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February 1, 2006

High Octane


We sat at the red light. The engine was purring behind us like a bengal tiger; a guy in Germany had spent a month assembling it. I shifted into first. The sand-blasted aluminum stick felt cool in my hand; the mechanism was crisp and precise. The light turned green.

I pressed down on the accelerator and let the clutch out. The whirring of the gears sounded almost electric and the engine rasped as it sucked in air behind my left ear. I felt the acceleration and watched the tachometer carefully. The needle swung across the dial and hit seventy-two-hundred rpm. I up-shifted into second gear and the revs dropped perfectly to four-thousand rpm: the base of the power-band. We were being propelled through eleven-inch-wide rear tires, on eighteen-inch-diameter titanium rims.

The engine howled as we hit the red-line again. I up-shifted to third, re-engaged the engine and the tachometer again dropped exquisitely back to four-thousand rpm, ready for the next push. My heart was thumping. I continued to run the engine up to red-line before shifting: fourth, fifth, sixth. The gearing was perfect.

I checked the speed and then shouted, "We're at a-hundred-and-twenty." My foot was on the accelerator and our speed was increasing. I checked ahead and saw that we were approaching another set of lights; they were turning red. I decided to stop. I held off a little while; a little longer; a little bit longer.

I started to press the brake pedal, pushing the four-piston calipers onto the fourteen-inch-diameter, cross-drilled, ventilated discs. I felt the massive deceleration. I kept it in sixth gear and watched the speed drop rapidly as I applied the brakes smoothly and progressively. We approached the lights: sixty, fifty, forty, and then thirty. The tires lost traction and we slid to a halt at the line while I pushed in the clutch.

I turned to my friend. He looked at me. Amazed and slightly shocked, he said, "I've never been so fast in a car before!" And then he said, "And it's a convertible!"

"I totally love this Duncan, and know how it feels ... Speed is gorgeous. I began a show at Filmore East in Manhattan in the 60's entering on the back of a huge Harley ... lights, power, glitter ... so much fun ... I enjoyed what you wrote and remembered some fun." — Barbara


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