“Oh, you write about cars?” I can see a dull veil slide down over the speaker’s eyes as though I have exhaled some soporific gas.
I’ve endured this reaction for more than 25 years, although it’s better any day than a conversation with a petrol-head determined to bore me rigid about camshafts. Consequently, I usually attempt to confine “car talk” to mates or colleagues, but for this blog on bmag.com.au I’m going to try to explain what make cars and motoring exciting for me.
No-one in my family passed down a car gene, but by toddler age I was climbing on the bumper bar of my dad’s big Dodge pickup and saying “chuck” (truck, in adult-speak). That was a clue. The fascination hasn’t faded and since I traded in my news career to be a motor-noter it’s only become more intense.
The automobile pervades our lives. We use it for work, private life, leisure and sport. It thrills us and kills us, makes some people rich and breaks others. It can be ugly or art. It pollutes but points the way to a clean future. It offers a writer many topics – product, design, lifestyle, travel, sport, technology, environment, road safety or industry, for example.
But what I like most are just cars and driving. Cars can be practical or fantastical. I relish the brilliance of consumer design in the Volkswagen Golf, the timeless elegance and searing efficiency of a Porsche 911 and the mad excess of a Lamborghini. The other bloke sees a clapped-out ute, but everyone has a dream machine.
My favourites include the French art deco creations of the 30s – they’re gobsmackingly stylish. And the glamorous 50s, 60s and 70s cars from Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford or Cadillac, which embodied the American Dream. That ‘64 Ford Mustang is a masterpiece.
I could drive around Australia in a jalopy or a Jag and happily start again after a coffee. The rhythm of a long drive is so satisfying, when the physical inputs of hands and feet seem to give way to mind-control that guides the car effortlessly. The concentration is acute, yet relaxing. I love owning a car, knowing the care I give it will be rewarded in the driving.
But here’s the thing – I haven’t bought a daily driver in more than 30 years.
“What would it be if you did own a car?” asks the person I met at the beginning of this blog.
Well, you’ll have to wait for the answer – there’s another blog in that.