We were dragging Main in a 1967 Pontiac GTO, windows down, breeze in our hair, the smell of leather and a carbureted engine permeating the late summer air. Countless other vehicles cruised the same route or were displayed in a large parking lot, hoods up, car aficionados milling around, checking out engines, admiring body lines, and other intricate vehicular details. Rock’n’roll blasted from speakers; there was an exciting buzz in the early evening air.
No, this wasn’t 50 years ago, it was a couple of weeks ago during Cruise Night on the eve of Sapulpa Main Street’s 33rd Route 66 Blowout. Sapulpan and newly-published author Clay Fees, his nephew, and I were taking Fees’ father’s ‘67 GTO out for a spin while discussing his upcoming book, The Age of the Muscle Car.
The book has been described as, “a refreshingly untechnical look at the American muscle car, written from the perspective of a non-mechanic enthusiast.”
But make no mistake—despite a lack of formal mechanical education, Fees is no amateur when it comes to classic cars.
At his grandparents’ house in El Reno, Oklahoma in the summer of 1985, Fees remembers his dad and uncle returning home with a popular hot-rodding magazine with a year-by-year history of GTOs. “From that moment on, I was eaten up by cars,” Fees says. “I insisted on an old car when I turned 16. My dad, mom, and Uncle Roger knew a ton about cars, so I just listened.”
It’s “all in the family,” Fees explains. “That’s what keeps my family together, these old cars. We’ll work on them together” on the weekends.
In addition to the ‘67 GTO in which this conversation occurred, Fees says his dad has a ‘57 Thunderbird purchased in 1965 that would make an appearance at the Blowout, and a ‘66 427 convertible Corvette. His brother Cody has a ‘78 Pontiac Trans Am and just bought his son a ‘68 Firebird.
Fees himself had a ‘68 Plymouth Roadrunner that he purchased in July of 1987 and sold in 1991, with which he and his friends would drag Main in high school. He even drove it to his Senior Prom.
Right now he says he’s rebuilding a couple of “midlife-Chryslers,” referring to his ‘66 GTO and ‘69 Roadrunner both of which are in the middle of restoration.
Fees says his wife is extremely supportive of his self-described “car addiction,” and says that the next car he buys will most likely be a ‘71 Mustang Mach 1 for her.
Slowly driving Dewey and Main during Cruise Night, Fees waves at many a friend and familiar face. “I know a lot of these people from the car show circuit,” he says, having judged “car shows all over the state. You can almost recognize the cars more than the people,” he laughs.
When asked what inspired him to write the book, Fees recalls the night of New Year’s Day, 2016, when Ole Miss beat OSU in the Sugar Bowl, saying he remembers it well. His wife and daughter were living in Georgia while he was in the National Guard in Yukon, Oklahoma. He was bored in the evenings and needed a project, so he thought, “Why not write a book?”
Fees took writing classes at Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno and had an enthusiastic instructor who helped him get started. “I enjoyed writing it,” he says. “I tried to put my 7th-grade American history teacher hat back on and tried to do what I did teaching in book form.”
The “book is about cars,” of course, but is “more of a people’s history of the muscle car era and how [the cars] fit into the broader American culture in the mid to late 1960s; how they influenced pop culture.” There are plenty of photographs, he says, paired with informative captions.
Fees said that because the book doesn’t “get into real technical stuff,” it’s a perfect read for the layman or even the average teenager. “My whole goal is to teach the next generation about the classic car hobby,” to help them develop “an appreciation” for that lost art of simplicity in cars.
Forwards were written by two notable names in the industry—John Kraman of Mecum Auctions and noted automotive historian and author, Diego Rosenberg.
McFarland Publishing out of Jefferson, North Carolina plans to release the book in November.