I’ve always been a bookworm. From seven or eight years old, I pored over every issue of the legendary ‘Motor’ magazine, relishing the data and reviews. As a car-obsessed kid on the west coast of Ireland, there was no one to share any of this geekery with, other than a handful of less obsessed schoolmates. But that didn’t stop me from soaking it up.
Unforgettable ‘Car’ reviews had brilliant photos with text from a lyrical genius. Whether it was Aussies Cropley or Nichols, Austria’s Kacher or the brilliant George Bishop, their work seemed effortless – the words just flowed out. When you do the right homework, that’s how it goes.
Stuck in a place where these dream-sequence pieces could never come true, I absorbed them like sunlight. Exacting attention to detail went into these features and that shone from the pages: the least I as a reader could do was give them my undivided attention.
If the laser-beam focus that we shot into the pages of the magazines of our youth was absorbed as raw spirit energy, then a solution to climate change is stacked all around me. I have thousands of old magazines on shelves and in boxes: decades of Autocar, piles of Car and Performance Car, the complete works of Street Machine, Custom Car and hundreds of Bike magazines. The energy contained within these pages must be pretty incredible.
Much as I love what these magazines encapsulate, most will be recycled at some stage. While I enjoy leafing through tokens of my well-spent youth, they are not a must-have reminder of my boyhood fascination with car reviews. Somewhere along the journey from young reader to driver, I realised that comparing one new car to another no longer mattered to me. The story mattered – it always does – but the actual product was less of a draw.
Nothing much interesting happens with cars until you drive them out of the showroom and into the world. It’s a bit like having kids: the delivery is special, then a few days of bright fascination, then the glow of strapping them into their child seat and heading home from the hospital. But then, the newness softens. Months go by where not very much happens. Of course you are bonding, but really it’s just clocking up the miles until they get interesting.
Then they start moving, and failing. Every fail is a thrill: fail, fail and succeed. Progress is swift – you learn fast when you fail. Their failure exposes vulnerability and brings out our empathy. As the days pass with small fails and small wins, thoughts of what life was like before this empathic connection starts to fade. It begins to feel like they have always been around. The energy pored into them begins to shine back. They tell part of your story and you contribute to theirs. Your part is a privilege.
As such a huge percentage of my emotional life has been wrapped in the romance of cars, I find distinct parallels in connection. Car stories worth telling have cracks in the windscreen. Memorable protagonists come with a back story. A life well-lived is defined by the stone chips and the stories I love come with this as the subtext.
Of course, second-hand stuff is not for everyone. Some people love the no-story of newness and, having owned and sold many new cars in my life, I get that. But newness is not my primary trigger. I like things that are scratched: the wear on a camera or the cracks in the leather. In the same way that I liked it when my kids would fall over, I take some pleasure when they ring me in tears: they are living a life and writing their story through authentic experience. When the question is new versus used or shiny versus scratched, there is simply no contest for me.
New Porsche Macan is a thriller
Used car admirers would be pretty stuck without new car obsessives, so hats off to them. New Macan is out and about and, as someone who has run 4×4 SUVs for decades and can see no impending end to that, of course I like it, but of course I would only buy used. The used Macan I would buy is still thirty grand and unlikely to fall into my price range anytime soon, so I scratch the vague itch vicariously, by chatting with friends who own them and watching Stuttgart’s Youtube content.
The latest Macan video wants to talk about thrilling. Printer paper and water coolers: they are not thrilling. A Macan at dawn on a twisty road: that’s what thrilling is like. But that viewpoint depends on the watcher.
Printer paper carrying the first draft of a book is thrilling. Rising from a long desk stint for a cool cup of water: also good. An empty Macan on a twisty road first thing in the morning feels like a bit of a waste. My early morning drives are all about taking the dog to the woods or heading out to collect yet more reclaimed architectural salvage. An early morning drive in a Macan with the dog in the boot and an empty trailer on the back? Now that would be cool.
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