The grass crunches under foot on a frosty fall morning as I inch closer. Abandoned in the back yard of an empty house sits a 1980-82 Corvette showing its age and bearing the scars inflicted by life’s travails.
A cold silence fills this lonely country field as the dawn’s light trickles on the disco-era Vette. I mark the moment, trying to savor the odd satisfaction mixed with sadness that my car-spotting adventures always bring me. Even though this later C3 doesn’t top my list of favorite Corvettes, today I find a strange connection to this car.
The 1980 Corvette’s flabby face still hints at the sleek, muscular lines of the original ’68 Mako Shark II design. Earlier that morning as I shaved, I felt the same way upon gazing at the middle-age man’s face looking back at me. The same chiseled jawline and steely blue eyes of my rebellious youth were there, albeit hiding amid a double chin and baggy eyelids. My complexion mottled by dark spots, just like the paint on this aged sports car.
Such metaphors constantly fill my mind, a side effect from being a life-long daydreamer. I give into my wandering thoughts and soon picture my own life experiences on the tattered fiberglass body of my latest archeological discovery.
Once this was a gleaming white symbol to glorify an era celebrating the individual. Its larger front and rear ends exaggerating those C3 curves in almost comical proportions. Just as it debuted in 1980, the world was changing fast, a new decade dawned and minivans, front-wheel drive and European-influence designs would make these disco-era Vettes look like ridiculous dinosaurs. Its day was over already.
Much like my own Generation X, I see these cars as a relic caught between two more-influential models. The early chrome-bumpered, third-generation Corvettes epitomized the muscle car era with big-block power and cutting-edge styling. (Baby Boomers). The fourth-gens reintroduced high performance, added computer-controlled technology and became one of the best handling cars of the 1980s. (Millennials). I gaze upon this broken old Vette and see my own middle-age malaise staring back at me. Not old enough to be a celebrated collector car, not young enough to perform like a modern sports car.
And then there are other reminders of life’s journey. The cracked bodywork and windshield bear evidence to the three-decade-long trip through an indifferent world. An aftermarket 1978 Z28-style hood sadly illustrates a last-ditch effort to retain some sort of youthful image and resist time’s forward march of fashion. I can’t buy any article of clothing these days without the brief thought flashing through my mind: Does this look absurd on a man my age?
At age 45, part of me feels very much like this little Vette. I bear the scars and imperfections that come with age. I still wear the styling once popular in my youth. And today I find myself alone, in a sun-dappled field at dawn searching for a new meaning, a new direction, to life.
— Michael Gouge