Through Heartaches and Hiccups, Cars Make Us Human
Photography by Rémi Dargegen, Lucile Pillet, & David Marvier
Sometimes, when the pain intrudes upon and consumes his thoughts, Jurgen Vogl slides into his 1978 Porsche 911 Targa and, leaving behind his home in Prescott, Arizona, steers the car south and then west through the arid expanse of Skull Valley toward the desert hamlet of Bagdad. Or perhaps he’ll turn northeast, joining Highway 89 as it traces a path through the red rocks and ponderosas that line the mountain roads running toward Sedona and Flagstaff. The destination matters less than the simple motion of the car, its six-cylinder boxer engine chattering calmly as he leans through the sweeping curves of Northern Arizona.
Vogl bought this car as an analgesic, as a way to escape his own thoughts whenever the rheumatoid arthritis threatened to get the better of him. A friend had recently introduced him to Petrolicious’s videos and the seed was planted: perhaps a vintage car was in order. Throughout his life, Vogl has always been incapable of sitting still – his idea of a relaxing vacation is to spend three months trekking in the Indian Himalayas or volunteering at a remote village in the Mexican mountains– and, yet, he now finds many of his once-favorite activities physically impossible.
Once the Porsche is in motion, however, the endorphins begin to flow, the bends and twists concentrate his mind, and before he knows it, he’s pulling into his garage eight hours later. Usually, he’ll glance at his watch and wonder if could still squeeze in a couple more hours of driving. For Vogl, driving is therapy – both mental and physical – and the road always beckons.
The road beckons because, as Vogl has discovered, cars – and especially vintage cars – are more than mere transportation, driving more than a task to be completed in the least possible time.
Yes, cars are a tool, the most efficient means of getting from this place to that, but they are also pieces of high art, collections of the best technologies of their time, and testaments to human ingenuity. The act of driving, meanwhile, is, at its purest, contemplative, focusing the driver’s mind on the next downshift, the corner at hand, the thrum of the engine. The object and the act, together, purify the mind.
“I no longer just go for a ride,” says Vogl. “Now, when I get into my car, I’m going to drive.”
In November 2014, one of Vogl’s drives brought him west for Petrolicious’s Drive Tastefully: Paramount Ranch rally, where he discovered yet another aspect of vintage car ownership, an element too often unappreciated by those who just don’t get it: the human connection that occurs when one encounters other vintage car owners. When Vogl first arrived at the Malibu Country Mart for the start of the rally, he was surrounded by strangers and their classic rides. Within minutes, however, he was comparing friendly notes with 911 aficionados and swapping travel tales with Alfa, Mini, and Datsun owners. These machines, it turns out, are unrivaled icebreakers.
Most folks will never understand why we endure the hiccups and heartaches that come with owning these machines, and some even go so far as to dismiss the lifestyle as frivolous and lacking in any serious consequence. Well, so be it. Truth is, once we’ve scaled Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – once we’ve secured food, shelter, and some semblance of safety – it is our hobbies, our unique aims, and our fripperies that make each of our lives unique and significant, and that make us not only human but also individual. Indeed, sometimes they help us simply survive another day.