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This is a song about a car…

Older model cars hunted for sport. Thus, the government protects us from ourselves.

The band Rush’s anthem Red Barchetta was inspired by a short story entitled “A Nice Morning Drive” by Richard Foster, which appeared in Road and Track magazine in November, 1973.

The short story, set in the “future world” of 1982, opens with Buzz preparing his beloved MGB for a drive in the country.  But he’s worried. A well intentioned safety crusade has spun out of control, and it looms as a threat over his plan to go for a nice morning drive.

Government-imposed safety and emissions improvements on new cars in the 1970’s were “modest at first,” and later they became more and more stringent until very few older model cars remained, through natural deterioration and…being hunted for sport.

The safety crusade had been well done at first. The few harebrained schemes were quickly ruled out and a sense of rationality developed. With no major wars, cancer cured and social welfare straightened out, the politicians needed a new cause and it became the automobile. Safety regulations became tougher. Vehicles became larger, heavier and less efficient. People became accustomed to cars that went undamaged in low-speed head-on collisions, and accident rates increased every year. Safety requirements were eventually raised to require vehicles that could withstand 50-mph head-on collisions…And the drivers of the MSV (Modern Safety Vehicles) began hunting older cars for sport, bouncing them into bridge abutments or into ditches, then lumbering away unscathed.

As Buzz drives his MGB down a narrow, little-used country lane, we all know what’s going to happen—he’s going to have to outwit the drivers of two MSVs who challenge his right to the open road.

This short story caught the fancy of Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, and Red Barchetta (Moving Pictures, 1981) was the result:

My uncle has a country place
that no-one knows about
He says it used to be a farm before the motor law
And on Sundays, I elude “The eyes,” and hop the turbine freight
To far outside the wire where my white-haired uncle waits

Jump to the ground
as the turbo slows to cross the borderline
Run like the wind
as excitement shivers up and down my spine
but down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine-
for fifty odd years
to keep it as new has been his dearest dream

I strip away the old debris that hides a shining car
a brilliant red barchetta, from a better, vanished time
fire up the willing engine, responding with a roar!
tires spitting gravel, I commit my weekly crime

Wind in my hair-
shifting and drifting-
mechanical music-
adrenaline surge-

Well-weathered leather
hot metal and oil
the scented country air
sunlight on chrome
the blur of the landscape
every nerve aware

Suddenly ahead of me, across the mountainside
a gleaming alloy air-car shoots towards me, two lanes wide
I spin around with shrieking tires, to run the deadly race
go screaming through the valley as another joins the chase

Run like the wind
straining the limits of machine and man
laughing out loud
with fear and hope, I’ve got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
i leave the giants stranded
at the riverside
Race back to the farm
to dream with my uncle
at the fireside


Sounds a little like the 2009 “Cash for Clunkers” government debacle.

Watch the destruction of a perfectly good Corvette (as required by the government) here, if you dare:

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