Petrolheads are slightly odd creatures.
By very definition, we find extraordinary pleasure through ordinary objects. One of the great achievements for many is buying a car to get around, but the goal is commuting rather than passionately driving from home to work.
When I come along and rant about how nice the steering feel was on the car I drove the previous day or wax lyrical about exhaust notes, many people just think that I’m slightly insane. They’ll go through the exact same experience and not have a care in the world about “engagement and feel.”
There is no rationality in developing such emotion over a lump of metal and rubber bolted together, so I’ve stopped trying to justify it to other people – I just do, okay! I’ll find something interesting and enjoyable in anything from a rental Toyota to a McLaren Senna. I’ll take the Senna though, if I must choose one.
Recognising that this is an unjustifiable passion is exactly why I think it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to teach some people to love cars. It may be possible to get people to appreciate supercars because of their drama and speed, or luxury cars because of their comfort, but teaching someone to fall in love with a 29 brake horsepower 2CV? That’s a different story.
Passion at that level lies in the blood. So, I’d like to share a little bit about my own petrolhead journey and specifically how my dad helped to introduce me to this wonderful world.
My dad is somewhat of a petrolhead himself. The baton was passed onto him by his father and uncles whose lives too were affected by this car illness. I grew up playing with some of my dad’s old toys. Models of precious 1970s F1 cars were regularly raced across the room. Occasionally, I’d build racetracks in the sandpit for Matchbox cars. I even had a very dated Scalextric kit that often lay messily over my bedroom floor. And, as time went by (and birthdays were ticked off) I started my own collection of model cars. Hopefully one day I can pass them on to my own kids!
My real love for cars started with an Atlas Grey (dark blue/grey) Porsche 997 Carrera S, the car my dad bought when I was 7. Being a typical young boy, I truly believed that “dad’s car was the best in the world” (and to let you in on a little secret, I still do, but more on that to come in a future article).
Through that car, I first experienced the real speed and sound of motoring. I had my first taste of the magic of a car community through Porsche Club events.
Most importantly, it kick-started a desire to learn.
There’s no better place to learn than the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, which my dad took us to in 2008. An event that is on practically every petrolhead’s bucket list, I can confirm that it is one of the best car experiences anyone can have.
Imagine nearly every notable car – new or old, production or racing – being driven in anger up a hill rather than forlornly resting inside a museum. I may only have been 7 years old, but one does not simply forget the image of a McLaren F1 surrounded by Bugatti Veyrons and Ferrari Enzos, all in the same courtyard!
Since then, I’ve been back twice and I would go every year if I could. This is the kind of father-son time that one can only be incredibly thankful for.
Then there was the motor racing. I’d like to say that I was a F1 fan straight off the bat, but I would be lying. Before I fully understood the complexities of race strategies and team politics or truly appreciated the cars themselves, I struggled to watch races start to finish.
I did, however, love spending Saturdays with my dad and my younger brother at Killarney International Raceway watching some of the local racing antics. In 2012 and at the tender age of 11, my dad took me to watch the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. At that stage you heard a Formula 1 car long before you saw it, with screaming V8s guaranteed to transform you into a racing fanatic.
Thanks to my dad and his petrolhead friendships, I have been lucky enough to enjoy my very own racing “career.” I started karting in 2016 and it has provided a perfect outlet for my automotive lust, not to mention another incurable addiction – that of the adrenaline brought on by high-speed battles. Dad and I have endured the highs and lows of this sport together and as a result it has only made us closer.
It’s been a long wait to turn 18. Some kids want to drink, but I just want to drive. My pre-driver’s licence years have been a monster that gets fed with car meets and breakfast runs, washed down with meaningless trips to various dealerships to simply stare at cars (I told you we’re crazy!)
I’ve treated this time as an opportunity to learn as much as I can. If you can’t drive the cars, you might as well get to know them a bit before you’re unleashed onto the streets, right? In this information age of YouTube and podcasts, it’s possible to learn an incredible amount from your armchair.
The result? A lot of preconceived opinions about cars that I haven’t even driven yet. I’m a teenager ready to find out what I think of the cars that I’ve read so much about.
Am I weird? Yes. Are most of you reading this just as weird as I am? Yes.
I have a simple mission: drive as many cars as possible myself to see if my own opinions stand. Even better, I’m hoping they will be challenged and I’ll be forced to reconsider everything I think I know about cars. Teenagers aren’t always right.
I’m here to take the readers of Carbs and Coffee with me on my car discovery journey. Welcome to my world!