In an era of shared mobility, is there still room for the car lover – someone who wants his or her machine to be an extension of the soul? If you think not, Karl fears that you’re missing out…
Open the pages of any motoring publication and there will invariably be a lengthy, wafting piece about how a certain car makes you feel when you’re behind the wheel. This is not one of those pieces. Instead, it’s about how cars make you feel. And yes, there’s a big difference.
You see, you can cherry-pick plenty of amazing machines and wax lyrical about their virtues. Being able to appreciate even minor details in the worst machines? Well, that proves you really love cars.
Some people really love watches, and you can understand why. The engineering and the detail that goes into such a tiny space takes some truly talented designers, craftspeople and machinists. But they just sit on your wrist and look good. A car, however, transcends mere jewellery.
It transports your loved ones, it’s the scene of many a belly-laugh, it plays your favourite music, it keeps you cool when you’re hot and hot when you’re cool. A car can be the place you experienced your first kiss, it’s where children are conceived, sometimes where they’re born, and it follows those who have passed. It gets your groceries home, gets injured people to the hospital, takes you on holiday, enables you to see sights you never would if you just walked.
Of course, that’s viewing a car as simply an appliance. One that gets us from A to B. And yes, there are some people who go through life and only see them like that. But allow yourself to be immersed in their beauty or think deeply about the engineering that goes into creating them and you’ll soon come around.
Just look at the curves found in a Bugatti or a Pagani, and the design side is interesting enough. But look at how the unpainted carbon-fibre has been woven and then guided to form the shapes brings a whole new level of appreciation. The fact that these companies can create a symmetrical design with a seamless joint in the centre, and not have to paint over it to cover it means we can revel in the masterclass of workmanship that has gone unnoticed by those who drive by the Atelier in France or the factory near Modena.
The fact that someone can get into a road going vehicle and, in the case of the Chiron, either drive down to the shops for some milk, or find a long enough road and hit 490km/h, is almost a miracle. In fact, speak to someone from 100 years ago and they’d call it supernatural.
There’s more, though. With the advent of emissions regulations, every effort is being made to save fuel, which reduces noxious gas outputs. While a noble cause, car companies have switched to fly-by-wire throttle and electric steering. The first few generations gave feedback that was slight at best and completely lacking in the worst cases. So, manufacturers have spent countless hours tweaking, testing and recalibrating to make their steering feel natural again.
Why would they do that, if it wasn’t to make their cars more interesting, more connected? They know that’s what we car lovers crave. We want to feel part of the machine, we want our cars to be an extension of our soul. ‘Jinba ittai,’ as the Japanese call it – the horse and rider as one.
For someone who loves their driving, being able to feel every nuance, every granular detail, that’s what we live for. We want to feel the differences in brake pedal feel between various models of the same car. We want to ascertain the ride differences with larger and smaller wheels. How sharply the steering turns the car, how it kicks back when you drive over a small stone, how the differential locks and both wheels start to slide, how the clutch bites – it’s seat of the pants stuff and makes you feel part of an organic whole.
Some people may think I’m a bit mad, a bit obsessed when I start describing this stuff. But they’re the ones missing out. These little details pass them by, and they ignore the sensations. Car people don’t. They register all of it, so whether it’s a twenty-year-old buzz box or a brand new hypercar they appreciate all of it.
If you’re a car person, every journey is a good one. Some are scary, some are fun, but all are exhilarating. Don’t ever lose that passion, people. Savour every moment and try to drive absolutely anything and everything you can.
Every set of keys you have in your hand is the start of a journey, be it short or long. Either way, there’s a car involved, and that’s the main thing.
Happy motoring, folks.
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