Weekend Assignment # 347: Car Crazy
Some people are car connoisseurs, able to discuss the finer points of 1960 Corvette engines, find or build replacement Model T parts, or argue the merits of the latest high-end Italian sports car. (Okay, maybe it’s not the same person in each of these scenarios, but you get the idea.) Other people know a lot about their own beloved car and its automotive brethren, but not much about other cars. Still others are mostly just concerned whether their car still gets them to work and back safely. How about you? Do you pay attention to automotive trends, or quickly identify the unusual car sitting next to you at the light? What is the extent of your knowledge and interest in cars?
The presence of extra traffic on the streets (at least near Best Buy) this time of year inspires this week’s Assignment:
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I was raised by native New Yorkers, who are not known to be car people. New York City is one of the rare places in this country where you may be better off without a car – you don’t need one to get around, and owning one can be a source of expensive headaches. My mother never learned to drive at all; however, to be fair, the fact that she was legally blind was at least as big a factor in that as living in the City. My father let his license lapse a few years ago, but he’d been driving for more than 50 years by then; and while he’d owned cars for most of his driving life, he never really seemed to care all that much about what he drove. I’m not all that different. I didn’t get my license till I turned 18, and was out of college before I bought my first new car. My priorities are reliability, fuel efficiency, and value for my money. I still have a mental block about cars costing more than $20,000 (and haven’t bought one yet!), but given my two-hour daily commute, I do have some interest in the creature comforts offered by my vehicle. While I enjoy driving it – and parking it, because it’s tiny – my favorite thing about my nearly one-year-old Honda Fit is the fact that I can play my iPod through its stereo.
However, I now live in the birthplace of “car culture,” Southern California, and am married to a man who’s absorbed that all his life. Tall Paul is a sub-species of “car guy” that I didn’t know existed until I met him: the “car nerd.” (But he’ll tell you his best friend Larry is the real car nerd.) Car nerds aren’t constantly covered with grease, working on their engines and adding after-market accessories to their cars; yes, I realize that’s a stereotype, but until five years ago I thought that’s what a “car guy “was. Granted, the car nerd might do more of his own maintenance if modern cars weren’t so computer-driven (no pun intended) – and while he may appreciate some things about vintage, classic automobiles, the car nerd is a techie at heart and has an eager interest in the new. Among other things, car nerds like new-car magazines.
My car nerd has yet to own the car of his dreams – truthfully, I think he has several – but that doesn’t keep him from staying informed. You never know – one day, we just might get a windfall that would let him get that 2011 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT Premium, which currently tops his “dream cars I could actually have a prayer of buying” list. (The Bugatti Veyron would probably still be out of reach…) And he’s happy to share his knowledge with me. While I doubt my interest in cars will ever get near the level of his, I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m glad to know more about this subject.
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It’s not just cars that appeal to my car nerd, though – it’s driving, so he’s particularly interested in cars that he’d find fun to drive: fast and powerful, with good handling. He learned it early – his dad had a fondness for Corvettes, but he tends to prefer Mustangs. Still, driving’s the thing. He was one of those boys who was at the DMV at dawn on the day he turned sixteen, and driving to school with his new license an hour later. Therefore, he’s rather befuddled by the fact that his sixteen-year-old daughter seems in no hurry to get hers – she doesn’t even have a permit yet. However, she does know what she wants for her first car: a used Prius. She may not be the next generation of car nerd – but she wants to drive a nerd car.
Are you a car guy – or gal – or do you just live with one? Join this week’s Assignment and tell us about it! The participation guidelines are on the lead post, and the deadline is 12:01 AM Thursday, December 9.