Monday, January 19, 2015

Event: Golden Era Motors

Growing up in Southern California, an absolute paradise for the automotively obsessed, I had a lot of exposure to a pretty broad variety of cars. Our neighbor across the street in my childhood hometown had an old 1940s era Ford sedan that he worked on periodically in his garage. Another neighbor just down the block had a classic 60s era Camaro that I am not sure ever ran during the more than a decade we lived in that cul-de-sac. Of course, I also grew up on a steady diet of Knight Rider episodes and became a huge fan of shows like Miami Vice and even the later Nash Bridges (yes, the Don Johnson connection was intentional there) that featured some of the coolest cars you could find on television. I even freely admit to being a fan of the Nicholas Cage remake of the classic movie Gone in 60 Seconds, mostly because it was so much car porn.

With a history like that, you can imagine I would jump at the chance to drive a classic American muscle car. The opportunity is a rare one, so when I read that Golden Era Motors was touring the country with a collection of classic American iron, there was no way I was going to pass up on the opportunity.

Booking for a Saturday midday, I figured that it would be a bit less busy and give me a chance to chat with the team running the event. I recruited West Brother to join me for the experience.

When we arrived at the K1 Speed location in Irvine, the Golden Era Motors trailer parked on the side of the building and a guy in a blue company polo was directing and greeting guests as they arrived. Most of the cars were out in the hands of customers, but one lone Mustang sat in the shade, hanging out all by itself. We walked up and quickly got checked in, having made sure to bring with us the requisite insurance and liability waiver, and were told that the '71 Dodge Challenger we had booked was still out but that it would be back soon. In the meantime, we hung out in the shade provided by the trailer and chatted with Tyler,the owner of Golden Era Motors.

As a former S2000 owner, Tyler was particularly excited when we pulled up in West Brother's Laguna Blue Pearl version. Of course, as we would soon discover, Tyler had quite the automotive resume, including a '65 AC Cobra that he sold to get seed money for Golden Era Motors. The man is a certifiable car nut and it shows in the collection he has assembled as a part of his traveling circus of classic cars. The GEM collection that is currently on tour includes the aforementioned '71 Dodge Challenger sporting a big block Hemi, that Mustang that had been sitting when we arrived, a Camaro, a Corvette Stingray, and a Pontiac GTO.

Each of the cars appears to be meticulously maintained and the staff does ask that all customers try to take care of the cars for them. Since many customers are like me and have never driven a car this old, the staff also takes care to make sure everyone is aware of some basic operating principles, such as the fact that manual steering and drum brakes are not as easy to use as the power steering and disc brakes that are standard equipment in modern cars. Before each experience, a photographer takes pictures of customers with the car they'll be driving so that they can have a keepsake when the experience is done. Once the customer is fully strapped in and ready, they can disappear in a wave of noise and exhaust.

When the Challenger finally returned, fully warmed up thanks to the extended drive that the customers before us has decided to take, we got strapped in and briefed and quickly got underway to enjoy our all too brief time with the car. We had the Gold Package, which offered us 25 miles or 75 minutes (whichever came first), but options are available for more or less time and mileage. If you exceed the mileage or time limit, then you can pay a la carte for the overage, though a recommended route is provided to help keep you within the limits. Surprisingly, 25 miles through adjacent Newport Beach, including at least a few miles trekking through the tiny coastal town of Costa Del Mar, is incredibly fitting for the experience. Cruising in a classic muscle car down the Pacific Coast Highway is one of those things every car enthusiast, perhaps even every Californian, should experience at some point in their lives. And while this area is rife with uber high dollar exotics, an eggplant purple classic Challenger somehow manages to attract far more attention.

Bringing the car back, both West Brother and I had ridiculous smiles plastered on our faces. Sitting in this rattling deathtrap that lacks any semblance of modern automotive safety equipment, the entire car shaking to the beat of the massive motor under the hood, it is hard not to feel a bit like the brothers in the Dukes of Hazard or even Vin Diesel in the Fast and Furious movies. The sensation is both new and nostalgic at the same time, but there is absolutely no doubt that it is hilariously good fun.
The Golden Era Motors team will be in the LA area for the next couple of weekends, until February 1, and there are still slots available if you hurry. This is an opportunity not to be missed if you have fond memories of owning one of these classics or if you just grew up watching them on TV like I did. The nominal fee of admission is absolutely worth the laughs.

Thanks to Tyler and Max for the opportunity and for offering the opportunity to a whole different generation of car enthusiasts. We hope they have great success in their endeavor and safe travels for the rest of their tour. Visit them at to get more information and book your classic muscle car experience.

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