By Craig Hastings
Christmas Eve 2020, we’re one hour away from Christmas Day, and I’m driving my son’s Mustang around town as a light dusting of snow is covering the roads. Lukas is still quarantined under the Graduated Driver’s License program’s curfew regulations so he had me drop him off at a friend’s house. Shannon wanted to drive around town and look at the homes decorated with Christmas lights and the Mustang was already warm inside so it was the obvious choice. Okay my brethren 60’s and 70’s gearhead followers you’ll remember this well. Remember driving our hot rods around on the winter-touched roads here in Tuscola? Remember even when you had the very best Goodyear Polyglas GT bias belted tires, Mickey Thompson Indy Profile bias belted tires, or the infamous Firestone Wide Oval bias belted tires? Now, remember how worthless these tires were even on lightly snow covered roads!? Not only were bias belted tires horrible riding tires on a good day, the sidewalls will get hard as a rock below freezing temperatures. Remember when I said earlier, “when you had the very best…?” Well of course we didn’t have the best because we were always spinning the back tires until the tread was gone. Then we moved the fronts to the back and repeated the same stupid behavior as before! Then in 1974 a miracle happened. The new age of the radial tire was born and bias tires disappeared faster than ice cream on a sidewalk in June.
So is this Mustang I’m driving around town with a little snow sticking to the roads is sliding all over the place right? Absolutely not! This car has a good set of today’s radial tires and traction control! Traction control? Yeah it’s one of those computer things. It brakes either back tire that might lose traction on a slippery surface correcting loss of control. What if both wheels are spinning? Then the computer cuts engine power so the wheels slow rotation down accordingly. In our 60’s and 70’s hot rods we had something we called posi-traction, limited slip, anti-spin rear differentials which all operated on the same principal. We might have thought that this would be the fix all to all winter weather driving but it wasn’t. Posi was a great advantage to have over the car you were racing in a straight line that didn’t have it but, on a slippery surface, not much help. Add to that we only had worthless bias belted tires available to us back then.
Driving this Mustang tonight I couldn’t even get this thing to lose control turning a corner. With traction control on it was hard to get this car loose; I tried. What to do in order to take a trip down memory lane? Muscle Car memory lane, my favorite. If you know your newer car you’re driving then you know that somewhere there is a little button that allows the driver to turn the traction control off. So I did. At the push of a button it was if I was back in the winter of 1975 riding shotgun in Jake’s 66 Mustang! What a difference 50 years makes in the evolution of the Ford Mustang! Tonight it’s winter, I’m in a warm as I want Mustang, this Mustang will not fall off the road or change lanes on it’s own from an out of control slide, and even though it’s a turbocharged four cylinder, automatic transmission, it’s fast should I choose to go fast. In Jake’s car in the winter of 1975, it’s warm inside only if the heater is running full blast, his car will only stay straight on the road if it’s parked, and even though it’s a 289 4bbl with a 4 speed transmission, it’s not very fast even if the roads were dry. LOL, sorry Jake, had to do it! By comparison my 1973 Road Runner was also slow compared to this Mustang but, at least my heater worked well!
So for a few passes around town I shut the traction control off and enjoyed the good old days when a driver actually had to know how to drive to avoid slip-sliding around. I didn’t do 360 donuts on any roads like I used to, but starting from a stopped position on the snowy road was fun. How spoiled we have become in our cars. The upside is we’ve become so much safer because traction control and anti-lock braking keep us from making the mistakes that get us hurt in an accident. Whatever it takes to get that trip down memory lane count me in even if it means I might get cold.
What did I see tonight driving around Tuscola in search of the “wow” Christmas lights? Well first and foremost is Tuscola’s very own South Main Street! Does it get any better anywhere in a town our size? I think not. The Ironhorse subdivision is always a good neighborhood to drive. This was my boys favorite destination when they were little every Christmas season to see Christmas lighting. There were a few pockets of neighborhood lighting in various parts of town. Parkview subdivision was the go to place when I was a kid. It still has a few but nothing like twenty-thirty years ago. Prairie View subdivision had quite a few homes that were worth the trip. If you still have some “kid” left in you like I do, you’ll just have to criss-cross drive around looking for glow to find those homes still preparing for the coming of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve!
We were out a little over an hour tonight. Because I was born and raised here I have an advantage over Shannon. Even though Tuscola may not be lit up at Christmas like it used to be, I remember as I drive around town even if those go to homes have sold and are now dark at Christmas. With all of the Christmas lights we did see, there is one area that beats all of the Christmas lighting and it’s every night. I say this all the time and I’m repeating myself again tonight. The Rt. 36 corridor from east to west is the most amazing light show you could ever want to see if you live here and it just keeps getting better! Check out the Love’s property from atop I 57! Incredible! Happy New Year to all of you!