Confession of a Gearhead

22 Nov

I’ve read hundreds of articles, watched dozens of movies, and attended a handful of car shows that depict what has often been called, “America’s love affair with the automobile”.  My bedroom growing up reflected my own rendition of the love affair that I have always shared with so many others, the walls were covered with posters and calenders, my shelves were lined with die cast models and Hot wheels, and only the most skilled of people could navigate across the room as the floor was covered with a home made city where I’d play with toy cars, complete with model buildings, painted roads, and an electric railroad.  I would spend hours on end kneeling next to this miniature city driving everything from 1968 Mercury Cougars to beautiful red Ferrari’s and doing my best to imitate the sounds they would have made in real life.  I even had a couple of pick-up trucks so that my make believe citizens could go camping, pull trailers, and haul broken matches, cut up to be firewood; winters in a Southeast Idaho basement can get chilly.  It was never really about the city though, the model buildings were a nice touch and the train was really neat, but the cars, it was always about the cars.  At seven years old I could never have hoped to really drive a car, much less own one, but in my adolescent world with my miniature town, I could own and drive any car that I could buy at Wal-Mart for less than a dollar.  My sister and I used to play together and it was always referred to as “playing cars”, it was never “hey lets play city or train town”, it was always “lets play cars”.  To this day I’m not quite sure what it was that drew me into such an obsession with the automobile at such a young age, I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on it, but whatever it was I’m grateful.

My wife and I in a 1917 Studebaker

Now, nearly two decades later, the wooden pallet with painted roads, plastic model buildings, and even the electric train have found their way either to the dump or a dusty corner in the storage room.  College, marriage, children, and a myriad of other responsibilities have brought new priorities to the table and there isn’t much time for playing with toy cars anymore.  A few posters still line the walls of our small apartment and the little shelf space that is available showcase the die cast models that have been collected over the years.  Although I have many other responsibilities that occupy my time, my passion for the automobile is still burning as bright as it ever has.  Hours are still spent reading articles in automotive magazines and hours more are spent writing articles of my own.  Time is spent every week lovingly washing and waxing my car, a green 1997 Honda Accord, bought used with a lifetime of miles, peeling paint, and faded interior.  It isn’t much to look at but from the drivers seat it’s the fulfillment of a childhood dream.  With a slick shifting 5-speed manual transmission it’s a joy to drive and I often find myself taking the long way home, just to row through the gears.

1997 Honda Accord LX

A car doesn’t have to be expensive, flashy, or even fast to be special.  I’ve driven plenty of cars in my day that most people would consider quite regular, nothing special really.  Then again, they are probably the people that change their oil every eight to ten thousand miles or whenever it crosses their mind.  Their interiors are likely filthy, you know, the kind of car someone give you a ride in and you feel like you have to wash your clothes after a three block jaunt?  A true enthusiast takes care of their car no matter how old or new and no matter how cheap or expensive it was when they bought it.  I can honestly say that with the means that I have available to me take care of my thirteen-year-old Accord just as meticulously as I would if it were a pristine classic muscle car.  I’ve been good to my old Accord and it’s been good to me, I’ve never had the fear of being stranded on the side of the road no matter how long the road trip.  A car might just be a car to someone else but to me it’s so much more.  A moving work of art, a marvel of modern engineering, and the passion of a five-year-old growing to maturity.  Someday I’ll have a Nissan Z, a Mustang, or maybe even an old Cougar, but for now it’s a 1997 Honda Accord and that’s OK by me.

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