Not everyone gets excited about cars. Though I most certainly do. If for example I’m in a physician’s waiting room nervously drumming my fingers on my knee, my attention is instantly drawn to a magazine about cars. I go for it! Doesn’t matter that many of the specialty car magazines are about collector cars or antique cars or sports cars. Almost anything to do with cars is fine by me (including the proliferation of tire advertisements). I confess my personal preference is for late model cars but I never turn down a look at vintage sheet metal from the American automobile industry.
A glance at any car magazine is a reminder of the depth and breadth of enterprise that surrounds the automobile industry – everything from parts to auto shows to detailing and repair. It is always relieving for me to scan one of these magazines because it gives me the comfort of knowing I am not the only nut in the world who obsesses over his car. To read some of the articles you’d think they’re talking about adoption or medical surgery.
I can’t help but remark there is a striking connection between cars and time pieces (specifically wrist watches). So many people whom I know who are addicted to cars share a similar passion for watches. It has to be the mechanical precision, the incredible detail, the designer sleekness even the colours. At the risk of sounding like I am engaging in idol worship, the automobile represents to me a level of purity and material transport unlike any other. Perhaps airplane pilots feel the same way though the attraction of flight has escaped me except in the same sense of practicality that some people speak of cars. To me a car is far more than just a means of conveyance; it is a vehicle of sublimity!
Naturally when I speak of automobiles in such rhapsodic terms I am circumscribing my adoration by referencing only those which specifically appeal to me. I am a confessed sucker for the barge model of automobile, the Packard, the Lincoln or the Cadillac. My preference has always been for those of the domestic market and I have actively abhorred the productions from Germany, France and Britain – for reasons which vary from an insular nationalism to a conviction (or prejudice) that those cars weren’t up to the standards required to address our Canadian winters. Lately brands such as Jaguar are breaking the mould of that isolationist thinking but I’m still persuaded by the “Big Three” (GM, Ford and Chrysler) if for no other reason than that their dealerships and repair shops are comparatively accessible. Granted the urban dwellers may view this limitation differently from the Country Mouse but that naturally doesn’t alter my pragmatic take on it.
My likes or dislikes are however quite irrelevant to the broader theme of automobiles. It’s rather like talking about food – there are all sorts of tastes and predilections – but the topic is still food no matter what you like. I fully suspect as well that the buzz which an amateur driver like me gets from driving his or her favourite set of wheels is the same in spite of the variety of conveyances. Clearly the standard bearer for pleasure-driving is the two-seater automobile (usually a convertible). These cars car be anything from a Sunbeam to an MGB or Triumph or Mercedes or Porsche or XKE, perhaps a Corvette, Mustang or BMW, doesn’t matter. They all share the same open road, the wind in the hair and frequently the speed. My poison is the less nimble and more lumbering boulevard rides especially the flagships of Ford and GM (Lincoln and Cadillac).
Putting my car through the automatic wash is a daily habit whatever the weather (I have one of those cards from the retailer which permits me to wash once a day). Though I prefer a clear, sunny day for a matchless drive, I’m never dissuaded by a cloudy or rainy day. It’s the nexus of man and machine that counts! Some may think it impossible, but even in a large sedan I can feel connected with the car and the road. I detect the rumble of the engine, the alignment of the wheels, the tightness of the interior cabin fittings and of course the pleasure of the modern sound system. If I have connected a USB of my favourite music then that further elevates the escapade. Current technology enables me to check at a glance my tire pressure and average kilometres per litre. The Head Up Display affords me constant supervision of speed and any other detail I select from a choice of primary readings.
I know of no one who appreciates cars who does not care for their maintenance. It goes without saying that top drawer mechanical performance is compulsory. Never do I allow a perceived problem to persist without immediate examination and attention if required. Admittedly some of my “concerns” are without foundation but I am happier to have the verification of the mechanic than to engage in uninformed speculation. In my defence I can report that more often than not my inclination has proven correct. This means of course that I keep an eagle eye on the car at all times, attuned to every sound or sensation especially those which are uncharacteristic. Having a responsiveness to machinery is in my opinion a sixth sense, not unlike playing the piano by ear; it’s an awareness which is apart from our normal reactions, an intuitive insight.
Balancing this heady sphere is a low-level exactitude required to keep one’s car in good order. One must be prepared to suffer the indignity of shaking car mats and wiping scuffs from the running boards. But the reward is undeniable! There’s nothing quite like a clean windshield and a full tank of gas! Fortunately I am able to expiate my guilt for the many kilometres I log in the automobile (about 50,000 annually) by routine morning bicycle rides. I never however “live” in the car; it is not a bedroom. Nor do I use it as a trailer or moving van; that is an abuse in my opinion. One nick of paint far outweighs any advantage in using the vehicle as a shopping cart.
In a world gone mad with Trumpism and terrorism, I consider it a positive advantage to be able to withdraw to the comfort of my automobile for an aimless afternoon tour. Sometimes I am treated to the privilege of a 2,500 kilometre drive to the Atlantic Ocean. It truly amazes me that these devices work so tirelessly and unfailingly over such long hauls. Some well deserved beautification at a local car wash restores the vehicle to its original state in short order. What an undemanding friend!
And if you think this all just a bit too silly, I ask you to consider that with the advent of the autonomous car the time is soon coming when the privilege of driving one’s car will be akin to having a horse and buggy.