I enjoy getting together with a good group of motorheads. I’m not sure if it is the comradery of carburetors that draws us together or the simple fact that most of us are so passionate and opinionated about our transportation choices, that sooner or later blood will be drawn (like the pending horror of a train wreck that simply must be watched. Or the pain of Bobby Unser on television). Whatever the reason for getting together, the conversation always seems to flow without pause (and often without purpose, point, or poignancy, according to many onlookers) as we dive into the history, present day, and future of mechanized transportation.
Try as we might to come to an agreement on what makes a car “great,” the segregation inevitably happens: as the discussions continue the group breaks into smaller and smaller subcomponents, a sort of reverse-assembly line. Eventually, everyone finds themselves grouped in with one clique or another. This is not a choice that can be taken lightly, nor made at that very moment. Rather, it is the culmination of choices and attitudes that one exhibits over years of development. Some may even declare it to be genetic.
The Japanese fans quietly keep to themselves, presumably in an attempt to grasp the concept that cars might actually vary in character and personality from, say, a baseboard heater. Read more
Drawn to Magnetism
I was explaining the virtues of driving my 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel (aka “The Rabbi”, then later “The Whistle Pig”) and was greeted with a rather interesting response: “You’ll never get a wife in a car like that!” I found this a particularly shallow and unnecessary observation on his part. Of course I wouldn’t. I knew that. I had no plans of bird-dogging chicks at the local strip mall with this thing. No illusions of females swooning at the sharp turbine whistle emitted by the side-exit exhaust. The mismatched hatch would not make them weak in the knees. That isn’t why I found that car so appealing.
What drew me to it was it’s simplicity, the pureness of the driving experience, the excellent fuel economy (better than today’s uber-complex hybrids), and the fact that the $175 purchase price seemed relatively affordable. (Truth be told, the previous owner’s girlfriend told him to make the decision between her or the car, thus the quick sale and low, low price.) Yes, it is ugly, rough, and will mark its territory with the predictability and dedication of a terrier in a public park. I love the directness of the manual steering, the boost-induced giggles of a self-installed turbo system, and the honesty of its reluctance to get going on a cold winter morning. It has character. It is a bit special. Read more