HEBRON, Ohio - For Allen Pinson, automobiles are a sensory experience. Cars should be fine-tuned, muscular works of art. They should roar and squeal and leave the air painted with the aroma of super-heated exhaust and burning rubber.
Pinson, a 20-year-old University of Toledo sophomore, was born about 30 years too late, because he is a lot more James Dean than he is Eminem.
He has little use for the cookie-cutter looks of contemporary automobiles, where style and size are dictated by wind-tunnel aerodynamics, computer-generated body panels and restrictive emission controls.
Pinson prefers the classics of the 1960s and 70s, when each car had a character that was distinct, and when you mashed the accelerator you got pinned back against the seat and the thrust sent leaves and dust swirling airborne in the rearview mirror.
He finds little that is attractive about the cars his generation seems to prefer, with their gaudy, oversized wheels, skinny little tires, the excess and overkill sound systems, and chintzy add-on details. For Pinson, it s hood scoops and Holley Carbs, Hurst shifters and high-octane gas.
“I m more into the older cars, the real classics. I just love their look, their feel and the way they respond on the road,” Pinson said. “They just have a lot of style, a lot of nice curves and good design. Back in the day, they all had their own different look, and you could tell right away that s a Camaro, or that s a GTO. I m not from that era, but I like all the old cars.”
Pinson, the 6-10 center on the UT basketball team, owns a 1987 black Corvette that came off the production line two years after he was born. It is his first car, purchased when he was a senior at Lakewood High School in Hebron, east of Columbus.
“One of my friends had an 86 Corvette, and once I drove his, I said I have to get one of these. It s fast and it has a real low center of gravity, so it handles good. It s just a lot of fun to drive.”
Pinson modified the seat so he could fold his body into the cockpit, and also put new exhausts on the car and changed the air intake.
He got started early - Pinson grew up just five minutes down the road from National Trail Raceway, which has hosted National Hot Rod Association events for years. He loved the sights, the sounds and the smell of powerful cars going real fast.
“The track was the place we all went in the spring and summer.”
He first visited National Trail Raceway when he was about 10 years old, but even before that he d be out watching and learning as his dad worked on cars at home. His father owned a classic Chevy Impala at one time, and also had a Nova with slicks on it.
“He got me started working on cars, but it was big with all of my friends too. Thursday night was open-race night at Trails, so all my friends would go down there [Pinson included], and just run their cars in the quarter-mile to see who was the fastest.”
Pinson always loved the classic muscle cars best.
When Pinson fires up his Corvette, you can definitely hear it. The speedometer on his car tops out at 150 miles an hour. “I haven t had it going that fast, but I ve had it up to about 135 or so. After you get slowed down, you re shaking, because that s pretty quick.”
When Pinson goes home for a visit, it s not long before he is back with his buddies headed for the race track. His teammates at UT, however, don t share his affinity for the speed and muscle of classic cars.
“I don t think my teammates know much about cars, really,” Pinson said. “When I mention this or that about my Corvette, they don t even know what I m talking about. Some of them even called it a Camaro by accident.”
To a Corvette owner, that s blasphemy.
“They don t know any better,” he said, laughing. “But they re just not into cars like I am. I imagine I ll get another Corvette when I get out of school. I d love to have a 69 Stingray - now that s a real classic car.”