The life of a petrolhead..
Car people are different. That much we know.
I mean let’s face it, many would struggle to understand the deep emotions that are conjured up in some, in what is simply a tool for transportation for others. I remember buying a house a few years back, and the deciding factor was the face that the driveway was level which allowed me to get my track-modified 911 on it at the time. And most enthusiasts will have similar tales of financial irresponsibility and irrationality dictated by their car. Sticking some bits onto a classic can have us jaw-dropped in awe, or arguing in uproar.
But our love of the car is deeply embedded in history, in culture.
Some of my fondest memories include partaking in or watching Motorsport. Long European road trips to Germany in the snow, shaving away rear tyres on a Corvette in Arizona, two degree car meets in a modified Soarer that cost less than an i-Phone. The Fast and the Furious movies, Bullitt, Gone in 60 Seconds. Watching the F1 with my dad. Neck deep in a project car that is slowly driving me nuts. All the friends and conversations that came with each day.
We are the type that can find coping mechanisms, wrist deep in grease, muscles cramping. What starts life as an idea, steel, aluminium, rubber, plastic becomes a living, breathing creation worth so much more than the sum of its parts. Whilst to some a car is simply no more than a motorized suitcase, for others it is an integral part of life. Where some find solace and release in going to a gym and hitting or lifting something, we find it in throwing our cars around our favorite routes in an aura of burning fuel and rubber.
It’s a lovely autumn morning. 4.30am strikes and I awaken to a murky, distance melody in the background of a dark room. It’s the sort of time that on a weekday echoes misery yet generally being unheard of on a Sunday, is filled with excitement.
Coffee in hand, a round key fob in my hand illuminates the interior of my road-trip partner in the distance as I stagger out of the door. Clambering in to the cockpit, I prod the Red button and she snorts to life – and the neighborhood with her. Rolling towards the freeway, letting the heart slowly warm up to temperature but being sure to only carry myself with minimal throttle, I make progress towards the open road, pondering about the mystery of the route ahead.
You see Sunday is the elected day for a car club that I’m part of to meet, or as it’s more accurately described; Group Therapy. And that’s not to say car enthusiasts are mental; not all of them anyway. But there’s something wonderful about it. A day where stress, problems, they’re all put on pause.
All groups aren’t created equal and as in all things from competitive crochet to amateur Saturday football matches, sometimes it is a case of finding the right group to share the journey with. Whereas some groups drip with competition, arrogance, showboating; others glow with an unspoken bond and like-mindedness. A few simple rules are in place yet never needing to be enforced – set with more of an intention to deter the wrong people rather than to punish the right.
A unified love for the car that connects people that might not otherwise naturally meet. A common ground that transcends gender, race, education, employment, poetically through the vehicle that is the car.
Rocking up to the meet, often a Macca’s parking lot, is the same sort of buzz that I assume dog people get when they arrive at a park to see strangers that clearly have a love for something that makes their soul buzz. If we hadn’t gotten to know each other by the time wheels up comes around, you can learn a lot about people by the way they drive. We roar out of the makeshift clubhouse one by one, and head towards the hills. Negotiating the ‘civilian’ traffic, we slowly dial up the pace as we hit some progressively tighter roads. sweeping bends, tight hairpins and long alluring straights draw your heart more, and more in as your chosen steed starts to revel in the road trip as much as you do.
So a car can be anything from a tool, to travel partner. A piece of art to a mechanical marvel – and if you’re really lucky, all of the above. Similarly, car enthusiasts come in all shapes and forms. The encyclopedic. The Mechanic. The artist. The Driver. And the real gold found in any meet is within one that appreciates that. You see, not all cars are created equal. Some will be in to their Italian exotica. Others, American muscle. Today? I’m sporting some boosted JDM. Each comes with its own following, from those who appreciate a car’s curves to those who embrace the way it feels at speed. Those who prefer German efficiency to Italian extravagance. But a meet that groups all of these sub-sets together and celebrates the similarities rather than the difference is truly a group that ‘gets it’.
And it really does make your soul glow. You see, this particular meet happens to be days after my Father’s death. But no one knows that, nor do they need to. Yet somehow, through a mutual interest and embracing in the life of a Car Enthusiast, a level of life contentment sets in that he as a certified petrol head would revel in. Heading out for a cruise in the GTR stirs my soul at the best of times, but getting to be in the moment with a load of people with a common ground simply makes life stand still for a moment.
I wrote this rambling on the back of being asked ‘why do you love cars so much’ and have come to the conclusion by now that I’m not sure there is one. Some will resonate with the peace found in painstakingly obsessing over a car, purchasing the right one, taking bits off it, sticking other bits to it and having access to a whole world of escapism and an unparalleled euphoria at the touch of a button or the turn of a key. And, others simply won’t.