ve come — not just in our rights, but in our style. Just as we have less free shaggin’ and more precaution, our cars have evolved from groovy freedom machines to digital speed lasers.
1969 was a time of grizzly bear Cadillacs and sexy young Camaros. I once had a love affair with a ’69 Sedan DeVille. It was gold, scary, and created turbulence with Willy’s fins. A little old lady had owned it, and kept plastic over the brocade bench seats. Priced at $2,300, it only had 48,000 miles. My dad laughed, said it wouldn’t fit in the garage, and told me to keep driving my Geo Spectrum. I still have a fondness for Cadillacs.
That fondness extends to the SRX crossover, due in re-designed form this August. It is a bold design with a large eggcrate grille and iconic vertical headlamps. Projector beams articulate with the steering wheel and are outlined with white light tubes. Twenty-inch wheels fill their wells and give the SRX an athletic stance; strong shoulderlines end as they should on all Cadillacs — in tall extended-fin taillamps, also enhanced with light tubes for a profile as recognizable as a Rolls-Royce grille.
There’s no brocade inside this Caddy, whose cabin blends precision acoustics and climate control with hand-sewn dash coverings and elegant ambient lighting. It also features a pop-up navigation screen, power liftgate and Bluetooth compatibility for hands-free calling.
Imagining a future Cadillac wagon with all-wheel-drive would have initiated riotous laughter forty years ago. That’s all right; the SRX will blow a ’69 DeVille into the weeds with its 265-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine. Next year, it will receive a 300-HP 2.8-liter turbo V6 from Europe.
A 1969 Cadillac wafted comfortably over Gen. Eisenhower’s Interstate system. While that Caddy had much over my living room, it wasn’t especially fun to drive. The SRX’s chassis will amaze, absorbing rough pavement and killing curves without turning soft. If you’re expecting traditional Caddy float, drift on.
Nobody bought a Cadillac in the old days for sporting performance. For that, they bought Chevy Camaros. (Two teams competed to create the new one’s iconic shape.) One team sculpted an outstanding Camaro, clearly inspired by the original ’69. However, GM V.P. of Design Ed Wellburn chose the more extreme "Studio X" concept that was unveiled at the 2006 Detroit auto show.
Dynamic proportions take the essence of the ’69 Camaro, including round headlamps, grille, Coke bottle bodysides and quad rear lamps but reinterprets them in an entirely modern way. The design should please longtime Camaro enthusiasts as well as a new generation who only saw originals at car shows. It came directly from Korean designer, Sangyup Lee.
Round gauges in square wells, deep-dish steering wheel, and quad auxiliary gauges by the gearshift endear drivers to the classics while Bluetooth and Boston Acoustics audio with USB iPod connection are totally today. A convertible will arrive by 2011.
The ’69 Camaro ZL1 pumped 430 gross horsepower; the most potent new edition produces 426 net horsepower from a 6.2-liter V8 (a 400-HP version is available). It will spring from 0â€“60 mph in 4.6 seconds, blow through triple digits like a firestorm, and turn in 16/25-mpg city/highway.
I prefer the base model’s 304-HP 3.6-liter V6 connected to a six-speed manual transmission. The Cadillac-derived engine produces 74 more ponies than the famed ’89 IROC-Z. Fuel economy is rated 18/29-mpg city/highway.
The old Camaros are great, but they don’t come with an independent rear suspension, anti-lock disc brakes or StabiliTrak. Light steering and a willing chassis make for a whole curvy, hilly road of fun. Journalists opened things up on Wisconsin farm roads during the introduction, leaving farmers’ wives wide-eyed and ready for aliens to arrive, the second coming, or likely both.
**image3***Whether you see these cars in Greenwich Village or lapping Germany’s famed Nurburgring, they will remind you of a time gone by in a way that makes you sure they’ve come a very long way. In slightly inflated 2009 dollars, you’ll pay at least $35,000 for the SRX and $23,040 for a Camaro. There’s no need to riot — unlike in 1969, Cadillac and Chevrolet will welcome you like a sister.
DRIVER’S SEAT: BRIAN NESBITT
Who are you? Brian Nesbitt
How do you pay the bills? I am a music producer and owner of January Sound Studio.
What kind of car do you drive? A 2008 Honda Element SC, in Royal Blue Pearl.
What was your last car? A 1996 Chevy Camaro convertible.
Whoa — isn’t that kind of a straight guy car? All of my friends said my car was more butch than me.
Buy or lease? Leased back in October because I wanted the option of getting something new in a few years if the Element didn’t "fit" me.
Where’d you buy it from? D&M Auto Leasing did the lease but I took delivery from Lute Riley Honda.
What would we find in your car’s passenger seat or trunk? Some magazines, a case of Ozarka water, an empty Starbucks Frappuccino bottle.
Do you have road rage? Does screaming "Douchebag!" at the top of my lungs count?
Does your car have a name? I haven’t named it yet — maybe a Dallas Voice write-in campaign is in order to help me pick one!
How many miles so far? Around 6,000. I travel a lot by air so the-as-yet-unnamed-car is mainly for getting around town.
What’s the sexiest moment involving you and your car? Haven’t had any in this car —yet! I’ll let you know after I test out laying the seats all the way back.
Do you text during school zones? I’m not a big fan of texting and driving —it’s kind of hard on the iPhone.
Why this car? I was looking for something that wasn’t a convertible. They are good in theory, but lousy in the hot Texas summers. I also needed something with a little more room for luggage, keyboards, guitar amps and whatever else I have tried to put unsuccessfully into the back seat of a Camaro. It certainly makes hauling the bodies around a lot easier. . . . oops, did I say that out loud?
Ideal road trip: where, with whom, how long? Funny you should ask. I’m thinking of heading to West Texas soon with a friend of mine to visit a mutual buddy of ours. We might drive on over to Albuquerque/Santa Fe after that to visit my old stomping grounds for a few days.
Where would we see your car the most? Hmmm . . . . more often than not you can find it down in Deep Ellum or Lower Greenville, although lately I’ve been in the gayborhood a little more often.
What is your worst habit while driving? Screaming "Douchebag!" at the top of my lungs.
What’s in your music player now? The final master of The Felons’ new disc "At Sea" that I produced. I’ve been giving it the once over since it goes to duplication this week. And I’ve been listening to Jay Brannan a lot lately too in anticipation of his upcoming show at The Loft.
What is your dream car? Any car with a hot guy in it!
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2009.