Commentary: Reclaiming The Passion For The Automobile

2005 Twin Cities Auto Show Corvette Convertible
Photo courtesy of General Motors/Twin Cities Auto Show

V&R is starting something new-ish. We are re-publishing old pieces are updating them to today. This is not because we're running out of ideas. This is because there's some great items published in the past that would see the light of day again, with new thoughts included.

Originally posted on January 25, 2006, this was the first truly coherent automotive pieces written prior to this site be coming Victory & Reseda by Randy. Without going into the background further, here it is…

Since I was a child, I always had a passion for the automobile.

This began by reading magazines, such as Motor Trend and Car and Driver. For an elementary school child, reading such material helped my general reading and comprehension a lot. Sure, I was checking out the photos and quoting a road test from a Dodge Challenger, but at least I reading at my grade level.

Even as I was approaching driving age, I always wanted to experience the best cars in the world. That was until I found out how lame my left leg (and the part of the brain that controlled it) was when it came to engaging the clutch on a manual transmission car. This worked out for the best thanks to new technology in transmissions today.

Perhaps I was too eager to get my driver’s license. When I was up for my driver’s test, I remember failing it the first time around in my mom’s 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight! I was glad that my private driving instructor gave me permission to pass my test on his Datsun B210. I wanted to drive so badly, I didn’t care what I drove. However, due to my mother’s disability from a debilitating stroke, I wound up with the big Olds Ninety-Eight as my first car.

I should’ve cared, though. It seemed that every car I owned would fail me. If it weren’t for hand-me downs, cash issues and other intangibles, I would still fall into the trap of car ownership as it stands today. However, I chose to no longer do so after 1993. I found solace in the rental car, as it would be impossible to live with one car for quite a long time.

This is the life of a different kind of automotive enthusiast. One who still believes that car ownership must be justified by the means to pay for the rising cost of fuel, insurance, maintenance and the insanity of credit terms. Also, it must justify the selection of an automobile that is defect-free, reliable, safe, good on fuel consumption, easy to maintain and backed by a comprehensive warranty. Additionally, the manufacturer of said automobile must provide ownership services when the car is experiencing trouble and a solid dealership network that treats every customer with respect and care. Now, let’s find such a car in a budget that everyone can afford along with simple credit terms and a fair insurance cost.

It’s not just about the cost. Sure, owning some of the fine automobiles I had the chance to work with over the past five years would be desirable. All of which would be well out of my budget. Hence why I do not own a car – not even a “beater.”

For a long time, I would go out and rent a car for the weekend. I figured out that for the cost of two therapy sessions with your out-of-your-medical-insurance-network psychologist, I pick up a lovely new car for temporary maximum usage. A day would do in some occasions, but two days is just perfect.

This way, I got to experience a different car every time. As a rule, I would not rent luxury models or gas guzzling SUVs. I would go for a vehicle that turned out decent fuel economy, which would preclude me from paying from the bottom of my pocket to fill up the tank. I gave my business to the rental car companies for over 25 years. It was my preferred way to go during those times.

Around the time of the original publishing of this piece, car sharing services began to spring up in the Twin Cities. It was an internal debate to join one at first. How does one justify a few hours with a car over a day’s worth of driving for sundry errands and entertainment opportunities? Also, can you justify the cost of a car share when you want to go somewhere outside the city limits? In my case, I’m of the school of thought that my driving should never know any boundaries. My initial answer to these questions justified the advantage of the rental car over a membership in a car sharing service.

No matter which kind of vehicle I drove, I knew that it would inspire me to do more than just take the wheel and drive somewhere. There had to be a purpose. I also have to not only feed the passion for this work, but enjoy every moment in what I do. When I am behind the wheel – even if I am gleaning information, data and feedback, I found happiness and joy inside of an automobile.

While most motorists stress out over heavy traffic and incompetent drivers, I find solace and peace behind the wheel. It is perhaps the best time you see me with contentment in my soul. An open road is an invitation for exploration. An unfamiliar road is a portal for adventure.

Ten years ago, I felt that the marriage of my passion for the automobile into my writing would turn into some mechanical device devoid of a true soul. Back then, I actually felt that every time I took the wheel, I was obligated to write something about it. Over time, that marriage began to work and my concerns were set aside with renewed passion for the combined art of automotive blogging/writing/journalism. It is work – a lot of time put into the final product you read here.

I also used to think that the readership I had ten years ago were not supportive of the automotive work. Part of it was that I was also writing about other subject matters and have yet to tap into the right readership. It took some time, but you are still here. Even if you are just reading this site for the first time, I am glad you found it and are reading the work put into it.

On a Sunday morning in January of 2006, I had a moment of clarity while driving along the Grand Rounds – the network of roads maintained by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board encircling the entire city. I was in a rented Pontiac G6 – not that it matters what I drove at that time. While I was driving, I began to parse out my thoughts and pondered my future. It occurred to me that I was having too much fun gobbling up the tarmac aside beautiful homes and frozen lakes. Why care about what audio system equipped on the car or the vibration transmitted from the forecabin by the gaping cracks in the roadway, when you can take in the scenery and breathe in the atmosphere. Well, the vibration was quite annoying.

I’m also glad that quality has certainly improved in today’s automobiles – for the most part. I'm also glad that I still have my passion for both the automobile and this industry I am proud to cover for you.

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