There’s nothing like it; not to me, at least. Top down, wind in my hair, the sound of the engine filling my ears, the smells of the outside world, good or bad, assaulting my nostrils like they were a loan shark and I’m late on my payments. Each perfect shift, each clipped apex, and each empty stretch of road puts an ear to ear grin on my face like a child at Disney World. Just the thought of a lonely highway blast or a deserted back road can be a vacation from the numbing mundanity of everyday life.
The enthusiastic motorist lives in a scary world now. We’re more and more the target of political distaste, and on top of that, we’re a dying breed. People are growing up not knowing how to drive a manual transmission. We’re being sold a bill of goods that tell us that new automatics are more fun because they shift faster than we can on our own. Gas prices are going up. Hybrids are being driven not just by the patchouli oil crowd, but by normal people who drive to work and go home like everybody else. Aston Martin sells a rebadged Scion subcompact. Driving is looked at as something to be done joylessly, only when absolutely necessary and all other means of transportation have been exhausted or are not feasible. And when we do finally get on the road, they’re clogged, plagued by endless construction that never seems to fix anything on roads that were just fine only yesterday.
We also live in a very strange time in the universe of supercars. How can it be that we are so under attack when each year brings us something newer and faster and more capable than ever before? We strive to find soul in the inner workings of our cars; bits of metal working in concert to explode a liquid processed out of earth’s failed creatures to propel us down painted asphalt in ways that would make our mothers shake their heads; these new cars seem to be big on power and handling and precision, but just don’t have the same kind of passion about them that they used to. But I’m not a professional driver or an engineer or a tech geek, so maybe my fear of the loss of character in cars due to the invasion of computer control is truly unfounded. I may just be a man who loves cars—who loves cars to the very core—but I’m not so sure I’m wrong.
It wasn’t long ago that I finally made the jump; I traded in the fun, but sensible sport sedan that got good gas mileage, worked in the city, and comfortably seated four adults for a low slung, two seat, open top sports car. And yes, it’s RWD and I live in the northeast, so the summer tires are going to be an issue. But I went with it anyway and my life has completely changed. And I don’t just mean that I have to be careful about how much I load up the car on my bimonthly trips to Target and the grocery store; no, it’s so much more than that.
I now drive a 2006 BMW Z4 3.0i; no, it’s not the fastest car in the world. It’s not even the sharpest car of its time period; the 987 Boxster had more mini-supercar handling thanks to its midship engine placement, whereas the Z4, under its funky, post-modern looks, is actually more of an old school sports car, with its big engine at the front, long hood, and short rear deck. I won’t be king of the drag strip, and as much as having a 911 appear in my rearview mirror makes me take those bends just a little bit faster, I won’t be outlapping GT3s at the Baltimore Grand Prix any time soon. But that’s not what it’s about, is it?
No, it really isn’t. It doesn’t have to be a sports car. It doesn’t have to be a supercar. It doesn’t have to be a pared down, no-frills, bare essentials Lotus Elise, either. Up until a week ago I drove a MkV Volkswagen Jetta Wolfsburg, albeit with a 2.0T and a six speed manual transmission, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It can be anything that connects with you. Love for a car isn’t measured in Nurburgring lap times. I don’t love cars for the specifications on a website published by the manufacturer and regurgitated in our favorite car magazines. I love them for the way they make me feel, the way they can bring me into the moment and melt away my concerns, the way they’re there for me when I need them—to take me somewhere physically or escape emotionally. I love them for everything they are and everything they’re not. I love them for the connection I make with them without layers of complication between the two of us and for the purity of man and machine working in harmony. And I get the feeling that you do too.
This is our sickness. And this is our therapy.