Tires for the TA

  • November 7, 2023

When an 8 ounce package of butter costs almost $6, it seems extravagant to spend $400 on a pair of tires for a car that mostly just sits. But next year, an 8 ounce package of butter is probably going to cost $10 and that pair of new tires for the Orange Barchetta – my 1976 Pontiac Trans-Am – will probably cost $600.

It’s entirely possible neither the butter nor the tires will be available – at any price. Ask someone who lived through the old Soviet Union and they’ll tell you what it was like to not be able to get anything you wanted or needed because the state had become the arbiter of what you were allowed to have (and of what was allowed to be produced).

It seems evident we’re going to know exactly what that’s like, as America transitions into a state very much like that which obtained in the old Soviet Union.

So I decided to get the pair of rear tires the Barchetta has been sorely in need of for some time – and not solely because they are almost bald (a recurrent problem when you own an old rear-drive muscle car, especially one with a 455 cubic inch V8 up front). The ones it’s wearing are also old – a problem that arises when you own an old muscle car that only burns rubber once in awhile. The Barchetta – which I’ve owned for 30 years – mostly sits. The upside is a set of tires lasts decades. The downside is it’s not sound policy to drive an old muscle car seriously on decades’ old tires.

Like us, tires get old. Like us, as they age, they get tired. They even get wrinkly, sometimes. As in cracks along what used to be the smooth surface of the sidewall, as the rubber ages and dries out – not unlike our skin. And then there’s the aging you can’t see. The interior deterioration of the tire’s structure. Also of a piece with the gradual deterioration of our internals. With the difference being that when the aging tire fails, it might be at 70 MPH – or in mid-corner.

Is not spending $400 you probably ought to be saving up for better worth losing your classic car?

Such are the dilemmas faced by an American dealing with the current state of things.

I thought about it a great deal and ended up deciding to get the tires now – and not just because I might not be able to afford them (or get them) later. There is also the matter of being able to safely drive the Barchetta. Of what use would it be if all it could do was remind me – visually – of that better, vanished time?

I need more than that, to deal with this time.

Some people drink. Sometimes I do, too. Some people meditate or exercise. There are many things one can do to forget the times we live in. But I need something that rails against the times we live in – and that thing is a bright orange ’76 Trans-Am with a 455 cubic inch V8 and no catalytic converters spitting aromatic hydrocarbons through a pair of chrome splitter exhaust tips.

The TA – and cars like it – are the antidote to these times and everything they stand for. Preserving them in life is far more important than keeping vigil over their memory. Reading about them, seeing pictures in books . . . it’s something. But it’s also like thumbing through an album of old family photos and remembering the past. I’d rather go out and punch a hole into the future – and you can’t do that if all you can do is look.

So, the new tires are coming. And that means the Barchetta will soon be rolling!

. . .

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