As a Master Sommelier and owner of Silicon Valley’s award-winning Protégé restaurant, I am focused on delivering an extraordinary food and wine experience to our guests. But, deep down in my heart of hearts, I’m still a Midwestern kid who fell in love with bombastic American muscle cars. My love for those cars started with the car in the picture below: A 1973 fire-engine red Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that my father bought my mother for Valentine’s Day in 1974. My brother-in-law Ron (shown pointing in the photo) recently refurbished the car for my mom, and I’m looking forward to taking it for a nostalgic cruise this summer. I learned to drive in this car—and I remember accidentally ‘chirping’ the tires backing out of my girlfriend’s driveway in front of her mom. It was a challenge to control the 455 cubic-inch V8 rumbling underneath the shaker-scoop adorned hood.
Like fine wine, my appreciation of these iconic automobiles is in the details. The cars I list here are all very special, even more special than their stock versions and other variants. These are all very desirable pieces of driveable art; I only wish I had a big enough “wine cellar” to acquire and store them all. Here is my Top 5 Wishlist, in ascending order:
#5: 1969 Hurst/Oldsmobile Cutlass 442, which initially stood for the four-barrel carburetor, four on the floor transmission, and dual exhaust—decked out in gold racing stripes over a white paint scheme.
#4: 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z28: With only 602 produced in its first year of production, this version sported duel racing stripes and was designed to be “virtually race ready.”
#3: 1969 Pontiac GTO “The Judge,” ideally in Warwick Blue with its duel racing scoops and rear spoiler, and showcasing a 400 cubic-inch Ram Air III V8 engine.
#2: 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am: The introduction of the second-generation Firebird featured functional spoilers, side vents, a shaker hood scoop, and introduced the iconic single racing stripe and nose bird-decal combination.
#1: 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, of course, preferably in black with red racing stripes and the iconic 427 cubic-inch “Big Block" engine, which cranked out a whopping 425 horsepower!