What can I say? I found a 2004 GTO for a steal this morning at 9:30, and by 12, I had signed the papers, traded-off my Chevy Silverado, and powered down the road in a Kentucky-Blue Pontiac that could take-on anyone.

The seats are amazingly comfortable, the 350hp LS2 is both smooth and menacing, and the transmission is chunky and satisfying. The car feels brutish and blunt--it's all force and no apologies. No wussy cylinder deactivation...if you keep your foot in it, this thing's good for 158mph and 6mpg

The car stickered at $33k, but there was a red-tag sticker on the doorjam that had it at $24,990, which was lower than my target price from last night, even before I started to haggle. Why can car-buying be like this all the time? How much does the darn thing COST?

Seriously, I took one look at the color of the car, and fell in love...it's a metallic blue color that's just like Kentucky blue. The test drive was lengthy and representative--the car drives small, and has so much thrust available under your right foot in any gear you feel confident. It's a different feel from my MINI, certainly. The Pup feels like it can go anywhere, but it's unable to out-accelerate anything, so you must pick your way through traffic.

Got back to the dealership giggling at myself. The price was nearly $8k off MSRP without me even having to haggle, and the dealership seemed ready to move. No need for false bravado. I informed my salesman that I wanted to see a deal, and we headed in from the 20-degree temperatures.

Now, the only melancholy part of this whole story is what I used for down-payment. I traded-in Big Red, the truck my dad gave me back in May, the super-invisible mobile that I tool around Jackson and Eastern Kentucky like a ghost. Seriously, there anyone in a truck is just like everyone else.

I liked that truck a great deal, especially for the amazing generosity and love it represented from my Dad. All things considered, though, I'm more comfortable with the driving dynamics of cars, and now I have two really kick-ass machines:

  • Daily commute, around town, autocross: The Pup

  • Long highway trips, special events (drag racing?), carrying 4 adults: The GTO

* * *

I can't tell you how effortless the GTO is on the interstate. Notch the shifter in 6th, dropping the rpms to 1700 at 75mph and cruise, all the while getting 25mpg. Hills disappear, and traffic is a mere toe nudge from separation.

Lest you think it's perfect, there are some downsides here:

  • To Americanize the Australian Holden Monaro, they had to move the gas tank into the trunk, cutting to trunk space to a miniscule 7 cubic feet. My Nissan had 10, and my MINI with the seats folded has 17. Those 4 adults better pack light

  • Weight. This car's a linebacker, not a wide receiver. At 3800lbs, it outweighs the Vette by almost half-a-ton.

  • Missing "nice things": No OnStar, No sunroof (not even as an option), weak stereo, no heated seats/mirrors

  • Quirky rear-seat mechanism: You have to fold the seat forward, then wait an eternity for the seat electric motor to move the seat forward for access. The rear seats themselves are good-sized (best if you're under 6 feet), but getting back there is for the narrow of hip

All-in-all, it's a back-to-basics muscle-car, a last-gasp remnant of the second age of performance cars (1994-2004), before oil prices, environmental reponsibility, or the end-of-civilization has us all driving low-powered hybrids.

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