Is Your Car Visceral?
"Visceral" is a word that goes all the way back to the days of the ancient Romans. Over the past few thousand years, its descriptive meaning has been modified several times, and finally, the current agreed-upon definition seems to be, "Affecting inward feelings." So, were those early Romans visceral about their chariots, and does your car produce a visceral reaction in you? When you look at your muscle machine, does it affect your inward feelings? During the 1940s, visceral was popularly used in the art world to describe how a viewer reacted to the modernist artwork of the day.
The next time you attend a car show, think in terms of the visceral. If the word's definition is accurate, then when you leave the show, you should be muttering, "Wow!" "Cool." "Yuck!" "Ugly." "Whoa!" etc. Those are definitely expressions of automotive "visceral-ness." Which is probably not a real word, but you get the idea. You can develop your ability to sense the visceral by looking at the car(s) in your own garage. Once I nailed down the meaning of the word, I turned on the garage lights and experienced my first real blast of the conscious visceral: I wanted to hug them! Is that visceral enough for you? Go ahead, put down this magazine, go to the garage, truly look at your car(s) and experience your own "inner feelings."
I think there are positive and negative visceral feelings. Positive visceral feelings occur, for example, when you feel so happy that your muscle car is clean and running great, while you experience a negative visceral response when it has been sitting all winter, and it's dusty and needing some TLC. You're reacting viscerally to your mechanical artwork.
I have a friend who owns a nice collection of restored GM muscle cars. He usually buys those listed for sale as "completely restored," but then proceeds to minutely inspect the car and replace anything that is not perfect. He's visceral about their appearance and consequently very rarely drives them. Would you consider that the bad kind of visceral? Do his inner feelings about each vehicle prevent him from really enjoying the driving experience available from each one? We've all seen articles about mega muscle car collections, all restored and sitting in a museum that's not open to the public. I guess if your greatest enjoyment is simply looking at them, owning them and polishing them, that's a different kind of visceral-ness altogether. But in my book, definitely the bad kind.
Conversely, I would have a really difficult time leaving a barn find muscle car as it was dragged out of storage in Anywhere, USA. After countless years asleep, it would definitely be an original piece of automotive history, but like they say, "A pig with lipstick is still a pig!" I couldn't get good inner feelings about a pig with lipstick, or a seriously ugly half-century-old flat-tired muscle machine. But if it was restored, that's a different story. It doesn't have to be a 100 percent perfect resto, just "as delivered" condition with no lipstick would do nicely.
Past visceral feelings really fuel the hobby. In my case, as with many of you reading this, our original visceral feelings made themselves known when our muscle machines were new. That was when these feelings were the strongest. Then, after many years, the desire to recapture those experiences with them again resulted in our purchasing the same make and model car decades later. Feeling a little visceral now, maybe, for those seemingly carefree days of 50 years ago?
A muscle car you've owned, worked on and preserved for years is really a member of your family. I've said this before, but you can definitely develop sincere feelings for your metal sibling. Several years ago, a friend had his restored '69 big-block Camaro damaged while in a convenience store parking lot. The passenger-side door was severely dented by a teenager, who was not concentrating on the other cars in the lot, and backed into the Camaro. My friend told me he actually cried on the spot when he saw the damage to his beautiful muscle machine. You might call that an overreaction, but think about it for a minute. I completely understood how he felt, and sympathized. I file that under visceral-ness of the first order.
We all have different relationships with our favorite vehicles. I know guys who drive beat-up, ugly pickups and other non-muscle machines who wouldn't trade them for anything. If that pickup were damaged like the aforementioned Camaro, the owner would also be hurt or have negative visceral feelings about the experience. A favorite driver doesn't have to be restored or even pretty, it just has to make you feel comfortable when you drive it, regardless of what others think.
So, when you leave that next car show thinking "Yuck!" or "Ugly!" about some vehicles you saw, remember that the owners of those vehicles feel the same way about them as you do about your restored or original muscle car. Visceral-ness is not only felt for the undeniably beautiful, but for whatever you personally have inner feelings for, regardless of its year, make, model or condition.