What Makes You a Car Guy?
Like many of us, I can’t point to a singular moment when I knew I was a car guy. I’ve just always loved cars (vehicles in general, really), and known that I wanted them to be a large part of my life. And since the first time I gripped a steering wheel and felt the easy power under my right foot I’ve been addicted.
But it’s easy to love cars when every drive is a sunrise canyon blast or a throaty V12 is screaming behind you. And I’d argue that the specific car you happen to be driving doesn’t even matter much as long as the road is empty, the car is well maintained, and conditions are good. The strength of a relationship is not tested during a honeymoon.
What really and truly makes you a car guy or gal is your willingness to endure, or even enjoy, the burdens shouldered as a result of our love. It is encounters with police, breakdowns at the wrong time in the wrong place, sometimes even injury. Some might argue that an ability to wrench on your own car is a prerequisite, too. Or that owning a certain brand of car immediately bestows the title of Car Guy on you (as Top Gear argued in the case of Alfa Romeos).
For me being a car guy was always sort of an innate thing that I just felt. But in my early twenties, I drove a 1964 Pontiac Catalina. Both the Pontiac and I had health issues and at the time I lived at home and commuted to college. One day, when I probably should’ve just stayed home, I went to class. “It’ll be OK,” I thought. The carburator’s thermostat was broken so that starting the car was a process. You had to crank the engine, get out of the car and close the choke, crank it again, close the choke again, etcetera until it finally fired up.
I made it to class, but by the time class ended I was miserable and could tell that I was running a high fever. I walked slowly to the Big Cat and spent fifteen minutes firing up the engine. It was an Indian summer in Washington DC and over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit outside. I hit the Beltway, which was at a virtual stand-still and crawled along averaging about eight mph. My commute was about twenty miles.
Then it got worse—the Pontiac’s engine block thermostat failed shut. What could I do? I was about halfway home, crawling through traffic, my head burning, and now I had to crank the heat to keep the 389 from over-heating.
What made me realize I was a car guy beyond hope? Five days later, and three days into a two-week course of IV antibiotics, I drove to the local auto parts store, catheter in my arm, bought a new thermostat, and installed it that afternoon. Hopeless.
So we’d like to know what makes you a car guy? What hardships have you endured that an otherwise-sane person would not and when did it become abundantly clear?