In Defense of the Car Enthusiast
In episode 8 of the podcast, the guys debated what being a car person was. Tom questioned his status based on his lack of mechanical inclinations. Mike lauded his. While the team came to the conclusion that being a car person relies, more or less, on being interested in what you drive, I’d like to represent another group – the Car Enthusiast.
I was speaking with a friend who is a car designer, and he was debating purchasing a fun summer car- in this case, a Lotus Elise. To make a long story short, we ended up at a crossroads in belief. He said “I don’t get excited about cars much anymore. What is there to like?” My response was simple – whenever I get into my Mustang GT and turn the engine over, I get an instant adrenaline rush.
I work in the auto industry, and have one and 8/10ths of engineering degrees. I have taken engine theory, transmission theory and application, engine tribology, car markets, car assembly processes, etc. I watch the Grand Tour and Top Gear(s). I played Grand Turismo and Forza Motorsport. I grew up in the age of Fast and Furious, and Need for Speed: Underground and Hot Pursuit. I have an extensive Hot Wheels collection. I read Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Road and Track. I have all the markings of a car person – I’m one of the only people I know who knew what career path they wanted to go down since the age of four.
Yet to me, none of this makes me a car person. It’s the feeling of the perfect shift, manual or otherwise. It’s the subtle burble of and idling engine, crackle of the exhaust, whoosh of the turbos, or winding of electric motors. It’s feeling yourself planted in your car when you accelerate, or thrown around when hopping over train tracks. It’s driving through any terrible conditions with ease, or eating up the tarmac on a sunny day.
I’ve always believed cars are an extension of your personality – who you are or who you want to be. You can be a truck person, going mudding with your dog in the passenger seat. You can be a track day warrior, with your helmet in tow and spare set of tires in the trailer. You can be a luxury driver, cruising comfortably and confidently through the city streets. You can be a hot rod person, endlessly polishing your pearl finish, or a rat rod person, endlessly patching the rusted metal. These days, you can be a techy-ecologist, touting fuel economy and electric range or connectivity.
Car enthusiasm is not a list of accomplishments, accolades, or build stats. Car enthusiasm is a state of mind.
- Sal Palafox