Traffic was wide-open travelling south on I-95
out of New Hampshire, and the deep breathing, long-legged Sport Satellite settled nicely
into into its favorite 100 mile per hour cruising groove. 7.2 liters of displacement
coupled with 3.23 highway gears gave it all the low end torque it needed for handling the
in-town chores, but where the pavement turned long and straight the top-end was limited
only by a somewhat indifferent front suspension,… and nerve. Being young and not
overly-bright meant not having the sense to listen to that spark of reason in my head
because there was competition to be found out here, and I would have it.
I’d meant no harm when the pretty little IROC
Z retreated in my rearview mirror, and frankly I wasn’t interested in wasting gas on an
anemic ghost of a past champion. The showroom Chevy raced up beside me, young boys
crowding its windows, challenging the old MoPar and its driver as they mouthed,
"Let’s go!" Bored but curious, I let the Camaro pull ahead by half a car length,
making sure to keep the nose of the Plymouth right in the corner of the driver’s eye.
Easing up to 120, the Chevy had run out of air, or gears, or perhaps guts, and I casually
gave them a wave as I eased past right before mashing my foot to the floor, leaving them
once again (and finally).
Mustangs also fell by the wayside in the same
manner, and I’d always resented the emasculated Corvette owners who gave some pretense to
racing yet fell back whenever we approached triple digits. Their machine was ‘an
investment’, or ‘a statement’, or anything but the instrument for which it was designed;
to propel a human being at speeds beyond the sanely acceptable. "The car has more
balls than you do," I thought to myself, eyeing the middle-aged, executive type
behind the wheel of what *should* have been some real competition. ‘Cool it down and pack
it up’ was the plan to which I’d resigned myself as I looped around to pick up 128 North
to Cape Ann.
North of Beverly is where the complexion of
Route 128 really changes. The malls and industrial parks are left far behind, as well as
the clots of commuters and extra lanes. Dense and green, the trees grew right up to the
edge of the highway as well as filling the wide median, blocking the view between the
north and southbound lanes. Even at 85 the scene was peaceful, and in my reverie I never
noticed the bright red Porche 911 bearing down on me. Alone on that two lane stretch of
highway, the Porche smoothly negotiated around me and back into the fast lane, checking
his rearview to see if I was willing to give chase.
A slight dip of the nose told him all he need
to know, and in a heartbeat our speedometers registered the news; each of us had found the
challenge we were looking for.
My stock instrument gauge was useless as the
needle swung through 120, pinning itself at the (undesignated) speed of 130, leaving only
the tachometer and some ungodly sound from under the hood to tell the tale. NASCAR racing
was coming to life, and the high-pitched sound of an engine running past six thousand RPM
filled me with visions of pistons punching through the hood. Still the Porche maintained
the lead, and drafting was no longer just a buzzword from the broadcasting booth. The
911’s whale tail opened a pocket for me to slip into, and moving out to pass left me
desperately trying to convince the front-end of the Mighty MoPar that my notion of
direction was worthy of merit.
The road pulled up into a slight rise with a
sweeping right hand turn at its crest, and at 7400 RPM my motor seemed eager for even more
fuel. This was my spot, my only chance to break away from the German fury and prove the
mettle of American iron. Standing between me and victory was a sedate little commuter car
in the right hand travel lane, blithely rolling along at the posted 55 miles per hour.
Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for him), the breakdown lane was just wide enough
for the Plymouth’s bulging rear fenders plus a jelly donut, and with the most careful
input to the steering wheel I could muster, I let the beast drift across the lane,
sheering off distance as I took a radically inside line, aiming for an apex between gravel
and the station wagon’s side molding.
I wondered what the unsuspecting commuter felt
as the two speed demons passed him on either side at nearly the exact moment, but by the
time I’d pulled back into the passing lane in front of the 911 he was nowhere to be seen
in the vibrating mirror. A bit of panic seeped into my brain as I realized that we were
fast approaching traffic ahead at what must have been 165 mph, but both the Porche pilot
and I throttled back and let it go with a friendly wave. Adrenaline rushed through me, my
legs rubbery and jangling as I scrubbed off speed to take my exit, leaving me spent but
elated as I mused, "there’s no replacement for cubic displacement!"